Alright, you’re probably making the same expression Mike Piazza is in that photo right about now. Fair enough.
Just when exactly did Mike Piazza, Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Mets and six year veteran of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a 12-time All-Star, play for the Miami Marlins? I assure you that, albeit briefly, it happened.
Of course, many of you might remember that lone highlight to the 1998 season, the five games that Mike Piazza suited up in teal after being shipped to South Florida in exchange for roughly half of the 1997 World Championship squad. Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, and prospect Manuel Berrios all headed west, and Piazza and Todd Zeile were Marlins. For five games, after which the superstar catcher was flipped to the Mets, and the rest was history. Zeile stuck around until midseason.
More from Marlin Maniac
- Miami Marlins are pursuing Michael Conforto
- Miami Marlins need to spend to win
- Miami Marlins One-Year Wonder 1B
- Miami Marlins can’t afford to botch this trade
- Miami Marlins news: the New York Mets are a risky threat
It’s a story that’s often told, has been told many times this past week on other sites, and is usually brought up more in the spirit of mocking the Marlins than honoring Piazza. I’d given a lot of thought to sparing fans the firesale flashbacks as we gear up for the final sprint to the Trade Deadline.
But then I thought about it some more…and realized that the Mike Piazza trade was one of the most important in franchise history. For without him, the Marlins would never have won their second championship in 2003.
Consider the following. While Piazza (you have no idea how many times I’ve typed Pizza while writing this) only spent five games of his career as a Marlin, only two of them actually played at Pro Player, the haul in return for him included Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and an entirely inconsequential player named Geoff Goetz. While the future broadcasting talents alone made netting Wilson worthwhile, not to mention the 104 HRs, that’s not the story here.
Wilson was the centerpiece of a package that was sent to the Rockies in 2002 for Juan Pierre, who’d only go on to lynchpin table-setter of the 2003 champions. Pierre led the league in stolen bases that season, and played in every game while piling up over 200 hits. Knocking him in was fan-favorite Mike Lowell, regarded as one of the best players in franchise history; he came to the Marlins in 1999 in exchange for, among others, Ed Yarnall.
So there you have it. Two of the most commonly associated faces with our last title team can have their Marlins origins traced directly back to the 1998 arrival of an All-Star backstop that was barely getting started on his remarkable career. We can even make it three if you like- if Piazza had stuck around for the entire season, who’s to say he wouldn’t have been good enough to make that Marlins squad only the second worst team in baseball that season?
To the Mets he went though, freeing the Fish up to be putrid enough to pick Josh Beckett in the 1999 MLB Draft.
Thanks for the title, Mike.