You can never question Carter's love for the game and passion to win. Even though he was a catcher, he wanted to be out there every day. Prior to joining the Mets, he played in over 150 games five times, including 159 games played in 1984- unheard of for a catcher. He came up big in the 1981 postseason, hitting over .400 in five game series of both the NLDS and NLCS against the Phillies and Dodgers. His career with the Expos provided a lot "What could have been?" since that was an offensive team that was as good as anybody in the National League. Fellow Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and perhaps future HOF Tim Raines led a lineup that also included 3B Tim Wallach and 1B Al Oliver. Steve Rogers had some good seasons but they seemed to not have enough pitching.
Throughout his playing career, Carter was clutch. He always seemed to shine when the pressure was on him. His first career homerun was off Steve Carlton. He was the last player to hit two homeruns in an All Star game. Mets fans will remember him for hitting a game winning homerun in his first game as a Met in 1985 and starting the rally with two outs and nobody on in the 10th inning of game 6 against the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Some Mets fans may say that Carter wasn't the center of the mid 1980s teams, I disagree. They were at their best with Carter and would not have won the World Series in 1986 without him. Its a shame he only spent five years with the Mets, something that kept him from getting inducted in the HOF as a Mets player and probably is the reason his number 8 hasn't been retired yet.
When it comes to retiring his number, I have a mixed feeling on it. The fact that he was sick and passed away in itself is not a reason to retire a number. There is no question there will be some honor to Carter when it comes to opening day of 2012. If the plan was for the New York Mets to retire his number, I suggest they do it then. But, if not, it shouldn't be put up because he is not living any more. If that was the case, guys like Tommy Agee and Tug McGraw should have their numbers retired.
When I think of Gary Carter, I can't help but picture his smile-one of the best smiles the game has ever seen. I never saw a player play that was more passionate about winning than Carter. Some say that was part of the reason he was traded from the Expos was because some of his passion irked some of the veterans. I guess thats why those veterans never won in their career. (For the exception of Raines who got a ring as a reserve for the 1996 New York Yankees.) He related best to the New York fans, who are as passionate as any in the country. He got upset when the team lost and would pump his fist on the top step in the dugout after he hit a key homerun. He was a winner, a role model. As great as it would have been to see Carter at Citi Field, I am glad he isn't in any pain anymore. Opening day will be a nice event this year, as the Mets honor Carter in some way, shape or form.