Very little to report on in terms of Met acquisitions. (Spoiler alert: free agents don’t play for free.)
But some truly sad news came down last week. Gary Carter, who has been fighting brain cancer, took a turn for the worse. The outlook doesn’t appear to be very good.
I was five years old during Gary Carter’s first season in 1985, so my coming of age as a Mets fan meant not realizing just how rare it was to have a catcher as outstanding as Carter.
How rare? No one had a better season at catcher for the New York Mets than Gary Carter’s 1985. His 6.7 WAR (wins above replacement) is more than a win better than any season any other Met catcher ever had. Mike Piazza’s 1998, incidentally, is tied for second at 5.5 WAR with, and this shocked me, John Stearns’ 1978. Piazza, it should be noted, contributed his 5.5 wins in just 109 games after coming over in late May.
Carter’s 1986 dropped precipitously from his 1985 level, which had been right in line with his 1977-84 peak. That’s the price of acquiring a catcher for his age-31 season. But his 3.8 wins still ranks ninth all-time in franchise history, trailing the three seasons mentioned above, three Mike Piazza seasons (1999-2001) and two Todd Hundley seasons (1996-97). Just as an aside: the Mets got a crazy amount of production from their catchers from 1996-2001.
Ultimately, Carter’s decline phase meant his 1987 value dropped below one win, never to return above that level until he posted 1.5 wins for the 1990 Giants. Overall, his career value as a Met catcher checks in at fourth, behind Piazza, Stearns and Jerry Grote. Carter racked up his 11.2 WAR with the Mets in far fewer games than any of the other three, however.
But few would argue with the idea that Carter was the best catcher the Mets ever had. And there’s that certain world championship to his name as well. The point is, one doesn’t merely have to be bowing to the stark reality of Carter’s illness to be for the Mets retiring number 8.