'If it's meant to be': Piazza's insight for Lindor

March 22nd, 2021

If anyone in the world understands the particulars of ’s situation, it is Mike Piazza. Twenty-three years ago, Piazza was in the midst of his prime, months away from free agency, when the Mets acquired him in a blockbuster deal with the Marlins.

At first, Piazza was wary of his new home in Queens, until he adjusted his view to see the city as a challenge. Quickly, Piazza not only embraced New York, but doubled down on it. Weeks after the 1998 season ended, without much more than a stray glance at free agency, Piazza signed a seven-year, $91 million deal to remain with the Mets. He went on to become the team’s second Hall of Fame player, and a bedrock piece of franchise history.

“It wasn’t until about the end of August where I started really saying, ‘I can do this. I’m meant to be here, and I have to follow through on this,’” Piazza recalled Monday from Port St. Lucie, Fla., where he was making his annual visit to Spring Training. “Things worked out.”

Because of the ongoing coronavirus situation, most Mets ambassadors -- David Wright, Dwight Gooden, John Franco et al -- did not make their regular spring pilgrimages to Clover Park. But Piazza, who keeps a home in Miami, despite living much of the year in Italy, had an easier commute than most to the Mets facility. When he showed up on Monday, manager Luis Rojas introduced him to a clubhouse full of players -- including many newcomers who have never met him.

Piazza told the group that if anyone had specific questions, not to hesitate to flag him down. And so several did. Those early conversations included one with Lindor, who came to the Mets in January via the same sort of blockbuster trade that had brought Piazza to New York in 1998.

No two situations are identical, of course, with the unique family matters and career aspirations that all players must consider. But the extension decision currently facing Lindor has clear parallels to what Piazza faced. Already a superstar upon arrival, Piazza was unsure about his future until after he spent a few months in Flushing. Yes, the $91 million the Mets offered him -- at the time, a Major League record -- played the most significant role in his signing, but Piazza wasn’t going to ink his signature unless he felt comfortable in New York.

“There’s a spiritual component to it,” Piazza said. “[Lindor] has got to go out and get comfortable, and the fact that he has such a good team around him is important as well. For me, there was also the human element. … We were at a time with the team where we knew they were trying to win, so we were going to put some pieces in place to try to make that happen. So that’s my only advice for him: Just go out and play. Go out and play, put your numbers up, and if it’s meant to be, he’s going to be here.”

Shortly after arriving at his first Mets camp last month, Lindor described a similar mindset, saying he couldn’t even begin to think about an extension without first learning the organization’s intricacies.

“They have to get to know me,” was Lindor’s oft-repeated phrase.

Whether Lindor’s Mets tenure ends like Piazza’s, with his name plastered across the franchise record books and his uniform number hanging high above Citi Field, remains to be seen. Team officials continue to discuss nine-figure possibilities with Lindor, who has said he won’t negotiate past Opening Day.

That gives the Mets barely a week to complete a deal like the one that transformed Piazza from a superstar in New York to a bona fide New Yorker.

“To use a metaphor, you can’t steal second with your foot on first,” Piazza said. “You’ve got to go out into the deep waters and you’ve got to go into some areas that may be challenging for you. But guess what? You can’t have a fear of failure. The only failure is not trying. And so for me, when you embrace that and you’re able to just let it go, things sometimes have a way of working out."