February 16, 2012

HOF catcher Gary Carter dead at 57

Carter as an Expo, the only way his pic's here
Wow. When it was announced he had a brain tumor, it sounded, at least for public consumption, like the medical prognosis for Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter was good. And now, just nine months later, he's gone.

As a Cards' fan, I hated his smarmy N.Y. Mets ass. (Before that, when he was with the Expos, he could be smarmy all he wanted, and who cared? It was the Expos.)

But, in reality, if not on the first ballot, it shouldn't have taken six years for him to get in the HOF. Probably, being the first major-level catcher to come up in the NL after Johnny Bench didn't help. And, yes, he's deserving; he "saved" as many career fielding runs as Bench, holds the NL records for games caught and putouts by a catcher, and his career slugging percentage is the near equal of Carlton Fisk.

(That said, per a comment on High Heat Stats, most catchers had to wait at least a little bit. Bench is the ONLY catcher to be a first-ballot HOFer. Yogi Berra took two years, Mickey Cochrane 6, Campanella 7, and Bill Dickey 9, among others.)

And, as player reaction to the news last May made clear, he was genuinely liked, even beloved; it was more than smarminess there.

It was more than just smarminess, I think, or smarminess with the Mets, that made him off-putting to me back then. It was the golden-boy look, with the SoCal frizzed hair and such, even while I was a more conservative person 30 years ago, myself, that was part of the mix.

It also reminds me that tragedy, sometimes but not always self-inflicted, hung over that '86 Mets team. As did the issue of unfulfilled potential. I'm glad the Cards beat them out in both 1985 and 1987. But, really, that team should have won more than it did.

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