Gary Carter: Retire His Number?

Gary Carter has been in the news lately, and for all the wrong reasons. On May 21, Carter issued a statement to the press where he revealed that his doctors had discovered four small tumors in his brain. This past Friday, he had biopsies done at Duke University, and doctors there concluded that the small tumors appeared to be malignant, meaning that the Hall of Fame catcher had brain cancer. To make matters worse, the tumors are likely inoperable. Glioblastoma multiforme, what the doctors diagnosed him with, has a generally poor prognosis, with the median survival time being only 14 months, approximately. While he, and his family, are trying to keep in good spirits, things are not looking very good for Gary Carter's future, if it turns out that his tumors are indeed malignant, are indeed glioblastoma multiforme, and are indeed inoperable.

Carter's MLB career spanned nineteen years, from 1974 to 1992. For the majority of the mid-to-late ‘70s and early-to-mid ‘80s, Carter was the premium catcher in all of baseball. In 1975, his first full season, he hit .270/.360/.416, with 17 home runs and 68 RBI, while playing good defense, just being edged out by San Francisco Giants pitcher John Montefusco for National League Rookie of the Year Award for 1975. During his 1976 season, he took some steps back, offensively, but he returned to form in 1977, and never looked back, until the twilight years of his career. During this period of time, he averaged 6.0 WAR, which his single best season coming in 1982, where he hit .293/.381/.510, with 29 home runs and 97 RBI, along with exceptional defense behind the plate.

At the end of the 1984 season, after finishing fifth in the NL East, the Montreal Expos decided that it would be in their best interests if they unloaded their All-Star catcher in exchange for prospects, to begin the process of rebuilding. In exchange for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans, the New York Mets acquired Gary Carter. Carter made his impact immediately felt, as he hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning of Opening Day 1985 against the St. Louis Cardinals. For the next five years, Carter would be a mainstay behind the plate in a bunch of Mets teams that regularly did well in the standings, including a championship berth in 1986.

Since the beginning of his Mets tenure, Carter was steadily decreasing in value, as age caught up to him. After a very ineffective 1989 season, where he played only 50 games, Carter was allowed to leave the Mets via free agency. He would play for three more seasons, for the Giants, Dodgers, and Expos, and would recapture enough of his former self to be somewhat effective- during this three-year period, he averaged 1.3 WAR. After his swan song in Montreal, Carter hung up his spikes and announced his retirement. For his career, he hit .262/.335/.439 with 324 home runs and 1,225 RBI, all while playing premium defense for most of his career. These numbers were good for a 72.5 WAR for his career.

In 2001, ‘Kid' was inducted into the Mets Hall-of-Fame. During his five-year tenure with the Mets, he hit .249/.319/.412 with 89 home runs, 349 RBI, and defense that, while not as good as it was in his prime, did not kill the team. More importantly, perhaps, was his .276/.267/.552 line for the 1986 World Series, his two home runs over the Green Monster, and his role in Game 6 of the World Series, where he not only hit the sac fly that tied the game in the 8th inning, but was the first batter in the 10th inning rally that eventually sealed the deal for the Mets. In 1988 and 1989, Carter was made co-captain, along with Keith Hernandez, in deference to his veteran presence and deep knowledge of the game.

In 2003, his 6th year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Carter was voted in by the BBWAA with 387 of the 496 total votes. Half joking, Carter requested that the cap depicted on his plaque be half Expo, and half Met. Carter initially leaned towards wearing an Expos cap, and then leaned towards wearing a Mets cap. In the end, when the Hall of Fame made the final decision, it gave Carter an Expos cap, with Baseball Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey stating that it was Carter's time in Montreal that earned his induction, and that his time in New York alone would not have. That year, the Expos retired Carter's number 8 uniform. The Mets have never retired it, but have yet to issue it again.

The Mets Police's Shannon Stark wrote an article about retiring Gary Carter's number, which I read, and vehemently disagreed with, hence this FanPost in response. It was a relatively short article, so I'll reprint it wholesale here:

According to Mets By The Numbers, no Met has worn #8 since the end of 2002.

So, in effect, #8 is retired.

It cannot be an accident that #8 sits unused, like 24 and like 31.

Someone is choosing not to issue the number.

So retire it.

Have Gary Carter out to Citi Field to retire #8.  Man, that will be one hell of an emotional day for everyone involved.  I know I wouldn't be able to get through it without getting misty eyed.

He's in the Mets Hall of Fame.  He is in Cooperstown.  He won a ring.  He was the co-captain.  Nobody wears the number anyway.

We can argue a different day about 17, 31, 16, 18, 36 or whatever other number you want to argue about.

This is about Gary Carter.  Fan favorite.  Team captain.  Champion.  Hall of Famer.  The first person you think of when you think of 8.

This is a family.  Don't wait until it's too late to tell someone you love him.  Especially when nobody is using the number anyway.

UPDATE: The Mets ran some video of Gary at Sunday's game which you can see here thanks to Pete

In effect, Shannon's argument for having Carter's number retired is that it already isn't issued out of respect for Carter, and that since he was a fan favorite, his number should be retired. Using the same argument, however, one could make the case that Willie Mays' number 24 should be retired, because Joan Payson promised no regular player has worn it since the Hall of Fame centerfielder retired (It has since been issued twice, to Kelvin Torve in error, and Rickey Henderson), and because he was a fan favorite, Hall-of-Famer, and all-around great. The Say Hey Kid, in the twilight of his career, played for the Mets for two years (1972 and 1973) and hit .238/.352/.394 with 14 home runs, 44 RBI and 2 stolen bases. Are those numbers truly worthy of having a number retired?

A team retires a number based on the merit of the man that they're retiring it in honor of, based on his tenure with the team, the stats he put up while with the team, his general impact on the team, and other intangibles. Carter, as mentioned, played for the Mets for five years, and hit .249/.319/.412 with 89 home runs, and 349 RBI, good for a total of 13.2 WAR (2.6 averaged over that time). His defense was up and down, and generally was about average through his total time with the team. In the 1986 playoffs, Carter hit .148/.207/.185 with 0 home runs and 2 RBI in the NLCS against the Houston Astros and .276/.267/.552 with 2 home runs and 9 RBI in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. In the 1988 playoffs, Carter hit .222/.250/.333 with 0 home runs and 4 RBI in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Though numbers cannot particularly verify this, it is very likely that his veteran poise and knowledge helped the mid-to-late 1980s Mets pitching staff, which had numerous young pitchers, such as Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and David Cone. In 1988 and 1989, in deference to his status as veteran, knowledgeable of the game, and all-around good guy, the Mets made him co-captain with Keith Hernandez. Carter loved the media attention that he got in New York, and was quick with a smile and a quote. And, of course, he won a World Series championship ring with the 1986 team.

The argument for having Carter's number 8 retired seems heavily based on the intangibles, such as his media presence and veteran presence. These are poor arguments for something as important as a team retiring a player's number in perpetuity. Retiring a player's number is not something to be taken lightly- who doesn't shake their head and scoff at the fact that Wade Boggs has his number 12 retired by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Boggs played for the Devil Rays for two years, 1998 and 1999, and hit .289/.360/.391 with 9 home runs, 81 RBI and a net negative UZR, good for a total of 1.3 WAR over that period of time. He probably was their best player, and those numbers aren't horrible (especially the offensive numbers), but are they cause for a team to retire a player's number? No. The Colorado Rockies, for example, are just about as old as the Tampa Bay team, but they have yet to retire a player number, because they have yet to find a player who played for the team long enough, at a level of play good enough. To use a Mets analogy, using the same argument that is invoked in favor of retiring Gary Carter's number- stats count to some degree, but the intangibles, such as rings, quotability, veteran presence, and other notions- can be used to argue in favor of retiring Lee Mazzilli's '13' (or '16'). Mazzilli  had a similar slash line, albeit, he hit for less power- .264/.357/.396, with 68 home runs, and 353 RBI (and 152 stolen bases). He had the same kind of 'veteran presence' that Carter had. Being a teammate of Carter on the 1986 team, Mazzilli, too, has a World Series championship ring. Like Carter, he also was a media darling, and was a home-grown Brooklyn boy, even. Is there much of an argument, that Mazzilli should have his number retired, placing more of an emphasis on intangible things rather than stats? Then why Carter? Now, that is not to say Carter had bad stats, but they're, all things taken into consideration, fairly pedestrian, especially for such a grand honor.

Thankfully, the Mets are not a team that retires player numbers on the drop of a hat. The Mets are extra stringent, when it comes to doing this. After all, we only have a single player, Tom Seaver, to have his number retired over the course of our almost 50-year existence as a baseball team. Plenty of players who played before, with, or since Carter, who played on the Mets for a longer period of time and were more valuable: Jerry Koosman (12 year tenure, 3.09 Mets career ERA, 1969 World Series champion, and was worth a total of 41.8 WAR according to the historical WAR numbers provided by, Keith Hernandez (5 ½  year tenure, .297/.387/.429, 1986 World Series champion, 1987-1989 Mets team captain, and was worth a total of 28.4 WAR) and Mike Piazza (8 year tenure, .296/.373/.542, 31.2 WAR, first-ballot Hall-of-Famer come 2013) all fit the bill. Of those three, Mike Piazza is the only one who is likely to be honored by the Mets by having his number retired.

If such Mets luminaries such as Jerry Koosman, or Keith Hernandez have yet to have their numbers retired, and are unlikely to have them retired at this point, the chances that Gary Carter has his number retired is slim. The justification that Carter has his number retired, even slimmer and flimsier.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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