As Tommy DeVito pointed out in Jersey Boys, “Everybody remembers it in the way they need to.”
That is the only way to describe Mike Francesca’s stunning claim that he and former WFAN colleague Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo are the reason the Mets swung a deal with the Florida Marlins to get Mike Piazza to New York.
In the most recent clip published by Sirius XM Sports, world-renowned actor, and long-time WFAN caller, Chaz Palminteri, interviews Mike and the Mad Dog, and brings up Piazza’s trade to New York in 1998.
Mike pontificates that if it weren’t for them the Mets never would have swung a deal for Piazza.
He claims that Piazza’s agent called the WFAN office and told the radio duo that Piazza was heading to the Cubs, but really wanted to play in New York. They wanted Mike and Chris to assure a detour to the Big Apple.
“I said we can relay the message. Steve Phillips comes on our show and says under no circumstances are we interested in Mike Piazza. … After he leaves Dog and I got on a tangent. (Shea Stadium) is empty. I drove by the stadium there were only 13,000 people inside. These idiots won’t fill the stadium … .” Francesca claims.
Even Russo is seen just sitting there, listening to Mike's tangent.
This is not a new story. Mike and the Mad Dog have thrown that claim out there before, and were taken to task by Daily News writerBob Rassman, who quoted former Mets General Manager Steve Phillips, vehemently denying the claims.
While Mike and the Mad Dog had a huge impact on the New York sports scene and can take credit for putting pressure on many of the cities top stars, while creating the sports debate that we all enjoy on a daily basis; the very idea they were the reason Piazza came to the Mets is dubious at best.
There is no way in the world that Steve Phillips would confide in two sports-talk radio hosts that he is trying to work out a deal that hadn’t been completed. Such a move would be considered tampering.
It is also unlikely that Mets co-owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon would turn on the radio, hear Mike and Chris rant that the Mets should get Piazza, and think, ‘Hey, they’re right, let’s do it.’
It wouldn’t happen, not when there were too many variables involved. Keep in mind Dave Dombroski, who is now known as one of baseball’s top executives for his work with the Tigers and Red Sox, was the Marlins GM at the time. He didn’t have to send Piazza within the division, and he certainly didn’t care what ‘Mike and the Mad Dog’ thought. All he cared about was the compensation.
At the time, the Mets were trying to build a winner, and they knew (without outside help) that a player like Piazza would help get them over the top. Such a move came with great risk. Piazza was scheduled to be a free agent; there was no guarantee he would even stay beyond the 1998 season. The Mets were also sending Preston Wilson, the son of beloved former Met Mookie Wilson, to the Marlins. To say that it was an easy move is not fair.
And to say that it took Mike and the Mad Dog to make sure it happened is not fair at all to the men who actually did make it happen in the Mets and Marlins front offices.