June 01, 2011
For a team owned by a man still under the delusion that he purchased the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1980, it should come as no surprise that the New York Mets have never gotten around to retiring Gary Carter's No. 8 and Keith Hernandez's No. 17.
But with Carter's health sadly taking a turn for the worse with his brain tumor being diagnosed as malignant, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post believes that it's finally time for Fred Wilpon to right the wrongs and make sure that Carter and his mustachioed teammate get their day at Citi Field this season. Even if that means shaming Wilpon into doing so.
The disgrace is that the Mets had 22 years to do the right thing based on performance, based on accomplishment, based on Gary Carter's inviolable place in the collective heart of their fans. He is a Hall-of-Fame player who played the meat of his prime as a Met. He was the missing piece to a championship puzzle.
On a team forever remembered as much for its indefatigable bacchanalia as its baseball, Carter was one player you never feared would break the fans' covenant of faith. He spent far more time in chapel and trainer's room than saloon or casino. And from the moment the Mets released him on Nov. 14, 1989, there should've been a plan to invite him back for a Day, capital "D," to put his number 8, forever, on the wall.
The Mets, being the Mets, never did that.
There's a fear out there — voiced in one corner by Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk — that the timing of such a decision would be awkward for Carter. And perhaps it might be.
But with this year also being the 25th anniversary of the 1986 Mets World Series title and Hernandez also being present (and deservedly honored), a possible antidote for overwhelming melancholy would be there. And, like Vaccaro writes, it's not like Carter is undeserving. This would be about The Kid and Mex finally getting their due after the franchise allowing a total of 23(!) different men to wear their orange-and-blue digits since they last donned them. Unreal.
There will likely be a few who will argue that Carter did not play long enough with the Mets to warrant such an honor. He played 12 seasons with Montreal (compared to five with the Mets) and went into Cooperstown wearing an Expos cap. His No. 8 hangs in the rafters at the home of the Montreal Canadiens and in the ring of honor at Nationals Park.
Still, that shouldn't prevent Carter's number from being honored and displayed at Citi Field, where future generations of Mets fans can learn about both a player and team that holds such a huge spot in a part of Mets history that Fred Wilpon has yet to adequately acknowledge. Vaccaro is completely correct: It's way past time to get this done.
What do you think? Should the Mets retire the numbers of Carter and Hernandez?