Browsing Archive February, 2012

Gary, We Hardly Knew Ye

The passing of Gary Carter is a blow to anyone that followed the Mets in the mid-1980’s. About 24 hours after first hearing the news and after watching a tribute to Gary on The Baseball Network, I have developed the sense that Carter is/was probably the greatest Met we’ve ever underappreciated.

It could be that his career at Shea was relatively short, full seasons from 1985 thru 1988 with a 50-game 1989 finale due to injuries. He hit a combined 16 homeruns in 1988-89. It could be that he essentially dropped off the team’s radar after he retired. Other 1986 Mets including Darryl Strawberry, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, Bob Ojeda, Howard Johnson, Wally Backman, Mookie Wilson and even Tim Tuefel returned to the fold after their playing careers ended, while Dwight Gooden and Lenny Dykstra have maintained notoriety for different reasons. Maybe it’s the fact that he entered the Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo. It could be his unabashed Christian faith. I remember his interview after Game 7 in 1986 when he thanked Jesus Christ, a remark which elicited an internal groan in my then 26-year old mind. (Life experiences have changed my opinions on that!) He seemed strangely out of place on a team of hard living hell raisers and his beliefs made him seem more seem more suited for a role in Bible-Belt city rather than in New York.

Often when people pass, it’s a time for the rest of us to put things in perspective. His teammates have been effusive in their praise for his role on the 1986 squad. While short, his Met career was very significant and I best believe can be put in perspective with just four words:

Tenth Inning Game Six.

The Mets are down to their last out and on the verge of one of the largest letdowns in baseball history at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Gooden, having melted down in Game Five is in the dugout, unavailable. Strawberry, removed as part of a double switch earlier in the game, sulks in somewhere in the shadows. Hernandez has just flied out to deep center. That leaves Carter. Refusing to make the last out, he wills a single and then, pushed by hits from Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight, chugs around the bases, pointing prophetically at Wilson while crossing the plate. Was it Divine Intervention that saved the Mets that night? (It certainly was a miracle). Carter’s refusal to give up, his heart of a champion, kept the Mets heart beating that inning and eventually carried them to the pennant.

I was a season ticket holder in 1989. Towards the end of that dismal season, I was struck with the realization that soon Carter would no longer be a Met. I will never forget soaking in those final appearances of his from my seat in deep left field: his stance was a near perfect replica of the MLB logo, the number 8 centered down his back and his bat held the anticipation that a ball may be hit a long way at any moment. Aside from that somewhat personal moment, there are some other highlights to consider.

• His game-winning 1985 Opening Day home run off of Neil Allen in the bottom of the 10th inning.

• His game-winning NLDS Game Five hit off of Charlie Kerfield

• His two home run game in Game 4, 1986 World Series

• His torrid September 1985—Carter hits 13 home runs, including 5 in two games vs. San Francisco.

Very few players have those types of highlights on their Met resumes. For those reasons alone, I hope the Mets do the right thing and retire Carter’s number this summer (it might be a good idea to also retire #17 at the same time).

Godspeed and thank you, Gary. May the faith you readily shared with everyone be a comfort to those who mourn you here and may you enjoy eternity as a heavenly all-star.
Let’s Go Mets!

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Memories of Gary Carter

What I remember about Gary Carter, a.k.a., “The Kid” …

The Best Backstop

The moment Johnny Bench moved to third base, Carter became the best all-around catcher in baseball, at a time when there were many good, and a few great catchers in the game. Two-way guys like Ted Simmons, Carlton Fisk, Lance Parrish, and Darrell Porter — and defensive stalwarts like Jim Sundberg, Bob Boone, Rick Dempsey, Tony Pena, and Mike Scioscia. He was a notch above, all-around, than all of his contemporaries. Sure, Fisk and Simmons were close, but both spent much of the 1980s in the DH role; their heavy-duty catching days happened in the 70s, when Carter was on the way up. Whenever I hear nonsense like moving Joe Mauer or Buster Posey to “another position”, I think about Gary Carter, and how valuable he was as a backstop, and why, if the Kid could do it, why can’t others? Further, why are teams so averse to developing all-around catchers like Gary Carter?

Durability

The Kid caught at least 85% of his team’s games for nine years straight. He caught over 2,000 games over a 19-year career. He was a rock.

Leadership

When Gary Carter was behind the plate, there was no question as to who was in charge. He called the game; he coddled the pitcher’s frequently fragile emotions; he directed the defense. His hustle, hard-nosed play, and determination was inspiring. His positive attitude, engaging personality, and outward display of enthusiasm and love for the game was infectious.

Purity

If you read The Bad Guys Won (and you should), you’d know that — off the field — Gary Carter was one of the outcasts on the heavy-drinking, hard-living 1986 Mets. At the time, he was seen by many of his teammates as a “goody two shoes”; they were annoyed by his choice to live by values of his choosing, rather than “going along with the crowd”. Those same teammates, 25 years later, effusively praised him for living life “the right way”. Darryl Strawberry said “I wish I made the choices he did, and lived my life the way Gary Carter did.” Ron Darling echoed similar comments, admitting that while some of his Mets teammates took many years to figure out that family and being a good father were the most important things in life, Carter did it “right” his whole life. Darling also said, “Gary Carter was everything you wanted in a sports hero: a great talent, a great competitor, a great family man, and a great friend.” None of that is smoke-blowing; Gary Carter WAS as close to being “perfect” as an athlete could be — an ideal example for others to follow.

The Trade

While playing for the Expos, I HATED Gary Carter, because he was so damn good, and he played so hard, and had a distinct cockiness about him — he was the guy I never wanted to see up at the plate in an important spot, the guy who always seemed to kill a rally by throwing out a runner, who never let the winning run knock him over. It was a hatred based in jealousy, of course, and I secretly loved watching him play. So on a cold December night in 1984 when it was announced on the 11 o’clock news that the Mets had acquired him, I literally jumped up and down and screamed like a schoolgirl. To this day I remember that night like it was yesterday — not unlike one might remember where they were on 9/11, or when JFK was shot, except this was a good memory. At the time, it seemed so improbable, so impossible, that our Mets could have a superstar of Carter’s ilk. And once he became Mets property, it was all but a matter of time before they won the World Series — you just knew it.

The Single

Which leads me into another one of those “good” memories that I remember like it was yesterday. Tenth inning, two outs, two strikes, down by two, and the Mets were about to lose the 1986 World Series. And somehow, Gary Carter — who later conveyed that he refused to be “the last out of the World Series” — takes a tight, rusty-gate swing and punches the ball into shallow left-center to keep a shred of the Mets’ waning hopes alive. The rest was history.

Thanks for the memories, Kid. May you rest peacefully, and be forever remembered.

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Gary Carter Has Passed Away

Former Mets catcher Gary Carter died today at age 57.  Not only was he a Hall-of-Fame Catcher, he was a Hall-of-Fame human being.

“I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 pm.,” his daughter Kimmy Bloemers wrote on the family’s website. “This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know. He is in heaven and has reunited with his mom and dad. I believe with all my heart that dad had a STANDING OVATION as he walked through the gates of heaven to be with Jesus.”

R.I.P., Kid.

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Mets Spring Training Question 4: Who Will Be the Leader?

With four days before pitchers and Molinas report to spring training, the #4 question to be answered in Port St. Lucie comes from my wife:

David Wright is supposed to be the “face of the franchise”, but he seems more of a figurehead than a team leader — and besides, we all know the Mets are going to deal him away by the trading deadline. So if not David, who will jockey for power and take over leadership of this club?

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Picard Down To His Final Out in the Bottom of the Ninth

NOTE: this was written by MetsToday loyal reader and legal consultant Robert Tandy, Esq. It is an overview of what is happening with the Irving Picard case vs. Sterling Equities. Mr. Tandy will keep us posted on developments in the case with periodic updates. -Joe

On February 23, 2012, the ten individual partners of Sterling Equities (the “Sterling Defendants”), their family members, trusts, foundations, and affiliated business entities will move for summary judgment dismissing the Trustee’s remaining causes of action against the Sterling Defendants.

By way of background, the procedural history of the case can be summarized as follows:

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Blog Roundup: Mets Prospectus

The time of year you’ve been waiting for has arrived. No, not the beginning of Spring Training, the time of year where everyone and Mr. Met’s brother comes out with their list of top prospects. For the Mets, most pundits and bloggers put the latter-day Generation K at the top of their lists (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia), and include 2011 first-round draft pick Brandon Nimmo in their top 5.  The latter could be as good as the scouts, and the Mets brain trust, think he will be, or he could turn into another Fernando Martinez.  It seems too early to tell for a kid like Brandon, who’s barely old enough to shave, and has only a few games of professional experience.  But maybe the experts know something we don’t.

Today’s prospect – Blogs:

  • Seedlings to Stars has a rather optimistic evaluation of the Mets farm system (I wish I had grades like that when I was in school).
  • Bleacher Report lines up the usual suspects (Warning – slideshow).
  • Amazin’ Avenue rounds out their top 50 with a rather surprising choice at number 4.
  • Minor League Ball rates the Mets’ top 20 prospects.
  • Metsblog has their “hype” list (bonus points for using parentheticals).
  • Sandy Alderson jokes about the Mets financial prospects (See what I did there?).

Thanks for reading, and remember, Mets Today is a can’t-miss talent.

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