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.
"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.
Ken Griffey Jr. through his career
Ken Griffey Jr. through his career
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 1: Ken Griffey Jr. #24 of the Seattle Mariners before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on August 1, 1989 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
CIRCA 1990: Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. #24 of the Seattle Mariners poses for this portrait circa 1990 before a Major League Baseball game. Griffey played for the Mariners from 1989-99 and 2009-2010. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
1993: Ken Griffey Jr. #24 of the Seattle Mariners looks on during a game in the 1993 season. (Photo by Andy Hayt/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - JULY 12: Ken Griffey Jr. & son Trey look on during the 2004 All-Star Game Home Run Derby at Minute Maid Field on July 12, 2004 in Houston TX. (Photo by Rich Pilling/ MLB Photos via Getty Images).
KRT SPORTS STORY SLUGGED: BBN-REDS-NATIONALS KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY CHUCK KENNEDY/KRT (August 25) WASHINGTON, DC -- Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. bats in the seventh inning against Washington on Thursday, August 25, 2005. (Photo by Chuck Kennedy/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
SARASOTA, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Ken Griffey Jr. #3 poses during Cincinnati Reds photo day on February 24, 2006 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Ken Griffey, Jr. (top R), former Major League Baseball outfielder and Seattle Mariners special consultant, laughs at a baseball clinic for Japanese boys at Yomiuri Giants Stadium in Kawasaki, suburban Tokyo on January 15, 2012. The Mariners are scheduled to open the 2012 regular season with two games against the Oakland Aâs at the Tokyo Dome on March 28-29 in Japan. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 10: Former Mariners great, Ken Griffey Jr. speaks to the crowd during a ceremony inducting him into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame prior to the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Safeco Field on August 10, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Former Major League Baseball player Ken Griffey Jr (R) talks with ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez as he photographs the Vizio Fiesta Bowl between the Arizona Wildcats and the Boise State Broncos at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 13: Ken Griffey Jr. walls out to throw the first pitch prior to the Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders at the Great American Ball Park on July 13, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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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.