Friday, February 17, 2012


Just a quick entry to commemorate one of latter-day baseball's galvanizing figures--Gary Carter, who left us the other day (aged 57) much too soon. The stories about Carter's larger-than-life personality are so well-documented that it would be redundant to reference these at any length, except to say that behind any impression of self-aggrandizement that Carter may have demonstrated over the years lay a child-like heart of gold. He was not called "Kid" for nothing, even when he had occasion to behave badly.

So just a couple of nuggets mined from Forman et fil to characterize Carter's on-field skills, which never overtly screamed greatness but blended into the gestalt of a Hall of Famer in the way that some pieces of music carry more than just the collection of notes that comprise it.

A feature of the Kid in his prime was his ability to play so many games at a grueling defensive position and still have so much left in September--it was his best month, and over the first twelve years of his career (full seasons: 1975-86) he posted a .297/.368/.497 line. That .865 OPS was quite an achievement, particularly considering the cumulative effect of catching.

Forgotten by virtually everyone was Carter's stretch-run hitting in 1985, when he hit 13 homers in September-October as the Mets relentlessly stalked the St. Louis Cardinals in one of the great division races (with no wild card safety net in place at the time).

1987 was the point when Carter's skills as a hitter suddenly atrophied, and his stretch record from that point forward (.232/.296/.377) reflected his early decline (right at the often-crucial age-33 turning point that we've seen before).

The joy of no-no: Gary Carter collars Charlie Lea after catching his no-hitter,
May 10, 1981
As a defender, Carter is sometimes overlooked for his skills, particularly with respect to controlling the running game, but for a ten-year stretch (1974-83), he was at or near the top in this area, throwing out 42% of opposition baserunners attempting to steal. Those skills began to erode in 1984 and would plummet during his years with the Mets, bottoming out in 1988 when his throw-out rate crashed to 19%.

While he was a much diminished player from age 34 until the end of his career, Carter's accomplishments with the (tragically murdered and still lamented) Expos were the stuff of legend. He played with a burnished glow that more than occasionally spilled over into a kind of rapture which transcended self-congratulation even as it mimicked it. His emotions were tangible--sometimes cocky, more often overflowing with wonder.

Rest in peace, Kid. Thanks for everything.