Mike Piazza has not set foot in Dodger Stadium since his retirement. When the Dodgers offered to honor him with a bobblehead night last season, Piazza declined.
“He doesn’t want to come back because he thinks the fans will boo,” former Dodgers Manager Tom Lasorda, the godfather to Piazza’s brother, told The Times last month.
Piazza did himself no favors on that score in his new book, “Long Shot.” In the book, he blames iconic Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully for turning fans against him during the contract stalemate that preceded his trade to the Florida Marlins in 1998.
Piazza, who was eligible for free agency after the 1998 season, said he hoped to stay with the Dodgers but set a deadline of Feb. 15 to reach a new contract. In the book, Piazza wrote that Scully asked him about the deadline in a spring interview.
“He wasn’t happy about it,” Piazza wrote. “And Scully’s voice carried a great deal of authority in Los Angeles.”
Piazza wanted $105 million over seven years. In the book, he said the Dodgers made a take-it-or-leave-it offer of $76 million over six years, said he would have signed at $79 million, and suggested the team leaked that it had offered $80 million.
At $80 million -- or even at $76 million -- Piazza would have been the highest-paid player in the game. Dodgers fans took notice that spring, as Piazza wrote.
“The way the whole contract drama looked to them -- many of whom were taking their cue from Scully -- was that, by setting a deadline and insisting on so much money, I was demonstrating a conspicuous lack of loyalty to the ball club,” Piazza wrote. “I understood that.”
Piazza ripped the Dodgers in a 1998 opening day interview with The Times. In the book, he said that interview did not play well with the L.A. fans, and neither did the fact that he failed to drive in a run as the Dodgers opened the season with a four-game losing streak.
“On top of that, Vin Scully was crushing me,” Piazza wrote.
Scully flatly denied he maligned Piazza.
“That’s not true at all,” Scully told The Times in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Scully said he could not recall the interview in which Piazza said the contract deadline was discussed. However, Scully said, he never would criticize a player about contractual negotiations.
“As God is my judge, I don’t get involved in these things,” Scully said. “I can’t imagine I would ever put my toe in the water as far as a player and his negotiations.
“I have no idea where he is coming from. I really have no idea. I can’t imagine saying something about a player and his contract. I just don’t do that, ever. I’m really flabbergasted by that reference.”
Piazza retired via email on May 20, 2008. No team had signed him for the 2008 season, although he heard from Lasorda that the Dodgers might be interested. Ultimately, the Dodgers signed Gary Bennett to back up Russell Martin.
“Even to the end, ten years after they’d traded me, the Dodgers were still jerking me around,” Piazza wrote. “If they’d brought in Pudge Rodriguez, sure, I could understand that. But Gary Bennett?”