Winter is waning and baseball season is upon us.
But the excitement of the upcoming season has been muted with the news that Gary Carter died at age 57 from brain tumors. This is too young and too sad a fate for anyone, but especially a man known as "The Kid" for his exuberance at being allowed to play a little boy's game as a grown man.
Carter is in the Baseball Hall of Fame and it is difficult to find anyone who had a harsh word to say about the man. But this is not about Gary Carter.
This is about another man, a man who should be in the Hall of Fame but is given short shrift by the self-aggrandizing gasbag sportswriters.
Dale Murphy, who toiled for the Atlanta Braves and was the heart and soul of a team that was hardly recognizable as professional baseball, is given little chance to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
When his name comes up, most sportswriters say, he had a fine career but he's ‘not quite there.' Not quite there? Whatever standard these guys use is right out of science fiction.
Hall of Fame induction starts with numbers. Carter had a career batting average of .262, Murphy .265; Carter had 2,092 career hits, Murphy 2,111; Carter 324 home runs, Murphy 398; Carter had 1,225 runs batted in, Murphy 1,266.
On the defensive side Carter won three gold gloves, Murphy won five-all in a row by the way. Carter was an 11 time All-Star, Murphy seven time. Carter won two All-Star games Most Valuable Player awards; Murphy won two National League MVP awards in consecutive years.
Then the gasbags say, it's not about the numbers but the intangibles.
They both won the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to someone who is just a good guy, gives back to the community and conducts themselves in a manner that makes you believe there is still hope for the human race. Murphy also won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, which is presented for much the same reason.
And they were both unselfish, positive influences in the dugout.
Carter was the heart of a team fortunate to win the World Series and it happened in New York. Perhaps that is the rub because as everyone knows, if it happens in New York, it is exponentially more important than if the same thing happens elsewhere. At least that's what some believe.
Murphy played on a team that never made the World Series and was only slightly above mediocre for a few years largely thanks to him. And his achievements came long before the steroid era tainted the records of many.
Murphy never learned to stay away from the low outside pitch. This was considered a hole in his swing, but in truth if a man was on base, Murphy knew he had to knock him in or the guy would end up starving to death standing on second, so he hacked away.
Carter gets elected to the Hall of Fame while Dale Murphy, with just as solid a career, is ‘not quite there.'
Carter gets credit for helping lead his team to a World Series while it is held against Murphy he had to try and carry a team beyond what its talent could achieve.
This is not suggesting Carter should not be in the Hall of Fame; he most definitely should be.
But given the narrow-minded, self-serving attitudes of those who vote for the Hall of Fame, you have to wonder had Carter not been on that New York Mets World Series winner and played on largely mediocre teams would he not be considered a player who had a good career but is ‘not quite there.'
It would be interesting to see how many sportswriters would be in the sportswriter's hall of fame if athletes got to decide their fate. I suspect the bathroom of a BP station could hold all of plaques with room to spare.
Debating who should be in a hall of fame may be trivial, but it could be that the smallest of things, little honors for the right people given for the right reasons are more important now than ever.
In a time when politicians have become untrustworthy, our movie heroes have more ego than talent, when celebrities are famous for just being famous and our sports idols are clouded by cheating, lying and sometimes just being jerks, perhaps honoring individuals who excelled at their game, did things the right way, conducted themselves with integrity and contributed to their community beyond the playing field should be recognized.
We will miss Carter and he deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Murphy's bust should sit right beside him.
Ric Latarski is a freelance writer and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.