May 2009 Archives

May 22, 2009

Stats are important, but you have to trust your gut


Richie G. from Lynbrook mentioned that he often gets into arguments with the Sabremetric guys over at Ken Davidoff's baseball blog, so he wanted to know my thoughts on the matter.

Richie G: How much do you look at stats when making decisions? Or do you go with your gut more than some Sabrematic guys do?

I go more with my gut. Stats are great, but I don’t think they’re the most important thing. You always consider the matchups, with a righthanded hitter against a lefthanded pitcher. And I guess you can go on a computer and see numbers, but you have to have a feel and know the guy you’re sending up there is going to get the job done for you, and that really comes from the gut.

Richie G: Do you know all the new stats like FIP/VORP and what do you think of them?

I don’t know those stats and there are way too many stats to be concerned with to get caught up in that. The most important categories for me are batting average, home runs, RBIs and strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those are what I focus on the most.

Do you think leadership/hustle matters? Like do you think good leadership can win you games? If yes can you cite some examples.

I think leadership is very important. Our current Ducks ballclub has several leaders. Usually a team has one or two true leaders and the rest follow. I don’t think there is necessarily one leader on a team, but they all lead in their own way. For example, Billy Simas is our closer here and he knows his job and he is the leader of the bullpen.

When I came to the Mets, they knew they could count on me to call a good game and they knew they could count on Keith Hernandez to direct the infield. Centerfield was a different type of leadership with Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra. I think leadership starts in the clubhouse and there is always going to be one or two players who stand out.

(Photo for Newsday by Joseph D. Sullivan)

May 20, 2009

Would it be an honor for the Mets to retire my number? Absolutely

carter8.jpgExpos retired Carter's No. 8


als asked a few questions a couple of days ago, so I'll do my best to answer them.

als: What do you think about the New York Mets not retiring your No. 8?

Well, I have had my number retired -- in Montreal. Unfortunately, they didn’t take any history with them when they moved to Washington. Would it be an honor to also have my number retired by the Mets? Absolutely, but that’s their choice.

How does it feel to coach your former teammate’s son, Preston Wilson?

I have many memories of Preston Wilson from Mets’ family days, and he was always the star. It’s amazing to see how he has grown to the man that he is and to have the success that he has had.

Mookie Wilson has always been a favorite of mine, and I feel Preston has been a great addition to the ballclub. It has been a pleasure to manage him. Plus, he has said some good things to his dad, so I guess I’m doing my job.

What do you think of the Long Island Ducks fans so far compared to fans of major-league baseball?

The Ducks fans have been great. They are like our 10th man on the field. I can see how you can have a home-field advantage. and I remember that with the Mets and especially in our winning ’86 season. The fans at Shea were really our 10th man on the field. It’s the same way we feel here, I can hear the cheers and I know they love the Ducks. They also have been very receptive with welcoming me back.

May 19, 2009

You have to throw inside, and more about Al Nipper



Howard had two questions in the comments section, so here goes.....

Howard: Didn’t you hit at least one home run off of Al Nipper in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series too?

I did. In Game 4, I hit my first home run off of Nipper, and the other one I hit was off of reliever Steve Crawford. Then I hit my 300th off of Al. It’s ironic because Ivan Rodriguez just hit his 300th home run and it also was at Wrigley Field, which was kind of cool.

Howard: What are your thoughts on pitching inside, bean-balls, the use/overuse of protective guards, and brawls? As a manager, what are your thoughts?

I think it’s very important for a pitcher to throw inside. Bobby Ojeda came to us from the Red Sox in the trade for Calvin Schiraldi, and Bobby had a real off-year the year before.

In '86 he won 18 ballgames for us and one of the primary reasons was because he started throw inside more. He got away from throwing inside because of the Green Monster, and I tried to enforce that in him.

I really encourage anybody to pitch inside and there is a way to go about it. Usually when you get ahead in the count, you show fastball in and then go breaking ball away, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.

I also think the game has changed somewhat. Back when pitchers threw inside to guys, you never dug in against Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale or Juan Marichal and guys who were known to come way inside. And now because of fines that have been implemented for supposedly throwing at a batter, I think it has taken away from the game somewhat. You want to keep a hitter on their toes; you don’t want a guy to dig in. I think it is very important to be able to work that side of the plate.

(2009 Photo of Wrigley Field by Getty Images)

May 18, 2009

Would we have beaten Mike Scott in Game 7? Yes, we would have found a way

Jesse Orosco jumps for joy after striking out Kevin Bass in the 16th inning to win Game 6 of the NLCS. (Photo by AP)


Speaking of Mike Scott, I have often been asked if I thought we could have beaten the Astros in Game 7 back in '86.

It's a good question. The character of that Mets team and the way we always battled back would have made it interesting.

Knowing Scott was looming for a Game 7 was big, and having to face him might have written a completely different story. He was dominant in the other two games we faced him, but knowing our team's character, we would of found a way to win. Anything less than a World Series championship would have been considered a disappointing year.

Other than the '86 World Series, I think Game 6 against the Astros was the greatest game I ever played in. We were down 3-0 in the 9th; we had a three-hit shutout being thrown against us by Bob Knepper.

I remember catching the whole game and playing all 16 innings. My knees were killing me I’ll never forget that. Jesse Orosco was throwing breaking balls for all four innings he was in and he was pitching mostly on guts. That will be something I remember forever.

Don't get me wrong, Jesse had a lot left in the 16th inning. He struck out five guys on solely breaking balls, and struck out Kevin Bass out on a 2-2 pitch to end the game. He had a lot of guts.

To have to go more innings and still have nasty break like he did, it was amazing.


The nastiest pitches and pitchers I ever saw



When I first faced Bruce Sutter and got back to the dugout, I remember saying to myself, what was that pitch?

Also, in the first game of the League Championship series in 1986, Mike Scott threw an unhittable pitch to me. I remember he made the ball dance and move more than anyone I ever faced.

I struck out three times that game, and the last at-bat I hit a little dribbler to third base and avoided the golden sombrero. The only time I struck out four times in a game -- and it happened to me just once in my career -- it was my first ever game at Dodger Stadium and umpire Andy Olsen called a pitch that was a foot outside a strike and that was the ball game.

As far as the best pitcher I ever saw, the one guy who comes to mind is Tom Seaver. With the Cy Youngs and the big name, he was the guy that I respected the most. But there wasn’t anyone I was fearful of. I got hit by a few pitches in my time, but I never walked into the box and was fearful of anyone.


May 16, 2009

Starting off with a bang


One of the most memorable home runs I hit was the walk-off home run on Opening Day in 1985 off of Neil Allen.

It was my first game as a Met at Shea and I had a lot of expectations put on me. When you come through on the first day, it’s something very special. I’ll never forget the fans chanting my name as they left the ballpark.

I also remember hitting three homers in Montreal, and I kind of got an acknowledgment, but it was nothing like that first day at Shea. I think that’s where the curtain calls began.

May 15, 2009

Memories of my 300th home run

nipper.jpgBy GARY CARTER

Richie G. from Lynbrook said he seemed to remember being at my 300th career home run and thought it was in Chicago. He also had a few other memories about the game. He remembers me struggling on 299 for a while.

You have a great memory, Richie. All are true.

I remember it well myself. I remember us winning the game. The pitcher for my 300th home run was Al Nipper. It was a breaking ball and the game was at Wrigley Field on August 11, 1988.

I don’t know if the wind helped, but I’ll never forget it. It took two and a half months to hit it and my knees were really bothering me. I didn't have any power because of my knees, so I had a lot of warning track home runs. But hitting my 300th homer on that day was incredible.

The DH? Good and bad

bighurt.jpg By GARY CARTER

Tom asked the following question in the comments section:

What do you think about the DH? Since you spent your entire career in the NL and you are a traditionalist, I would assume that you are not in favor of it. Isn't the fact that since every minor league team uses the DH and that pitchers never bat on a regular basis during their minor league career, that they are at a disadvantage when they make it to the show in the NL vs. the AL and that it also puts the NL teams at a disadvantage? Since the NL continues to not use he DH, don't you think they should use it in the minor leagues and let their pitchers hit?

Tom, it’s a good question, I think some minor league baseball teams do use their pitchers to hit. For instance, with the Mets, their pitchers hit in Double-A, and I’m not really sure about Triple-A, but I do know that it does happen in Double-A. Tom does make a good point though -- I did play my entire career in the National League, so I can say that there is more strategy, more involvement, and one less hitter to worry about it.

I also think the DH has prolonged the careers of guys who are liabilities in the field, such as Frank Thomas, Harold Baines and Jim Thome, who kept going because of the DH. So in that regard, it’s not a bad thing. It can also make the game more interesting.

Tony LaRussa bats the pitcher in the 8th position instead of the 9th for the opportunity to have the 9th hitter bat leadoff when the pitcher makes the last out.

So the bottom line is that it’s beneficial in some cases, and not in others. It’s been a controversy for a number of years, and I have a feeling it’s going to stay around and help some hitters prolong their careers.

(AP Photo of Frank Thomas)

May 13, 2009

I'm not a fan of interleague play



I was asked in the comments section by psmetsfan if I am a fan of interleague play. psmetsfan thinks it takes some of the excitement out the World Series, and, I have to say, I agree.

I am a traditionalist and I played my whole career without interleague play. I always thought about how much of a thrill it was to play a team in the World Series for the first time all year. There are no advantages or disadvantages when you play for the first time, it really is straight up and that is what it should be.

I do think in some ways it’s good for the fans, but if you look at it as a whole, it’s more special to play a team for the very first time in the World Series.

Thanks for the question, psmetsfan, and thanks for reading the blog.


May 12, 2009

My thoughts on Manny Ramirez, A-Rod, steroids



When A-Rod came out publicly with his admission about steroids, I think it really opened up a can of worms. You are really going to hear about more players coming forward and more players being detected.

It is a little surprising hearing about Manny Ramirez because he was kind of the “Last of the Mohicans” as far as not being recognized as a steroids user and now he gets caught.

I'm not sure if 50 games is a fair suspension or not. You don’t want to take a career away from someone, and I do think that everyone deserves a second chance. If they really want to clean this all up, the policy may have to be even more severe. The game has a bit of a cloud above it now and it is really unfortunate.

As far as I know, players weren't using steroids when I was a player. It wasn’t around in the 1980s and it became more prevalent in the early 90s.

I think the tell-tale sign of this whole thing was when the home runs were starting to be hit at an astronomical pace in the early to mid-90s. I think it started to be noticed and recognized around that time.

(Ramirez photo by Mark J. Rebilas / US presswire)

Ducks are on a roll



I am very happy right now with the way the Ducks have been playing, especially the homestand we had at Citibank Park, where we went 5-1.

After the home opener loss, we got on a roll and won some exciting games. Especially the come-from-behind win on Tuesday, with John Pachot’s game-winning double, that was great.

We won five in a row, which was very gratifying and right now no team in the league has more wins than us. I am very happy with the way the ballclub is playing.

Good to be back on Long Island


It's good to be back on Long Island. Back in my playing days with the Mets, I lived here. In fact, there were many players who lived out on the Island.

Howard Johnson and I would drive in together. He lived in Woodbury and I lived in Oyster Bay Cove.

Other guys lived closer in, such as Sid Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda, Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden. Most of the time HoJo and I would exchange rides together and sometimes our wives would join us.

Now that I'm back, one of my favorite places to go is Mama Mia's restaurant in Ronkonkoma. My wife and I ate there with Buddy Harrelson. It’s close by and it’s really good.

Getting booed is part of the game



Athletes know they're going to get booed. I was never bothered by it. It is just a part of the game.

The one time that stuck out in my memory the most was when I had knee surgery in 1989 while with the Mets. I was out 10 weeks total and I came back probably a week early.

Davey Johnson wanted me to be there for the playoff run while we were in contention. So I came back and I really wasn’t ready. I got thrown out there in a pinch-hitting role and I hit into a double play and got booed. I do remember that more than anything.

May 8, 2009

David Cone, Sid Fernandez a pleasure to catch

Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez and Rick Aguilera celebrate in 1986 (Newsday photo)


Islander505 had a slew of questions in the comments section, so let's get right to them:

505: Who was the toughest pitcher you ever caught (tough in that he insisted on calling his own game)?

Steve Rogers. The reason is that he was throwing to Barry Foote before I came along, and he had to get used to me. In 1977 when I was catching on a regular basis we started to click. But he was the one guy who was never receptive to my pitch calling.

505: Any pitcher who never shook you off?

Sid Fernandez and David Cone. They were the guys who never shook me off; it was a pleasure to catch them.

505: Who was the umpire with the most consistent strike zone?

Very good question. Doug Harvey was the best and most precise, you could talk to him. I really liked him and I thought he was the best at pitch calling.

505: Who was the toughest batter to get to chase a bad pitch?

Tony Gwynn. Very seldom did he look bad. Every now and then he would obviously swing at one, but he had a great eye.

Thanks for the questions, 505.

My first home run



Every major-leaguer remembers their first home run. I hit 324 career homers, but the first one will always stand out.

I was called up in September of 1974, and my first big-league homer was against Steve Carlton. I went on to hit 10 more off of him, which is the most I hit off any pitcher.

I remember it was at Jarry Park and I was just 20 years old. What a thrill it was to run around the bases.

May 7, 2009

My No. 1 pick to start a team



If I could start a team with any player in the game right now, the guy who stands out to me is Russell Martin.

I have always been a firm believer that you start with the guy behind the plate. I like him as a catcher, I saw him make that great play in the All-Star Game and he seems like the ultimate catcher as far as a guy who will give it his all. He is still maturing and I think he will one day be in the 20 to 30 home run category. I like his make up, he is a gamer and you always should start with the guy behind the plate and you work your way up.

(Russell Martin photo by UPI)

More about '86


I had a lot of great friends on the '86 Mets, but the guy I probably hung out with the most was Ray Knight.

We have been friends through the years. He played hard and played the game the way I did. I did get along with a lot of other players, such as Danny Heep, Doug Sisk, Jesse Orosco and Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry. But I was definitely closest with Ray.


Memories of the 1986 Mets



Obviously, people ask me a lot about the '86 Mets. It truly was a magical season. If I had to rank my top three memories from that year, it would have to be......

1. Winning the World Series in Game 7 and running out to Jesse Orosco’s arms was my greatest thrill.

2. Number two had to be our tremendous comeback in Game 6. Coming back in the bottom of the 10th inning, with two outs and two strikes and then getting a hit to left field. I could have been a trivia question -- who made the last out of ‘86 World Series? -- but fortunately I didn’t make it and no one else did either.

3. This had to be hitting two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series at Fenway Park. That was something very special.

(Carter photo by Getty Images)

May 6, 2009

Big-league potential


There are a couple of players on the Ducks right now who I think can definitely make it back to the majors.

Preston Wilson, for one, because he has the history. He has had success in the big leagues and he has the World Series ring to show for it.

There are others guys that I know have proven themselves in the past. If you look at Raul Gonzalez in the minors, his stats are pretty outstanding.

Lew Ford, if he picks it up and shows what he is capable of, he has an opportunity.

But I think Preston has the best shot. If he proves he is healthy, he is the first choice to move on.

My all-time defensive team



In the comments section, Howard asked me who are my all-time best defensive players among the players I've played with or against. Good question, Howard.

Catcher: Behind the plate had to be Johnny Bench, when I broke in in 1975 he had already established himself as the best.

First base: Keith Hernandez.

Second base: Ryne Sandberg.

Shortstop: Ozzie Smith

Third base: Mike Schmidt.

Outfield: The three outfielders would have to be Andre Dawson, Garry Maddox -- or as I like to call him, the Secretary of Defense -- and Dave Winfield.

Pitcher: The best fielding pitcher I ever saw was Phil Niekro. He was amazing. A close second to Niekro is Greg Maddux. He was a magician out there.

Thanks for the question, Howard. And everybody else, keep the questions coming.

David Wright will come around



It's good to see David Wright showing signs of getting back on track at the plate.

Last homestand, fans were booing him. That's being too tough.

The thing about the New York fans is that they’re knowledgeable fans, and being booed is their way of showing frustration.

David has had several great years. He is off to a bit of a slow start but a couple of years ago he got off to a similar start and he went on to hit more than 30 home runs that year. Fans have to understand that he has put up tremendous numbers and will be fine.

(AP Photo of David Wright)

May 4, 2009

Around the Atlantic League

sparky2.jpgBy GARY CARTER

There are some pretty big names managing in the Atlantic League right now, some of whom I played against in the big leagues. Here are my quick thoughts on my competition:

Sparky Lyle (Somerset Patriots): I never played against Sparky, maybe in spring training, but I got to know him through some of the appearances I’ve been on and things like that.

Joe Ferguson (Camden Riversharks): Joe was one of the coaches with the Dodgers when I was still playing in 1991.

Tim Raines (Newark Bears): Tim was a teammate of mine for a few years and I don’t know what his managerial tactics are like, but I know what he is like as a player. He is probably a borderline Hall of Famer -- 2,600 lifetime hits and over 800 stolen bases. Pretty outstanding.

Chris Hoiles (York Revolution): I never played against or with Chris, but from what I hear he is a solid manager.

Von Hayes (Lancaster Barnstormers): I did play against Von Hayes and I got an idea of what his style of managing is like when we lost a tough game on getaway day to him, so he is off to a good start.

Tommy John (Bridgeport Bluefish): Tommy John is pretty laid back and I faced him a lot in the majors. I know he likes to tell stories.

Butch Hobson (So. Maryland Blue Crabs): Butch likes to manage like every game like it's the seventh game of the World Series.

With these managers in the league it’s not going to be an easy go, but I believe in my team and it all comes down to us getting a winning streak together and getting some continuity and we will be fine.

(Newsday photo of Sparky Lyle)

Yes, Islander505, Andre Dawson belongs in the Hall



Islander505 asked a good question in the comments section. He wanted to know if I thought Andre Dawson belonged in the Hall of Fame.

The answer is, absolutely. He was a teammate of mine and I played with him for eight years. He is deserving with over 1,400 RBI and over 400 home runs. He was the best outfielder I ever played with and that’s saying something because I played with some good players through the years.

The greatest compliment a peer can give to another peer is that you were the consummate professional and that was Andre. I hope next year is the year Andre gets elected.

So, Islander505, that's two taps to the helmet. What did Tim Wallach say?

(Getty Images Photo)

May 1, 2009

Kid all over again


The one thing I love most about managing is seeing the progress of each and every player, seeing their success and the love and passion of the game they have.

It’s kind of nice to be a kid all over again, I remember how fun it was as a player and now that I realize I can’t play anymore, this is the next best thing. I’m into it, whether I’m coaching third base or managing, I feel like I’m playing the game right along with the guys. You just can’t take that away from a player, it’s in their blood and that’s the reason I enjoy the coaching and managing part of it.

As a player, I enjoyed playing for every one of my managers, I really did. Coming to the ballpark, all I cared about was getting my name in the lineup. I had good managers and I really enjoyed playing for everyone.

Of course, my biggest thrill and greatest memory was playing in the World Series in ’86 and we all know who that manager was, it was Davey Johnson.

I don’t think there was any manager I didn’t see eye-to-eye with. Of course there were things that came up on occasion, but I was always there to learn and try to be the second manager on the field and I don’t think there were any problems with any managers.

My managing style

davey2.jpgBy GARY CARTER

When it comes to my managing style, I don’t really try to emulate any one of the guys I played for in the big leagues. I have picked up bits and pieces from every manager.

Gene Mauch was more of a strategist. Carl Kuehl was my manager in the minor leagues that I respected and gave me the chance and was a very hard worker. And the likes of Dick Williams, who I played under for five years, he kept records of everything and was very organized.

Bill Virdon was a disciplinarian, and I had the pleasure of playing for Davey Johnson, who was a player’s manager.

I also played for Roger Craig and enjoyed Felipe Alou at the end. I really learned something from each and every one of those managers and put it in to my own way. It was the same way when I was playing, I would watch other catchers and develop my own style.

The one thing I ask of my players is to go out and play the game hard and hustle. That’s the way I played and I expect that from all my players.

If anybody has any questions, post them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them.

(Newsday photo of Davey Johnson)

The Ducks



I feel very good about this team because of what I saw in spring training. There is a lot of talent here.

Our pitching coach Dave LaPoint and our GM Mike Pfaff did a great job of putting the club together with a couple of guys who are coming back from last year — Estee Harris, Rob Sandora, Denis Donovan, Ray Navarette, Joe Valentine, Randy Leek and Billy Simas. They’re all proven. Then you have great additions such as Ron Davenport, who had a great year last year, and Preston Wilson, who stands out because of his success at the major league level.

Acquiring players such as Alex Prieto and Juan Francia and then to top it off with Lew Ford, a former big leaguer, and Victor Rodriguez, a former MVP in this league, I am very excited about this year.

I think our real strength is our pitching staff. Brad Halsey, Kenny Ray and a couple guys I had last year with Orange County, Troy Cate and Jason Norderum, have solid arms and have a lot to offer. The bullpen is going to be a plus as well.

The idea that Dave wanted to put forth was that our bullpen is going to be a strength of ours and then you add the fact that they all throw from the low to mid-90s, that is pretty awesome. When you can turn to a bullpen when your starter can throw five, six innings, that is something that will really help us. I definitely like our chances, obviously you have to stay healthy, but from what I saw in spring training, I like the make up and chemistry of this team.

So, Ducks fans, what do you think of this year’s club?

(Preston Wilson photo for Newsday by John Strohsacker )

New York's new ballparks



I haven’t been in the new Yankee Stadium yet, but I do remember the ambience of the old Yankee Stadium, and, of course, the history that it carries. It was a thrill for me to be a part of last year’s All Star game. I’ve heard different comments of the new stadium, but I do know that modern day stadiums are made better, the structures are better, the locker rooms are more spacious, and the broadcast booths are more operable. In time, older ballparks deteriorate and from what I have heard, the new stadium is just awesome.

I’ve heard people say there isn’t enough Mets’ history in Citi Field, but I have only seen the new park from a plane, so I don’t know. It looks beautiful and obviously has the look of Ebbets Field, which was a beautiful sight.

There are two world championships that they can play off of, 1969 and 1986, and two others that they played in 1973 and 2000. I’m sure this year will create new history and it’s just the beginning. People will get accustomed to it.

What does everyone think of the new parks?

(Newsday Photo)

Hello, Long Island!!


Hey, everybody. Thanks for checking out the blog. I’m very excited to be managing the Ducks this year, and I think this team's going to have a great year.

I’m also really excited to be blogging for In fact, I did a commercial for Newsday back in the 80s, so I guess you could say we’ve worked together before.

I’ll be honest, I’m not the most computer savvy guy, but the web staff at Newsday said they’d pitch in and add some links and tags and whatever else that stuff is. I’m here to talk about the Ducks, what’s going on in the world of baseball, and I’ll probably share a story or two about my playing days.

So make sure you check the blog often and I’ll do my best to keep it updated and interesting.

Tonight is the home opener at Citibank Park. It's going to be a great night and a great season. We finished our first road trip 4-3, so we're ready to show our home fans how good we are.

And, if you have any questions, post them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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