Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Top 50 Players On Cardboard- #12 (Part1) Mike Piazza

Top 50 On Cardboard 
Mike Piazza

1992 Bowman Mike Piazza

Here's another player who should be in the Hall of Fame, but he's not there yet. I would go so far as to say that Piazza might be the poster child for steroid era players who were never faced with steroid allegations, but continue to be punished by the Baseball Writers during Hall of Fame voting. He's the best catcher of his generation and perhaps the greatest offensive catcher of all-time.  Best of a generation players get into the Hall of Fame generally as you will see in the second part of this post.  Despite being the best offensive catcher of his generation and possibly ever, Piazza just crossed 50% in last years Hall of Fame voting and likely will end up being short again this year after the voting is announced in January.  While his impact on the game is currently being ignored by Baseball Writers, baseball card collectors have kept the former backstop in high regards even after his retirement from the game.  His 1992 Bowman card is one of the most popular rookie cards on the market and he is widely collected and respected around the hobby. 

Hobby Impact-
I have never personally collected, or sought out, Mike Piazza cards for my collection.  However, when I landed a really good one I would rarely part with it.  Over the years I have always found Piazza collectors to be really fun and interesting.  There is a crowd of Dodgers fans who still have a sweet spot for the power hitting catcher even though he spent the last decade of his career playing elsewhere, Mets fans who correctly saw him as the team's best player early in the 2000s, and collectors who chase the obscure Marlins cards from Piazza's one week on the team. 

The Marlins and Dodgers collectors have always been the most intriguing aspect of Piazza's collecting market.  Dodgers fans were not really happy with trade that sent their All-Star catcher to the Marlins in exchange for outfielder Gary Sheffield.  Nothing against Sheffield, he was a really good player, but it's hard to justify trading a premium player at a premium position like catcher.  Surprisingly, Dodgers fans did not seem to undergo the usual post-trade/post free agent signing card dump that so many collectors partake in every off season.  At this point it's almost normal for me to run into a Dodgers collector and have them pop out a few really impressive Piazza cards.  

The Marlins cards thing is another cool aspect of Piazza cards.  I own a few cards of Piazza in teal, but I am going to leave it up to an expert in this area to explain the fascination.  Here's the New York Times take on the biggest Piazza/Marlins collector. 

Piazza has also been a pretty stingy signer over the years.  The low number of Piazza autographs has helped him retain a strong interest and value with his signature.  There are actually quite a few of Piazza's autographs that are signed on-card.  My recommendations:  For Mets collectors find a 2000 Upper Deck Legends and Dodgers collectors should look for a 1996 SPX Mike Piazza Commemorative. 

2000 Upper Deck Legends Mike Piazza Autograph

On The Field-
Again, Piazza was the best offensive catcher of his generation.  Piazza hit for power and average.  During the prime of his career Piazza was capable of 30 to 40 home run seasons, an average above .320, and 100 RBIs.  Of course Piazza was a big guy who hit home runs who played during the steroid era, with no connection to any allegations of steroid use, so he does not have a plaque in Cooperstown.  He should.  

Jaws rates Piazza as the fifth best catcher of all-time behind Johnny Bench,. Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, and Carlton Fisk.  Three of the five, Pudge Rodriguez is not eligible yet, are in the Hall of Fame.  Piazza trails the four in WAR, but is ahead of them in OPS+ by a sizable margin and also ranks as the all-time leader in homers by a catcher.  

The power was really the best thing about Piazza.  It's now keeping him out of Cooperstown in some ways, but really impressive.  

Favorite Card-
This is an easy question for me.  I have always really liked the 1998 Pacific Omega card which showed Piazza in all three jerseys he played in during the summer of 1998.  Pretty cool.  

1998 Pacific Omega Mike Piazza

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