Friday, February 17, 2012

R.I.P., Gary Carter

The  Kid in 1987 at age 33,
already on the downside of his career.
Gary Carter died Thursday. That he was dying was no surprise; the prognosis from the time his brain tumors became public knowledge last summer was never good.

Still, he was only 57.

Carter is deservedly in the Hall of Fame; indeed, it was an indictment of the writers that it took six years for Carter to win induction.

It probably didn't help Carter that he spent his prime years in the obscurity of Montreal; that he was, in his early years, a direct contemporary of the great Johnny Bench and the overlooked Ted Simmons; or that the last four years of his career were spent bouncing around the National League as a part-time player.

I have a great deal of respect for the great players who are willing to stick around even after their days of stardom are over. There are always broadcasters and writers who'll bleat about how this somehow tarnishes the athlete's "legacy," but my view of it is this: The Dodgers, the Giants, the Expos all figured that the aging Carter could still help their team. He couldn't catch 120 or 140 games anymore, he didn't belong in the middle of the lineup anymore, but he could still help.

Why should he step away?

Carter, as I chronicled in my 2010 catcher project (a detailed examination of the aging patterns of outstanding offensive catchers, prompted by the then-looming contract extension for Joe Mauer), was used hard in his 20s and fell apart in his early 30s. This is a common pattern for catchers who can hit. The position takes a lot out of its practitioners.

No comments:

Post a Comment