PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Mike Piazza sat in the Clover Park home dugout and flashed his classic smile. The Hall of Famer, who played for the Mets from 1998-2005, loves being back around the organization. He said he feels at home whenever he visits.
He talked for 20 minutes — and probably would have gone 20 more, if possible — about different topics. Here are three that stood out:
1. Mets ownership situation
Right now, Piazza has no interest in buying the Mets. He provided a bit of insight about the ownership situation, though.
He and Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon have talked about it. Piazza said Wilpon did not go into great detail, but the former Met still gained a glimpse at Wilpon’s thoughts.
Wilpon told Piazza that if the Mets sold the team, it would need to be the “right mix, right guy.”
Piazza doesn’t know where the search for a prospective buyer stands.
“There’s also a piece of you that has to say, ‘Wait a minute, it’s the right situation,’” Piazza said. “It has to feel right, it has to make sense. I think that’s a misconception when the fans think they don’t care about the team. No, they want to win, they care about the fans. They truly do.”
The Wilpons tried to sell the team to billionaire Steven Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan, but the deal fell through in the late stages.
“These deals are complicated and I think Mets fans rightly should be interested in, obviously, the future of the team,” Piazza said. “But look: The team had a very good second half last year.”
Piazza spoke to new manager Luis Rojas and believes the team is in good hands. He thinks the team is talented, though the NL East appears to be a tough division.
When it comes to the ownership situation, Piazza said Wilpon wants to sell to someone who will care for the Mets’ legacy.
“You want to pass it onto someone that’s going to be responsible,” Piazza said. “A lot of unknowns. We can speculate to the heavens. We really don’t know the intricacies and inner workings of it. But players just have to play. Their business is in front of them, and fans just have to go out and support the team, enjoy the team and slow down.
“Everyone breathe and just enjoy the season.”
2. Van Wagenen inspires Piazza
At Carlos Beltrán’s introductory press conference, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen briefly mentioned how he left a stable job as an agent for his current gig.
Piazza has talked to Van Wagenen about the move. He commends the GM for taking the leap.
“He wanted to get out of that comfort zone, and I respect that,” Piazza said. “That’s what you have to do in life sometimes. Do you want to be comfortable or do you want to be great? But to be great and to do great things, you have to get out of that and challenge yourself. That, to me, is inspiring.”
Piazza acknowledged the risk in doing so. Sports is not an easy industry, especially when you’re a decision-maker for a professional team. Van Wagenen could have remained an agent, contend to be near the top of the industry.
Instead, he wanted to help make the Mets a contender. He hopes 2020 is another step toward doing so.
Piazza believes Van Wagenen has done well since stepping into the role prior to last season.
“Look, I think he’s been aggressive,” Piazza said. “I think he wants to put together a great team. It’s easy for us to sit back and second-guess decisions, but I think he really wants to win. He’s committed.”
3. Piazza’s advice to Pete Alonso
Was Piazza surprised about what Alonso accomplished in his rookie season?
“Well, yeah,” Piazza said. “Surprised? You hit (53) home runs your rookie year. Amazing.”
Piazza planned to speak with Alonso. He doesn’t want the reigning NL Rookie of the Year to feel like he must hit 60 homers this season.
New York is not an easy market in which to play. Expectations are high for Alonso.
His advice to Alonso: “Enjoy it, man, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.”
Thus far, Piazza has enjoyed watching Alonso’s rise to stardom.
“He’s charming and he’s funny,” he said. “He’s energetic. He’s got a great personality.”