Very often SNY replays Piazza's first game with the Mets, attended by Jerry Seinfeld, against the Brewers. Piazza lined a two-run double to lead the Mets to a victory. It wasn't always a guarantee that Piazza would remain with the Mets after the season since he was a free agent. Fred Wilpon was not on board with committing the money and years it would take to retain Piazza. Thanks to Nelson Doubleday, the decision was made to sign Piazza to a 7 year, $91 million deal that some fans actually complained about the duration and the money.
While several contracts signed before and after could easily be criticized, the same cannot be said about Piazza. Sure committing seven years to a catcher, a case could be made that it was not a wise investment at the time. We all know the catching position is the most grueling and there was a chance Piazza would eventually break down. Piazza single handedly brought the Mets back to respectability, with the Mets making it to the NLCS in 1999 and the World Series in 2000.
So much time is spent criticizing the Mets for moves they have made. The Piazza trade and subsequent extension deserves the respect it has been given. The Mets had a barren farm system for a better part of the 1990s, forcing them to have to acquire players from other organizations to field their team. That led to the signings of players like Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Vince Coleman creating the worst team ever essembled. They added other players such as Bret Saberhagen, Bernard Gilkey, Lance Johnson, and Carlos Baerga with the hopes of buying themselves a contender. Piazza, along with manager Bobby Valentine, was the turning point of the team going from a second division club to a serious contender.
Unfortunately, things took a sour turn for the Mets after the 2000 season. After an off year in 2001, general manager Steve Phillips decided to flip the entire team outside of Piazza, Al Leiter, Edguardo Alfonzo and Armando Benitez over. This resulted in the second worst team ever essembled. Piazza's last year with the Mets was in 2005, where the team had seemed to temporarily turn the corner. It was quite deserved when Piazza was honored, along with Tom Seaver, at the ceremonial closing of Shea Stadium and the first game of Citi Field. It will be even more deserved when Piazza is enshrined as a member of the baseball Hall of Fame and becomes the second player to ever go in as a Met. I will be attending the ceremony if and when this happens.