This Is Not About Gary Carter's Illness, But About Honoring His Greatness

By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/

NEW YORK (WFAN) — To present this opinion fairly, I first have to admit I have a problem.

This is part of my 12-step program toward alleviating my Twitter addiction. Facts are facts: the social networking giant has eliminated any need I have — or will ever have — to pick up a newspaper or watch ESPN’s SportsCenter again.

Some of my best column ideas have been hatched through conversations limited to 140 characters per thought. That is unless I use Tweetdeck and cheat a little.

When it comes to the Mets and formulating opinions on what they should or shouldn’t do, both on the field and off, I have to be honest and say I often need a push in a certain direction because my allegiances are elsewhere. They always have been. But, as any writer worth anything will tell you, it’s always easier to think clearly and execute journalistically when you can take the emotion out of that which you are trying to convey.

Twitter has helped me get a better understanding of Mets fans, what makes them tick and how they persevere through years and years of way more misses than hits on the field. And last week, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, a topic very near and dear to the Mets fan came to light, one that’s been touched upon only slightly in the mainstream media but has been a general theme in my Twitter stream:

Should the Mets get off their collective asses and retire Gary Carter’s number? The simple answer is of course, followed by what the hell have they been waiting for?

Take it from an outsider; end this madness once and for all.

Because Mets ownership has, for whatever reason, opted to put off retiring the numbers of Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry, among others, it has made the issue of whether to retire Carter’s No. 8 more of a debate than it should be.

I have read opinions ranging from Carter’s day in the sun being long overdue to it now becoming an exercise in pity, due to the unfortunate situation that has caused each of us to reflect on our own mortality. While it’s true Carter is in the process of the biggest fight of his life, there should be nothing about his circumstances that should further slow down a process that’s been stuck in the mud for going on 20 years. If anything, Carter more than earned his day of honor long before he retired from the game in 1992, well before Shea Stadium was considered completely antiquated, long before plans for Citi Field were even in the blueprint stages, and certainly well before the “Kid” was diagnosed with glioblastoma.

Pity? I laugh at the notion. If anything, it’s pitiful that the Mets have put this off for as long as they have.

And it’s also rather sad that someone like me has to throw Carter’s resume out there to justify his case. The Mets have always known a day to pay appropriate respect to the man has been long overdue, as it has been for Gooden, Hernandez and Strawberry. So, I ask again: what in the name of all that is holy have they been waiting for? Seriously. The fans would appreciate a rationale here instead of being forced to downplay Carter’s accomplishments or play up the pity card as a way of defending the snubbing of the so-called “big three.”

It’s not fair to Carter, or to anyone else, for that matter.

If the idea is to reward these former greats based on merit, where do you start? There’s really no way to fairly determine who deserves to go first, second, third or fourth. They each were tremendous in their own way. Gooden was the electrifying pitcher, arguably the best in the business during the 1980s and early ’90. Hernandez was a hitting and fielding machine and to this day is on the short list when the topic of greatest New York City baseball first basemen is discussed. Strawberry, like Gooden, is often looked at more for what could have been instead of what was. The bottom line is the guy was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball for a long time.

But perhaps the single greatest accolade any of the Mets waiting for a number retirement ceremony have is owned by Carter. He’s a Hall of Famer, period. I don’t care that he was a catcher and the unwritten requirements for induction were, and still are, different than for players at other positions. He’s already in Cooperstown. He’s already a national legend. And it doesn’t matter that Carter played the bulk of his career in Montreal either. At the end of the day he won a championship in New York, put up exceptional numbers in New York, wore the blue and orange with pride in New York and carried himself as the consummate professional in New York.

I’d bet that if someone asked Gooden, Hernandez and Strawberry if they cared if Carter’s number was retired first they’d collectively decide to rent the limo to get him to the park.

I mean, what else do you need?

I don’t have many Mets memories, aside from the obvious ones like Bill Buckner and Mike Piazza ducking a shard of his own bat, but I do remember Carter’s first game with the Mets. On April 9, 1985, I, along with many others, watched Carter blast a game-winning home run in the 10th inning against St. Louis. The Mets were on their way to becoming the team of the late ’80s and I was left clamoring for a catcher like Carter.

So, when the news about Carter’s illness came down 10 days ago it made me really sad and somewhat reflective. I watched Ron Darling basically have to do everything in his power to compose himself in the SNY booth. It’s clear that anyone who has ever been associated with Carter absolutely adores the man and knows precisely what he meant and still means to the Mets and their fans. I can’t tell you how many people on Twitter have told me that Carter was by far their favorite player and is without question just about the finest ambassador to the game a franchise could ever ask for. Ask Expos fans what Carter meant to them and I guarantee you they would say the day he left was about as sad as the day the franchise left.

It’s not about whose number should be retired first; it’s about the Mets getting something right for a change. If they were to roll out a series of future dates that would be reserved for this retirement ceremony or that retirement ceremony people would quickly put aside their anger over the absurd delay, just like when professional leagues end their labor strife. Fans, by and large, forget the anguish they’ve been put through because they are just thrilled they’ve gotten their sport back.

It would be the same with Carter and a day at Citi Field. The Wilpons would be cleared of any and all wrongdoing — at least on this issue.

At the end of the day, Carter deserves to be there the day his number is immortalized by the Mets. The fans deserve to stand for 30 minutes and applaud this man for everything he did. There shouldn’t be a dry eye in the place.

I read stories listing the top sports moments in New York history all the time. Why do I think this one would be right up there on any list?

So, get on Twitter, Facebook or any other cyber sounding board you can find and spread the word. Call the Mets. Write the Wilpons. Call WFAN and demand satisfaction. I know you’ve been doing it, but now it’s time to ratchet up the intensity.

It’s high time to #Retire8 and kick this pity crap to the curb.

And then I’ll be back to scream some more about Nos. 16, 17 and 18.

Read more columns by Jeff Capellini.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

Comments (8)
  1. mike says:

    Are you kidding? He played 5 seasons in New York….His first two years were outstanding, his next two, mediocre, and his last season, 1989, was awful at a time the Mets were vying for a pennant. He’s an Expo….Yes, he had a tremendous career, but he wasn’t an all time Met…There are at least 5 mets who should be considered before Carter. And this talk about his homer in the 85 opener doesn’;t hold much water when you consider the Mets the lost the division that year to St. Louis, as they also did in ’87. That was not exactly an overachieving Mets team from 1984-1990. 2 division titles and one World Series appearance in a 7-year span isn’t grounds for retiring the guys who played during that era’s numbers. You want to give him a night? Great. Retire his number? For what?

  2. H. Steinbrenner says:

    Obviously, from recent comments about Met players made by Mets ownership, the owners do not think as highly as the fans about their players. Sooo, don’t hold your breath!

  3. Sal says:

    the Wilpon’s would do this only if Carter played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

  4. Chris says:

    Sorry don’t agree. He spent 5 years here. Enough with retiring numbers for less than legendary, superstar players.

    1. G. Cohen says:

      Totally agree. Gary was a mercenary, went where the going was good. NOT a Met legend.

  5. SL says:

    Carter spent his best years with the Expos and not with the Mets. He did win a world series with the Mets, but it was only one series, and not 3 like Reggie Jackson with the A’s or 5 like Jeter with the Yankees. The Mets were a good team in the late 80’s but had only one world series to show for it, so they were far from a dynasty. I don’t think this warrants Carter’s number to be retired by the Mets. Of course celebrities and sports figures love to give themselves accolades so I don’t find it unusual for people to be calling for his number to be retired.

  6. Scott says:

    Great written article. The future of this organization is equally dependent on the fan base as much as it is monetarily. That said, retire Carter’s number pronto or you may see a boycott of attendance at games in retaliation and other problems associated with this. He earned it, he deserves it and this is what the fans want and want RIGHT NOW.

  7. Nick Spano says:

    Amazing job Jeff…I couldn’t agree more. #Retire8

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