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The late, great Mets catcher had to wait six years for writers to concede the obvious.
On this date in 2003, Gary Carter was elected to the Hall of Fame. With Mike Piazza’s HOF status to be determined tomorrow, it's worth noting that this was Carter’s sixth try, raising questions about the integrity of many of the writers charged with voting and about flaws in the process itself. The 11-time All-Star’s career numbers are comparable, and on many counts superior, to that of his AL contemporary Carlton Fisk, who was elected in only his second year of eligibility.
I can quote stats ad infinitum, but this is not about Carter vs. Fisk. It’s about Carter vs. certain self-important writers who, for starters, are loath to vote for anyone the first time around or can’t resist taking a superstar down a peg or two. Although "Camera Carter" was always accessible to the press, there were likely some writers, particularly outside of New York and Montreal, who may have been turned off by his fist-pumping, high-fiving, and too-good-to-be-true squeaky clean image. Or perhaps they bought into the whispers of former teammates who considered him immature, self-absorbed, a glory hound—or all of the above. Maybe there were even some balding writers who resented Kid’s full head of curly, blond hair. This may be conjecture on my part, but I’d welcome a better explanation.
Some might point out that the same year in which Carter was voted in, Eddie Murray, whose hostility toward the press is legendary, was elected to the HOF in his first year of eligibility. But the switch-hitting Murray had the "automatic" qualifiers of 504 HRs and 3,255 hits, which made it difficult for writers to hide behind any statistical argument against induction. Nonetheless, 15 percent of them still did not vote for him. I hope I am wrong, but this does not bode well for Mike Piazza’s chances.
Happy 29th birthday to Jeff Francoeur, who defied critics by posting a respectable career-best .338 OBP and near-career-best .498 SLG with the Mets in 2009. He had a good glove, a great arm and a winning smile. Yes, he backslid in 2010, but consider how the Mets might have been better off holding on to him and not signing Jason Bay. Over the last three years, Francoeur’s run production was better than Bay’s, he slugged about 50 points higher and, most significantly, Francoeur this season will earn "only" $7,500,000–less than half of what Bay will be getting for not playing for the Mets.
The late Geremi Gonzalez would have been 38 today. Stepping into the rotation in place of injured fellow Venezuelan Victor Zambrano in May 2006, he made one quality start and two poor ones. Ironically, the Mets lost Gonzalez’s good game but won the others. On May 25, 2008, two years to the day after his last Mets appearance, he was struck by lightning in his home town of Maracaibo and died shortly thereafter.
Mike Cameron turns 40 today. A Gold Glove centerfielder who jacked a career-high 30 HRs for the 2004 Mets, he was asked to move to right field when Carlos Beltran came aboard the following season. Whether that had anything to do with Cameron’s offensive drop-off is anybody’s guess, but his Mets career ended in San Diego on August 11, 2005, with a horrifying collision when both he and Beltran dove headlong for the same pop fly. Ironically, he was traded to San Diego that winter (for Xavier Nady), where, back in CF, he bounced back with two productive seasons followed by two more solid ones with the Brewers.
It’s a chicken-or-egg question regarding Chuck Cottier, 77, coach under Joe Torre from 1979-1981. Did his (overly?) aggressive third base coaching contribute to the team’s paltry average of only 3.6 runs per game during his stint or did those RBI-challenged lineups prompt him to wave so many runners home to their almost certain doom?
Happy 77th birthday also to original Met John DeMerit, whose surname was apropos for both his own poor showing and that of his team. Ironically, despite virtually no contribution from him, the awful 1962 Mets won 11 of the 14 games in which DeMerit played, and immediately following his release they lost 17 consecutive games. So perhaps John D. had merit as a good luck charm.
Amazin’ly Tenuous Connection
The number one single on the Billboard pop charts on this date in 1977 was Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis's "You Don't Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)." This is certainly a fitting candidate for the upcoming season's 8th inning song at CitiField, given how aptly it describes Sandy Alderson’s sadly necessary small-market approach to filling the Mets’ roster. So far this winter he has underwhelmed us with the acquisitions of Brian Bixler, Andrew Brown, Greg Burke, Collin Cowgill, Brandon Hicks, Jamie Hoffmann, Aaron Laffey, Omar Quintanilla, Anthony Recker, Josh Rodriguez and Carlos Torres.