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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Gary Carter

Carter

It bothers me how long it took the BBWAA to induct Gary Carter into the Hall of Fame. JAWS may not be a perfect system, but Jay Jaffe’s tool ranks Carter as the second best catcher of all-time behind Johnny Bench. Maybe the system underrates Yogi Berra a bit, but there is little debate that Carter is at least in the top 5 catchers of all-time. So why did it take the writers six ballot cycles to vote him in, and even then, just barely?

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Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Gary Carter

Gary Carter 1988 All-Star National League New York Mets Riverfront Stadium Cincinnati Ohio

The starting catcher for the 1988 National League All-Star squad was Gary Carter of the New York Mets. Carter was past his prime by this point, but was still a very popular player. According to players surveyed, however, Carter should have been third in line behind the Phillies’ Lance Parrish, who was a reserve, and the Dodgers’ Mike Scioscia, who was left off the roster.

Carter

Topps assigned the catching position to Benito Santiago of the Padres, who had an excellent rookie season in 1987 and capture the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He did not start as strong in 1988 and did not make the All-Star team.

Random Awesomeness (part 204)

Random Awesomeness

Purchase Mötley Crüe music.
I can’t believe it’s over.

Do you ever baseball-reference yourself?

I know you Google yourself weekly (who doesn’t?), but have you ever baseball-referenced yourself? Unfortunately, there has never been a major leaguer with my first and last name. But there have been a handful of Carters. Here is a look at a few of them:
Carter in the major leagues
Two current players by the name of Carter were in the bigs in 2013; one of them was a first-name Carter: Carter Capps. Capps is a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners and appeared in 53 contests during the 2013 season. The other is first baseman/outfielder/designated hitter Chris Carter of the Houston Astros. He went deep twenty-nine times, which is nothing to sneeze at in this post-steroid era (only 13 players hit 30 or more home runs in 2013). His power surge would be even more impressive if he hadn’t led the league in strikeouts.

Historically, there have been three Carters who have appeared in All-Star games. The most recent is Lance Carter, a pitcher who was curiously Tampa Bay’s representative at the 2003 game. Shall we move on?

Joe Carter is best remembered for his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series as a member Carter Blue Jaysof the Toronto Blue Jays. An epic moment to be sure. 1993 was also Carter’s third of five All-Star appearances, all as a member of the Blue Jays. Truth be told, he should have been an All-Star long before then. From 1986-1989, Carter hit 123 home runs and drove in 430, but not once was he asked to play with the best while he was in Cleveland. In 1986, he had a 5.7 WAR, the highest of his career, and finished in the top ten for MVP voting. But no one called him mid-season to invite him to Houston. Instead, Brook Jacoby and Ken Schrom were the Indians reps. Why Dick Howser thought he needed four third baseman (Wade Boggs, George Brett, and Jim Presley were also on the roster) is beyond me. Even Schrom’s inclusion was suspect; while he had a 10-2 record, his ERA was 4.17. Before the popularity of more savvy stats (which I myself am still not completely sold on), but that ERA is a red flag, is it not?
The Kid 1982 Topps
The third of the Carter All-Stars is also a Hall of Famer. Gary Carter, best known as a catcher for the Expos and Mets, appeared on 12 All-Star rosters, 11 of those consecutive (1979-1988). Four times he finished in the top ten for MVP, five times won the Silver Slugger, three times the Gold Glove. He was one of the most popular players in the game. Sadly, the world lost Gary Carter in 2012 to brain cancer at the very young age of 57. It took Hall of Fame voters six times to get it right, but Carter was finally enshrined is 2003 after receiving more than the requisite 75%. One of the greatest catchers in Major League Baseball history, right behind Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.

So far as I know, I am not related by blood to any of these fine ballplayers. But I am happy to share my last name with them. Who shares your name in the bigs?

Who is the greatest catcher of all-time?

Bench 2002 Topps

A few weeks ago, I set out on a mission to discover who was the greatest player at each position on the baseball diamond. I decided on a mixture of traditional statistics and modern metrics, threw in a few decimal points here and there, and came up with a system of ranking players. I decided not to include the “steroid” guys, so don’t expect Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, or Ivan Rodriguez to pop up on any of these lists. Over the next several days, I’ll be revealing some of those results, starting today with the backstop.

Berra 1973 Topps

The number one guy on this list was really no surprise to me. Who in the world would doubt that Johnny Bench was the greatest to ever wear the tools of ignorance? His final score was 262.36, taking into account not only his offensive production, but his defensive contributions, awards, and midsummer appearances. Yogi Berra (255.05), Carlton Fisk (233.45), Gary Carter (229.3) and Mike Piazza (223.86) round out the top five in that order (if awards and All-Star seasons are included in the calculations…more on that later), but the big surprise is in the bottom half of the top ten.

Piazza and Gibson

Only three more Hall of Famers appear in the number 6-10 slots: Gabby Hartnett (#7, 204.08), Bill Dickey (#9, 202.25), and Roy Campanella (#10, 189.55). The sixth greatest catcher of all-time is the current Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, Joe Torre. Granted, he was not a career catcher, retiring the gear after the 1970 season and moving to first and third base. Regardless, Torre’s offensive output was impressive, scoring 206.33 in this project.

Simmons 1986 Topps

The eighth greatest catcher of all-time took over catching duties for Torre when he moved to the infield. Ted Simmons hit 248 home runs and drove in 1389 runs over a 21-year career while keeping a .285 average, all pretty impressive numbers for a guy who crouches for a living. How was Simmons rewarded for his work behind the plate? One year on the Hall of Fame ballot, only 17 votes for 3.7%, the year Steve Carlton was ushered in with 95.6%. Is Simmons the most overlooked full-time catcher in history?

Fisk 1988 Fleer

Back to the inclusion of awards and All-Star appearances. About halfway through the project, I decided I was being a bit unfair to old-timers who never had a chance to win an MVP or be invited to the All-Star game. So I made another column that omitted those calculations, and what happened surprised me. Bench still comes out on top, but Berra got knocked down a few notches. In fact, only one player was replaced in the top ten list. Without awards, the top ten is Bench, Fisk, Carter, Berra, Piazza, Simmons, Dickey, Torre, Hartnett, and Lance Parrish. Campanella actually dropped six spots on the list without his three MVP awards and eight All-Star seasons.

So perhaps Parrish is the most underrated backstop in history? I would never personally support Parrish as a Hall of Famer, but the numbers are there to give his supporters some room to argue. In the case of Simmons, however, I believe the Hall of Fame voters should be charged with a passed ball.

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Cards #1-9

In 1986 Topps teamed up with Quaker to issue a 33-card set full of superstars, including a nice handful of future Hall of Famers. Over the next few days, we’re going to look at the cards in the set, beginning with the first nine cards today…

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars 1-9

In 1986, these guys were enormously popular, perhaps none more than Dwight Gooden. The man had just won the Cy Young Award in 1985 with 24 wins and a minuscule 1.53 ERA…at the age of 20. Willie McGee was the NL MVP, leading the league with 216 hits and a .353 average, and teammate Vince Coleman had just come of an outstanding rookie campaign setting the record for most stolen bases by a first-year player. He won the Rookie of the Year award unanimously, shutting out the game’s first 20-game winning rookie pitcher since the 1960s.

There are currently only two Hall of Famers among these first nine players: Gary Carter and Tony Gwynn, but reasonable cases can be made for Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, and Steve Garvey. If I had to choose only one of the three for Cooperstown, Murphy would get my vote. While Parker and Garvey dominated the 1970s, Murphy was one of the biggest stars in the 1980s. Say what you will about his short peak, that five-year period between 1982 and 1986 was a fantastic run. Perhaps his chances would have been better if he had retired after the 1991 season, but I will not hold it against him for trying to stick around for a few extra years. When you love something, you want to keep doing it.

What makes a Hall of Famer?

Fortunately, not Reggie Jackson‘s opinion. I’m not talking about players involved with the steroid scandal, but guys who are already enshrined in Cooperstown. Jackson said the following to a Sports Illustrated reporter:

I didn’t see Kirby Puckett as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Gary Carter as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Don Sutton as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Phil Niekro as a Hall of Famer. As much as I like Jim Rice, I’m not so sure he’s a Hall of Famer.

So you have a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Puckett, a catcher who is considered by many to be among the best ever in Carter, and two pitchers who reached the 300 win and 3000 strikeout plateaus in Sutton and Niekro, and none of them are Hall of Famers? This isn’t a discussion of who isn’t in that should be (Don Mattingly says hello), but of who is in that shouldn’t be, according to Mr. October himself. And that even includes the pitcher who is in fifth place on the all-time strikeouts list, Bert Blyleven. Reggie says, “No. No, no, no, no. Blyleven wasn’t even the dominant pitcher of his era, it was Jack Morris.” Alright, I’ll agree that Morris belongs, but his omission should not distract from Blyleven’s accomplishments.

While the voting process isn’t perfect, requiring a 75% consensus is a pretty lofty standard and one that is hard to achieve. For the most part, the BBWAA has done a pretty good job on their end of keeping the riff raff out of the Hall. The Veterans Committee hasn’t done so splendidly, but most of their choices can at least be rationalized to some extent. If the BBWAA has failed at all, it has failed by its omissions (see also: Tony Oliva, Minnie Minoso). Reggie is simply wrong on this point.

R.I.P. Gary Carter

(April 8, 1954 – February 16, 2012)

I don’t like doing “R.I.P.” posts, especially when the subject entertained me when I was young. Gary Carter, Hall of Fame catcher best known for his time with the Montreal Expos and New York Mets, passed away today.

Retired Numbers: #8

All seven men who have been honored with the retirement of uniform #8 are in the Hall of Fame, and two served as catchers for the New York Yankees.


Bill Dickey, New York Yankees

Dickey played 19 seasons in the Bronx, going to the World Series nine times (and winning eight). Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1954, his uniform number was retired in 1972 when Berra, who also wore #8, was selected for enshrinement in Cooperstown.


Yogi Berra, New York Yankees


Cal Ripken, Jr., Baltimore Orioles


Carl Yastrzemski, Boston Red Sox


Gary Carter, Montreal Expos


Joe Morgan, Cincinnati Reds


Willie Stargell, Pittsburgh Pirates

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