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Mets’ top 25 all-time home run leaders, #17: Gary Carter

Gary Carter was the final big piece of the puzzle to the the mid-to-late 80s Mets

 Gary Carter makes a practice swing Photo by: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

17. Gary Carter

Home runs as a Met: 89
Home run rate: 1 per 27.5 Plate Appearances (3.6%)

“Return of the Jedi” was released to theaters on May 25, 1983, and though no one knew it then, it was a harbinger of things to come in Major League Baseball. Indeed, the Mets emerged from their long abyss in 1984 and finished in second place behind the Cubs in the National League East with a 90-72 record. It was their first winning season since 1976, and the future looked bright. Success that year was owed in large part to the emergence of a couple kids named Gooden and Strawberry, a near-MVP season from recently-acquired Keith Hernandez, and a supporting cadre of pitchers and position players who played their parts well.

As good as 1984 was, the next season was something else entirely. The Mets stormed to a 98-64 finish in 1985 that, incredibly, was only good enough for a second consecutive second-place finish—this time to the hated Cardinals. Take a look at the league standings in those years and shake a tightly clenched fist at the baseball gods for there being no Wild Card at the time.

Anyway, the records speak for themselves: If the Mets busted out in 1984, they were almost entirely dominant in 1985; and while there were plenty of reasons they did so, one of the biggest was the pre-season acquisition of the future Hall-of-Fame catcher they called Kid.

It seems like every generation has a catcher, maybe two, who winds up being the standard bearer for that position. There’s a reason, after all, for the dearth of good catchers, let alone catchers who are all-around good players: Catcher is a brutal position that lays waste to the human body and makes it nearly impossible to play a well-rounded game in Major League Baseball for any length of time.

But every now and then, someone like Gary Carter comes along who, through some combination of physical prowess and sheer talent, manages to punch past the norm.

Carter got his cup of coffee with the Expos in 1974 and soon established himself as a special player. By the time Frank Cashen pried him away from Montreal in the Winter Meetings in December 1984, Carter was a perennial All-Star, a regular in the conversation for NL MVP, and widely regarded as the best catcher of the time.

Some players experience a dip in production after joining a new team, but Carter didn’t miss a beat with the Mets—in fact, he completed them. The Mets had it all in the mid-to-late 80s: incredible pitching, strong defense, deep lineups. Carter had a direct hand in all of it, whether it was guiding the Mets’ young pitchers to amazing heights or providing a linchpin right-handed power bat in a lineup designed to give opposing pitchers fits.

Gary Carter finished his career with 324 home runs, 89 of them as a Met, which is impressive for any player but extraordinary for a catcher. It took a few years of eligibility, but Carter was elected to the Hall of Fame. Though he is enshrined as an Expo, his performance and the success he enjoyed with the Mets played a strong role in the arc of his career. Carter died far too young, but his memory as one of the greats in Mets and baseball history endures.

Gary Carter (with the Mets)

Year Games Plate Appearances Home Runs OPS+
Year Games Plate Appearances Home Runs OPS+
1985 149 633 32 138
1986 132 573 24 115
1987 139 573 20 83
1988 130 503 11 93
1989 50 166 2 51