Gary Carter's death may have hit the New York Mets (and Expos/Nationals) hard, but it definitely struck a chord with me. Even though I never personally met him, I was deeply saddened by the loss of the legendary catcher when I saw the news on Thursday afternoon.
It's sad to know that he was fighting a losing battle against a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer—and at the age of 57 as well, an age which neither is too old or too young.
Carter is gone, and his death is definitely going to be the saddest part of the 2012 season for the Mets—not their loss of Jose Reyes to a division rival, not the odious owners who, despite their finance woes, refuse to sell the team, and most certainly not the fact that the Mets almost certainly appear destined to finish in the NL East cellar.
Why? Why is the loss of one particular player going to weigh heavier than the factors contributing to another potentially disappointing season?
Here are the reasons:
Ever since Gary Carter left the Mets as a player, he's pretty much been treated like garbage by team ownership. When he lost his request to have a Mets logo on his Hall of Fame plaque, all the Mets did was give him a replica rather than retire his number—a very lame and uninspiring move considering his level of loyalty to the team.
Carter also was offered a job managing the Mets Single-A team, and when he brought them to the championship and exposed "top prospect" Fernando Martinez as a joke, all he asked for was a promotion to manage the Double-A team.
It was obviously well-deserved, but the Mets brass said no, and instead Carter found himself out of baseball for a year. He instead managed an independent-league team in 2008 that ended up winning its league championship.
When the Mets were looking for a manager to replace Jerry Manuel in late 2010, Carter's name should have been inserted into the candidate list along with Wally Backman, Bob Melvin and Terry Collins, but no, it never happened. Although Carter did get sick that year, I think it would have been nice if he were at least mentioned as a possible managerial candidate.
I'm no doctor, nor will I ever be, but I think that in addition to the cancer, Carter died of a broken heart.
Here was a guy who gave the team his all despite having knee problems, and all he had to show for his loyalty is a World Series ring, an induction into the Mets Hall of Fame, a replica Hall of Fame plaque, and a job managing Single-A players. It's sad—almost to the Joe Paterno-level of sadness.
This man saved the Mets from elimination in both the 1986 NLCS and World Series, and this is all he had as a show of thanks? At least in Montreal he had his number retired, though he lost that honor when the team moved to D.C.
Why didn't the Mets pick up the slack seven years earlier and put his number on the Shea Stadium wall? It disgusts me to no end how this man was treated. Can you imagine if Tom Seaver were treated this way?
I'm not saying that the Mets should retire his number now that he's dead—that would be a knee-jerk response and a very clear insult to his memory—but I am saying that he deserved a lot more respect from the Mets organization that he poured his heart and soul into for five good years.
The Mets should issue some sort of apology to the Carter family for the pain they have caused their patriarch, and I'm not talking about just a sleeve patch.
Carter deserves more than just a No. 8 on a jersey sleeve. He deserves something extremely special, or else this year is truly going to be one of the saddest in team history.
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