Mike Piazza has joined the Mets at Port St. Lucie hoping to impart some wisdom to the team and is impressed with what he's seeing from Mickey Callaway. He also challenges Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki to improve and take the next step.
In the wide-ranging discussion, the affable Piazza spoke insightfully across many topics. He spoke about the Mets catchers, Callaway, the Italian soccer team he owns and more.
As a Hall of Fame catcher, Piazza was asked for his thoughts on the Mets current catching situation.
"An organization is very focused on pitching, catching is the second most important job," Piazza said.
Currently, d'Arnaud and Plawecki are in charge of that second most important job, and Piazza believes there's more to come from each of them.
"First off, I think they're great guys and I think that's important," Piazza said. "There's nothing wrong with looking at Travis and Kevin challenging them to get better this year. To improve their performance realistically, not go out there and hit 50 home runs, but basically getting more quality out of their at-bats, getting more quality out of their games."
When asked how he personally dealt with separating his hitting and catching duties, Piazza credits the staff he once caught.
"I had a staff that would kick my butt if I went out there after I grounded into a double play and wasn't focused on calling the game," Piazza said.
On Mickey Callaway and the team's outlook
Last season, the Mets were expected to compete in the postseason. Of course, that's not how things played out as injuries ravaged the team. This season, though, Piazza has big expectations.
"I feel good this year about this team," Piazza said. "I feel it's time for this team to take the next step. It was a tough year last year, a lot of injuries, but it starts here. I like the energy."
The team will be led by Callaway, the young first-time manager, who has left a great first impression on Piazza.
"I'm really impressed with Mickey, I think he's a very interesting guy," Piazza said. "Big personality, in a good way. Obviously, he has a lot of knowledge from the pitching side and I think [the Mets] made a great choice. I think he's running a great camp."
For Piazza, injury prevention starts with the players' routines. The preparation starts in the offseason and is honed during spring training.
"Every day in the major leagues, I could think of something that could keep me out of the game, you're never healthy," Piazza said. "Not to make light of serious injuries, it's something that you have to drill into the team: if you do the right things, prepare yourself the right way and take care of yourself, you'll have less injuries."
On possibly owning a team one day
Piazza owns an Italian soccer team, A.C. Reggiana, who play in the third tier of Italian professional soccer. He jokes that the experience is more work than he expected, but enjoys it. As for owning a team in the MLB? Never say never.
"First off, that is a lot more work than I thought it would be. I'd say be careful what you ask for. I think that experience, even though it's a different sport, it's given me a unique introspective into the administrative side into the sports business. ... I'd never say never."