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My review of Mike Piazza's Long Shot (Warning - Long Read)

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  • My review of Mike Piazza's Long Shot (Warning - Long Read)

    I’m a Met fan, but I wasn’t always so, though I lived in Queens, NY, just 25 minutes from Shea Stadium, for most of my life. I first got into baseball when I was six, playing MLB video games on SEGA Genesis. I always picked the Dodgers because they had this guy with a funny name “Piazza.” For some reason, I could hit homeruns easy with him.

    So naturally, I was a Dodger fan. Then, in the summer of 1998, Piazza went to Florida, and I became a Marlin fan. This lasted one week because Piazza would get traded to the Mets. Then, I became a Met fan, and I’ve remained one ever since.

    Clearly, I like Piazza, as you can tell. I followed his career until the very end, feeling gloomy that it had to end in the first place. His book “Long Shot” was one that I couldn’t pass up.

    I read it all in about two days, finding myself unable to put the thing down. It’s a page-turner. The writing by Lonnie Wheeler is crisp and enjoyable to read. There are a few minor hiccups, such as the mention of Glavine’s “The Home of the Brave,” a book that doesn’t exist. But overall it’s quality. The book follows a linear pattern, going from Piazza’s birth and upbringing to his minor league career, major league career, and retirement.

    The best parts, naturally, were the baseball parts. I liked the Mets stories the most because I grew watching his Mets days firsthand and am familiar with the players described. It was funny imagining Roger Cedeno and Roberto Alomar almost fighting once time, making Mo Vaughn stand in between them in the dugout (Piazza admits that Alomar would have gotten destroyed because Cedeno was “ripped like shredded wheat”). Piazza had good words for Mets 2003-2004 manager Art Howe, saying it wasn’t Howe’s fault that the team did bad. Howe certainly needs support from someone like Piazza considering his legacy with Mets fans is terrible. I don’t think Howe can walk through Queens even today.

    No bashing of his former manager in Long Shot

    There are some charming passages relating to his interaction with the fans. Leaving the Dodger was messy because of the contract debacle, but nothing bad can be said about L.A. fans. On the night in which the trade to Florida became official, Piazza walked out of the ballpark in the first inning, and the fans in left-field saw him going down the runaway and began clapping and cheering. Piazza “didn’t want to look back” and only “raised my hand in appreciation and kept going.” Later that night, he went for pizza and a little girl in Rollerblades asked him “Aren’t you supposed to be at the ballpark tonight?” It’s an image that makes me go “Awww.”

    I was disappointed with his description of the final out of the 2000 World Series. All he says is,
    “I stepped to the plate as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and Agbayani on – Rivera pitching, of course – but my flyball to center field wasn’t deep enough. It was the story of the Series. I couldn’t deliver a punch.”
    Seriously, is that all you can give us Mike? Look at the situation. It’s the bottom of the 9th, World Series, runner on base, you’re the last hope. You’re the All-Star catcher who hit 38 HR that year, on the way to the Hall of Fame. You’re the highest paid player in NYM history. And the guy on the mound is the greatest closer of all-time, wearing the dreaded pinstripes of the Evil Empire. And “I couldn’t deliver a punch” is all you can say? Tell us your emotions – were there any nerves? Was there a fear that you would’ve struck out to end the Subway Series, creating an embarrassing moment that will stick in Met fans’ minds forever? When the ball left your bat, did you think it had a shot at clearing the fence, like Joe Torre did?

    Piazza came up around 10 feet short of a game-tying HomeRun in Game 5 of the Subway Series

    Piazza is proud of his abilities, which is fine; almost all athletes are. But thankfully, I can say that he does a good job describing his decline phase too, when he longer had the abilities. He tells us he was starting to feel the effects of age in 2002, the first year he didn’t bat .300, and he tells us bluntly that he stunk up the place in 2004, 2005, and 2007. Luckily, he had a lot of things that made up for his declining performance on the field. It was 2004-2005 that he engaged and married his wife, Alicia, and it was in 2007 that he became a father. In 2005, his last year with NYM, guys like David Wright and Cliff Floyd stepped up, which made Piazza’s performance a little easier to handle. He was able to leave gracefully.

    There were some sad stories relating to his decline, however. He tells us of an incident in 2005 when Cardinal reliever Julian Taverez hit him in the hand and made him leave the game early. Down in the clubhouse, getting treated, Piazza heard Willie Randolph and Sandy Alomar discuss retaliation. Willie suggested hitting Pujols, and Sandy said, “No, Pujols right now is a much better player than Piazza.” Ouch. The Mets then hit David Eckstein in retaliation. Yeah, hit David Eckstein to retaliate for Mike Piazza.

    That definitely hurt Piazza. He says, “Just a couple years before I was an even trade with Pujols,” which is true. I wanted to yell at Sandy Alomar when I read this part. I understand Piazza was no longer the 40-homerun guy, but he’s still Mr. Met at this point. You don’t say, “Pujols right now is a much better player.” You don’t retaliate Piazza getting hit by a pitch by hitting the leadoff hitter with a .280 career batting average. You show more respect to your guy.

    Piazza addresses the unusual fact that he has never won an MVP award. For my money, he’s the greatest player to never do so. If it were my call, he would have won in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2000. Piazza agrees with me on three out of those four: 1995, 1996, and 2000. In 1995, the award went to Barry Larkin, who, Piazza says, had an inferior season to both Eric Karros (Piazza’s teammate) and Mike Piazza himself. 1996, he lost to Ken Caminiti, an admitted steroid user. Part of this came because Piazza’s own manager told the press than Caminiti should be MVP, an incident that upset Piazza very much. In 2000, Piazza acknowledged that he slumped at the end, but he meant more to the Mets than Kent meant to the Giants. The runner up that year was Kent’s teammate Barry Bonds. Together, those two lead the Giants to 97 wins, just three more than Piazza’s Mets.

    He blames the writers. For some reason, they just didn’t like him. In his rookie year, he was supposed to attend some event but blew it off, and, he thinks, they never forgave him.

    Piazza never won an MVP, though he was deserving of at least two

    I was surprised that Piazza had lived a wild life. I grew up watching him play for NYM, and in every interview he came across as a humble, quiet guy. I always imagined him as a man who avoided drama and questionable activities. Well, I was wrong. He had a temper. He tells us how he used to slam stuff all over the dugout and punch the walls when he failed to get a hit. He tells us how he attended many rock concerts at night in New York City and Los Angeles. He tells us how he dated women (he had a different girlfriend each year) who posed for Playboy and Penthouse. He tells us how he wanted to fight Todd Hundley, Guillermo Mota, and Julian Taverez. He also swore a lot in this book, which surprised me.

    On the other hand, he has a strong Catholic background, a consequence of his devoted mother. His descriptions of his mother take a backseat to his descriptions of his father, Vince, but they were touching indeed. He apologizes for the amount of the profanity found in the book at the end, which makes it a little more acceptable.

    Piazza talks the usual topics - the 9/11 Homerun, steroids (he denies using them, and I believe him), and Roger Clemens. I won't elaborate on those topics since so much has already been said about them in other reviews.

    I recommend Long Shot for every Met fan. You will not be disappointed.

  • #2
    Thanks for the review. I am going to read this book, I actually forget about it thanks for the reminder

    two things

    1) I would be more surprised if he didnt take steroids than did
    2) leaving the profanity in tells me he was at least on some level keeping it real


    • #3
      Wow -- I randomly stumbled upon this review on a google search this morning, and I realized only midway through that I had written it 4 years ago! So cool!

      (Anyone else have replies?)


      • #4
        It's a good review. One thing I remember taking away from the book was how much he was a creation of his father (baseball wise) beyond the much repeated anecdote of him being drafted in the last round as a favor from Tommy Lasorda, who was a friend of his dad. They had a home batting cage back in what must have been the early 80s. I think the position choice and some of the college was due to his father as well. It was definitely a page turner.


        • #5
          Although a few years later....I just ordered the book today from Amazon. The revival of this thread reminded that I did want to read it.

          A few things based upon Redban's post:. I am actually glad he used profanity - if that is indeed the way it went down. I hate when things are made to be vanilla for the sake of political correctness.

          I do believe Piazza used PED's - it doesn't change my view of him as a person or player, but I do believe he used them. So that crosses if the stigma of him losing the MVP to Caminiti. I read some reviews on the book and not everyone enjoyed it. To sum it up some said Piazza comes off as bitter and resentful.

          Either way I am looking forward to reading it. Piazza had a very very very (did I say very?) fortunate life with or without baseball. His father was loaded and not too many 15 year old kids have Ted Williams come to their backyard to watch them hit.

          It should be an interesting read.


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