By JOHN DORN
As members of the 2016 Pro Baseball Hall of Fame class, Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. will forever be linked. But their legacies were almost intertwined 16 years prior, when Junior was traded from the Seattle Mariners to Piazza's New York Mets.
Before Griffey invoked his no-trade clause and nixed the deal.
It was December 1999, and the Mets were coming off a 97-win season, but one that ended in an NLCS loss to the division rival Atlanta Braves. General manger Steve Phillips was searching for a co-star to pair with the 31-year-old catcher, and Griffey was asking out of Seattle. For New York, it seemed to be a match made in baseball heaven.
SEE ALSO: Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
"We thought there was a chance, especially coming off the year that we had, and with the expectation that we would be good again," Jim Duquette, then the Mets' assistant general manager, said according to the New York Times. "We would have had Alfonzo, Griffey and then Piazza. We were salivating over that."
So the Mets and Mariners agreed to a trade, with Octavio Dotel, Armando Benitez and Roger Cedeno headlining the package being sent to the Mariners. But as a player with 10 years of MLB experience and five with his current team, Griffey had the right to veto any trade. And he did just that.
Allegedly uncomfortable with the notion of playing in New York, and apprehensive about heading to an organization that may trade him after a year or two, the 32-year-old rejected his ticket to the Mets, a pairing with Piazza and a trip to the World Series in 2000.
See photos of Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey would end up being traded to the Cincinnati Reds months later and signed a nine-year, $116.5 million deal. After nearly a decade of playing for the team his father spent most of his career playing for, he returned to Seattle during a two-season farewell tour in 2009 and 2010. The Reds never made the playoffs with Griffey on the roster, as the superstar battled injury through much of his Reds tenure.
The Mets fell three wins short of a title in that 2000 season, losing to the New York Yankees in a Subway Series that remains a topic of contention among both fanbases today. But it's impossible not to think about what might have gone differently had Piazza and Griffey been anchoring the heart of the Mets' lineup.