Why Wasn’t Gary Carter’s Number Retired?
In their fifty years of existence, the New York Mets have only retired three of their own numbers–37 (Casey Stengel), 14 (Gil Hodges), and 41 (Tom Seaver). Since 1988, the Mets have strangely refused to recognize the contributions of its more recent heroes by formally retiring their numbers. And with the news of Gary Carter’s passing, it only further exposes the Wilpons’ embarrassing and disrespectful non-acknowledgement.
The Mets acquired Carter on December 10, 1984, dealing Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans to the Montreal Expos for the star catcher. Even though Brooks was a homegrown fan favorite, the addition of Carter to the 1985 squad instantly made the Mets a team to beat.
“The Kid” immediately won over New York fans by swatting an impressive .281/.365/.488 line with 32 HR, 100 RBI, and 83 R for the 1985 Mets. Even with a dazzling 98-64 record, the Mets were still three wins behind the roaring St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the East Division, and subsequently missed the playoffs. But the Mets’ shortcoming in 1985 only motivated the talented team the following season.
In 1986, the Mets surged to claim first place, besting the second place Philadelphia Phillies by a whopping 21.5 games. This was much in part to Carter’s bat (.255/.337/.439 line with 24 HR, 105 RBI, and 81 R), glove (combined 3.45 ERA, just 5 passed balls, and 28% CS%), and of course, leadership. In many ways, Carter’s leadership super-ceded his incredible abilities to physically play the game. Although the God-loving Carter was often mocked by his teammates for his religious beliefs, good manners, and pristine off-the-field behavior, he simultaneously gained their respect for his untenable love for the game and faith in the team.
The Co-Captain was also the sole reason for inciting the Mets miraculous comeback in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Carter hit a single which started the game-winning rally, and opened the door to the franchise’s first World Series victory in seventeen years. Without Carter’s determination and will to succeed, it’s very likely the Mets would have fell to the Boston Red Sox in that pivotal game.
Carter’s latter three seasons in orange and blue were significantly inferior to his first two. Even though the backstop smacked 20 HR in 1987, he only posted a meager .235/.290/.392 line to go along with it. Things only worsened in 1988, when Carter hit 11 HR with a .242/.301/.358 line–despite making his tenth straight All-Star appearance. In his final year with the Mets, the veteran battled injures, and could only muster 166 PA’s. Considering Carter had averaged 568 PA’s from 1957 to 1988, 1989 was the beginning of the end for the future Hall of Famer.
Statistically, Gary Carter’s tenure with the New York Mets wasn’t the most spectacular stint. In five seasons, he owned a .249/.319/.412 line with an average of 18 HR, 70 RBI, and 54 R. However, given how well he played during his first two seasons (.269/.352/.465 line with an average of 28 HR, 102 RBI, and 82 R), as well as his role in bringing the World Series title back to the Mets, Carter deserves his have his number retired. The New York Mets don’t have any Babe Ruth’s, Lou Gerig’s, Joe DiMaggio’s, or Micky Mantle’s, so why hold the number-retiring-standards to their caliber?