I remember how excited I was when the Mets traded for Gary Carter. After years of misery, the team was finally a contender again, but catcher was a weak spot. Then Mike Fitzgerald was replaced by a future Hall of Famer still in the prime of his career. Fitzgerald hit 48 homers in ten seasons. Carter hit more in his first two years on the Mets.
As promising as the Mets looked before Carter, his acquisition moved them toward the stratosphere. He really did turn out to be the missing piece. The Mets were middle in the pack in runs and ERA in 1984. But with a new cleanup hitter and handler for the young pitching staff, they were toward the top of the league in both categories in 1985.
Of course, your team ERA is bound to go down when your ace has a 1.53 ERA, but Dwight Gooden was not the only Met starter to show big improvement in 1985. Ron Darling went from 3.81 in 1984 to 2.90 in 1985 and Sid Fernandez went from 3.50 to 2.80.
Yes, these were all young pitchers on an upward curve at the start of their careers, but having the superstar veteran behind the plate must have helped. On SNY earlier today, Gooden gave Carter lots of credit for his career year.
Of all the tributes on SNY, those from Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and a broken-up Keith Hernandez really stood out. We've heard a lot about how the rowdier members of the team had problems with Carter, but over and over you heard how he was a leader, a gamer and a role model. Maybe some of the Mets didn't appreciate him as a role model until later, but he eventually had that effect on them.
This is going to be a very bad year for the Mets and their fans. Even on a sad day like this, it's hard not to start to get angry over the fact that the Mets never retired Gary's number while he was around to enjoy it. And to realize that if the current Mets are involved in any trades in which a pennant contender gets that last piece, it's going to be the Mets supplying the piece to the other team.
But today is not for that. Today is for remembering one of the greatest Mets, a critical part of the 1986 team and, by all accounts, a role model on and off the field. Rest in peace, Gary. Thanks for giving Mets fans so many memories we still cherish. Lisa and I send our condolences to the Carter family and to the Mets family.