05/13/2002 08:33 am ET
Dodgers don't remember Mike
Players don't have fans' passion for Piazza party
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The New York Mets are coming to
town, which to any Dodger fan over the age of 4 is the
same as saying Mike Piazza is coming to town.
Fan passion will fill the talk-radio airwaves this week
over what many consider the most ill-conceived trade in Dodger history. But
that passion is not shared in the Los Angeles clubhouse,
where Piazza is a feared opposing hitter and catcher to
run on. And he certainly doesn't stir the emotions the
way a more recent alum, Gary Sheffield, does.
The answer can be found in the number of current
Dodgers who have been with the organization since the
trade. That number is one.
"That's amazing. Absolutely amazing," said Eric Karros,
who is the one. "I never ever thought or realized
there's been that much turnover here."
That, and then some. It'll be four years Wednesday since the Dodgers sent Piazza and third baseman Todd Zeile to Florida for a five-player package that included outfielders Sheffield and Bobby Bonilla and catcher Charles Johnson. Piazza was dealt to the Mets seven days later.
The Dodgers are on their
fourth field manager and fifth general manager since the deal (sixth GM if you include studio exec Chase Carey,
who swung the Piazza deal). In fact, pretty much
everybody in the organization who was even marginally
impacted when the future Hall of Famer was dealt is
To the newcomers, Piazza doesn't represent anything
"I've never known him as anything but a very good
opponent, and it's always been that way no matter
what uniform I was wearing," said manager Jim Tracy.
"When I see him, I see somebody I don't want to beat
us in a big at-bat. I don't see a former Dodger."
When Sheffield hit two home runs last week against
the Dodgers, the recency of his Los Angeles tenure and
controversy surrounding it could be felt throughout the
clubhouse. But Karros said anyone around long enough
knows the Piazza trade had an impact unlike any
before or since.
"You can't compare Sheff to Mike," said Karros, who shared a Manhattan Beach townhome with Piazza.
"This is apples and oranges. What the two meant to
the city, to the club, there's no comparison. Mike's had
a greater impact on Los Angeles and the Dodgers than
anybody I can think of.
"But the point is well taken. The people in here [the
Dodger clubhouse] cannot identify with it, even a lot of
people in the front office. That's how much things have
"But I know how the fans feel. The Piazza trade will
always strike a cord, just because of the type of player
he was and all the things he meant to Los Angeles, and
the way it took place, it just created an emotional
Karros, however, said the Piazza trade drove home to
him how fickle the fans can be. Less than two months
before the trade, a dispute between Piazza's agent
and the Dodger front office turned so unnecessarily
nasty that the catcher unwisely popped off on Opening
Day. Some fans -- and club executives -- never
"It's ironic that a lot of them were booing him right up
until he left," Karros said. "I'll never forget the day
after the trade. Charles Johnson was walking in from
the bullpen and each section rose and cheered him.
One day after Mike left and they were cheering the
new guy -- Mike couldn't get out of there fast enough for
some of them. But as time passed, people's feelings
changed about the trade."
After running through Johnson and Todd Hundley, the
Dodgers have emerged with a pretty valuable
home-grown catcher in Paul Lo Duca, who has the
highest current batting average among regulars (.299)
and is second on the team with 17 RBIs. Piazza is struggling (for him), batting .252 with eight home runs and 21 RBIs.
And the two teams? Both are in third place as this
series opens. The Dodgers will try to turn Dodger
Stadium into a home-field advantage, after playing only
.500 ball there so far. The Mets have lost seven of
their last eight and were 1-5 on the recently concluded
homestand. This starts a three-city, 10-game trip for
The Dodgers, who have lost three of their last four,
send Odalis Perez (4-1) to the mound in the first game
against Shawn Estes (1-4), who is 3-7 lifetime against
Ken Gurnick covers the Dodgers for MLB.com. This
story was not subject to the approval of Major League
Baseball or its clubs.