The NY Sports Day Interview: Gary Carter

Editors Note: This interview was conducted on August 4, 2004 and NYSD is reprinting it after the passing of Gary Carter today.

Back in 1989, I was a freshman in college and went to an early April game at Shea Stadium. After New York lost to the Phillies, my buddies and I waited by the player’s entrance for the Mets to come out. Car after car sped out of the lot – Darryl Strawberry almost hit someone – but we waited. Finally, when it looked like there was no one left and we were going to leave, a car stopped and Gary Carter rolled down the window. He signed autographs and answered some questions for the faithful who waited.

I mentioned that story to Carter after I interviewed him last week at Keyspan Park. He smiled and said, “It seems that those times haven’t changed. I was outside for 20 minutes earlier tonight doing the same thing.”

That is what the Hall of Famer is about. He is a man who gets it. Besides the stellar numbers, the Kid takes care of his many fans, which many players do not these days. The former catcher didn’t have to do this interview, but he did and it gave me a great thrill to interview one of my favorite players from my youth. So here is the NY Sports Day interview with Gary Carter as we discuss his time with the Mets, Montreal and his future in managing.

NY Sports Day: Are you going to be managing Brooklyn next season?

Gary Carter: I don’t know that. The reason is that it was asked me if would I be possibly available. But that doesn’t mean that’s where it’s going to be for next year. (The Mets) are just trying to get all their ducks in a row and they will make the decision. They know that I am interested in managing and it’s going to be somewhere. I just can’t say exactly where.

NYSD: So when you start managing, what skipper in your past will you style your managerial style after?

GC: I think everybody has their own style. I like Dusty Baker and all the managers I played for were all instrumental in providing an opportunity for myself. The biggest thing is that each one was different. Gene Mauch was a hard-nosed disciplinarian. Bob Kehoe, my minor league manager, was a great guy and was wonderful. He was a different type of manager than Mauch was. Each guy I learned different things from.

To be a manager, there is a lot that goes on because you are handling 25 guys and 25 different personalities. I think it’s also important to surround yourself with very good coaches. This organization has a bunch to choose from. I don’t know who they would want to be with me or whatever. My whole purpose is to help the organization to win. That is really what the bottom line is. If it eventually works out to be at the Major League level, the game has changed.

All I would want from any player is to go out and play hard; keep it fun; try to be enthusiastic and make it so that each game is a new game. You try to avoid the slumps and tough times, but a lot has to do with the makeup of the team. I think the manager has a lot to do with the make-up of the team. You want to create some discipline, but you also want to be able to create a winning atmosphere. Keep everybody up. That is very difficult for 162 games or down in the minor leagues it’s 140 games. It is basically a situation that day in and day out, you want to stay on top of things and keep all the players inspired. I think that is really the biggest part for the manager. And then you have attending to the press, the fans and everybody else. If you got a good pitching coach, you allow your pitching coach to handle the pitchers. If you have a good hitting instructor and all the other coaches – there is about six coaches on the Major League level – and you allow them to do their jobs. If they do their jobs, it makes it a lot more easier on the manager.

NYSD: Back when you were playing with the Mets, can you give me your top five moments?

GC: First of all would be winning the ‘86 World Series. Second one would be my very first game in a Met uniform and hitting a walk off home run against the Cardinals and Neil Allen. I would also have to say that ‘88 was also a very special year. Unfortunately losing out to the Dodgers who went on to win the World Series. That was another year we should have won, but ‘88 was a great year. I would have to say my last at-bat at Shea Stadium where I got a double off John Franco when he was with the Reds. I got a standing ovation because there was speculation that I would probably be gone at the end of the year. And probably my return to Shea honoring me for being inducted into the Hall of Fame- that coinciding being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

NYSD: When you started the rally in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. What was going through your mind at that particular at-bat?

GC: What was going through my mind was that I didn’t want to be a trivia question – that’s kidding. I didn’t want to make the last out and I always maintained the theory – it’s not over ‘til it’s over. I just went up there with the feeling of confidence and doing the best I possibly could and I was able to come through. Then Kevin Mitchell followed and then Ray Knight. Before you know it the ball went through Buckner’s legs and we had won Game 6. To me, I just go up there and remember my career. It was never a grind. It was an enjoyment. It’s amazing to think 18 years and how quickly it passed. I just went up there and said there was no way we should lose this World Series. I did everything to keep us alive.

NYSD: In the ‘86 playoffs you won Game 5 off Charlie Kerfeld. You were in a really bad slump. Did you do anything different in that at-bat compared to the rest of the series?

GC: No and I didn’t think I did anything different that entire series. It was just one of those things. Facing a guy like Mike Scott, who was tough as nails and cheating his ass off, I couldn’t hit him. They had a couple of other good pitchers. Nolan Ryan. Bob Knepper was throwing good. The relievers were outstanding. It was one of those series. When they walked Keith Hernandez to pitch to me, I got a little bit of vengeance by being able to come back and drive the ball up the middle.

NYSD: When you were in Montreal, what was your favorite moment being a Montreal Expo?

GC: There were a lot of great moments. When we won the second half (in 1981) and clinched it at Shea Stadium, knowing we were going to the playoffs for the first time playing the Phillies. Also the ‘81 All-Star game, when I chosen by the fans. I got my first starting role. That’s an individual thing. There is nothing better when you win. I remember us being in a pennant race in ‘79 and ‘80. To me that’s what it was all about. When we finally got to the playoffs; played the Phillies – beat them – and then lost it to the Dodgers, it was frustrating. Montreal gave me my opportunity. My very first game was against the Mets. I remember my first hit was off Jon Matlack and my second hit was off Tom Seaver. Everything else was golden after that. Once you get to the Big Leagues, that’s everybody’s dream and once it happens you want it to continue. You want it to continue forever. Sometimes all good things come to an end.

It ended in ‘92 for me, but that’s why am anxious to get back in the game full time. I love it. I have a great passion for it and would love to see the kids of today be successful.

NYSD: What was your reaction when you got the call from Jack O’Connell from the Hall of Fame?

GC: Overwhelmed, thrilled, relieved, all of the above. It was six-year wait and finally ended on a good note. I called all my family member and the first one was my father. Unfortunately 18 days later he passed away. At least he knew I was in. My father was my coach and he played both roles after my mom passed away. I was just glad it happened when it did.

NYSD: Do you think that one day your No. 8 will be retired by the Mets?

GC: I don’t know that. I say we may have to win another championship or two. We’ll see.

NYSD: You seemed like a natural for the broadcast booth and you were one after you retired. Why did you stop?

GC: Well, I just didn’t get fulfillment out of it, like I do with coaching. I love working with the players. It seems like they are very receptive of it. I love to see the progress and I love to see a lot of things. The broadcasting was only going to be a temporary thing. I did four years with the Marlins and three years with the Expos. I really wanted to see if that was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t get the enjoyment of coming to the ballpark and strapping the uniform on.

The (other) reason I also did it was my family. It gave me the opportunity to coach my daughter in high school. It also allowed me to stay at home and I didn’t have to move my family. Now I have been out of the game 12 years. I have been fulfilled the last four years as a roving catching instructor and I enjoy it immensely. My kids have grown now. I have been to their weddings. I have been at all their graduations. I saw my daughter play at Florida State and all those things. Now, it’s time to move on.

NYSD: How are your knees? Are you having another operation?

GC: Nine times and I am having my left knee done August 12th and my ankle. I tore a ligament in my ankle July 4th. I am having my right knee replaced. Other than that they are doing wonderful. (smiles).

NYSD: Gary, thank you very much. It’s been a thrill.

 

Posted under August 4, Autographs, Brooklyn, Buddies, Darryl Strawberry, Ducks In A Row, Dusty Baker, Freshman, Gc, Interview One, Keyspan, Managerial Style, Mets, New York Mets, Nysd, Phillies, Shea Stadium, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on February 17, 2012

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Collins Is The Right Man For Right Now

Flushing, NY – Put yourself in Sandy Alderson’s shoes for one moment. After being hired to resurrect the Mets, he couldn’t just write off 2011, no matter how difficult it will be with the payroll hamstrung, and the team’s best pitcher on the shelf.

And Alderson, knowing how things can turn on you in New York, knew that laying an egg next year will erase all the good will be brought to the table from just being not Omar Minaya.

That’s why he needed to get a manager to do more with less in 2011. He needed someone who could possible whip the current Mets into shape, while keeping watch for 2012 when $60 million in payroll comes off the books and the new general manager can shape the club in his image.

So Alderson went to the well and interviewed 10 candidates and came up with Terry Collins, because based on his track record, the 61 year-old will provide the short term boost to the team with his drill sergeant mentality and fiery personality.

“We can win, our goal is to win and we’re not going into spring training with the notion this is a bridge to something else,” Alderson said. “We’re going to focus hard on 2011 and do what we can to give ourselves our best shot.”

Some would say Bobby Valentine would have been the best choice for that kind of style, especially after pressing out 88 wins in 1997 with essentially the same team that quit on Dallas Green the year before. Yet, Valentine comes with baggage, such as a large salary to match his large ego. Bobby V. would have demanded a commitment from the Mets, something the club didn’t need to do with Collins.

And others – including this reporter – would have preferred Wally Backman, a strong finalist in the managerial race, but also someone who doesn’t have any prior Major League managerial experience. With that comes risk. No matter how attractive Backman looked in Brooklyn last year, no one knows if it would translate to Citi Field. Single-A players are much more eager to buy into Backman’s team philosophy than big league overpaid stars. By putting the fan favorite in that position, it could have turned ugly quickly, especially with the country club atmosphere that was present the last few years in Queens.

Frankly, Alderson probably did Backman a favor by not giving him the job. Right now, the Met job is Russian Roulette for any manager, and if Backman failed in Queens, based on his past, he would probably never get hired with another affiliated club. Even though he doesn’t know it now, he’s probably better off waiting for a few years after Alderson has a clubhouse in his image.

And that’s why Collins is the perfect man for 2011. With winning records five of his six seasons and a 444-434 record overall, the Mets got themselves someone with a track record. Although he claimed he mellowed in his old age, he still is the same fiery guy who jumpstarted the Astros and Angels, only to eventually lose both teams after three seasons. Essentially Alderson is throwing a Collins firecracker in the rook to see if there is any redeeming value to this clubhouse, and using it as an evaluation on the long term.

If Collins’s in your face style works, then the Mets could be competitive in 2011. If it doesn’t then Alderson knows that a complete facelift is needed on this club, while not spending any of the Wilpons’ money for a high priced manager or burning a dugout prospect in the process.

This is just another smart move from a smart baseball man, which may be the reason why there are a lot of skeptics, as smart baseball moves have been rare in Queens recently.

Posted under 60 Million, Best Choice, Bobby Valentine, Brooklyn, Dallas Green, Drill Sergeant, Egg, Ego, Fiery Personality, Joe Mcdonald, Keeping Watch, Managerial Experience, Mentality, New York Mets, Notion, Omar Minaya, Payroll, Right Man, Salary, Sandy Alderson, Spring Training, Top Story, Wally Backman

This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 25, 2010

Reports: Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel On The Way Out

NEW YORK – With three days left in the season, the Mets are coming to a decision.

Multiple sources reported today the club will fire general manager Omar Minaya as early as Monday and also decline the option on manager Jerry Manuel’s contract.

The move comes as the Mets close out another disappointing season, where they will finish under the .500 mark for the second year in a row.

In his six years as general manager, Minaya had a number of highs early on which quickly turned to lows with the signings of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez to bloated and under-producing contracts. The club struggled as the top heavy salaries blocked the team from overcoming injuries.

COO Jeff Wilpon will begin the search for a new general manager as soon as the season ends. He is expected to interview a wide variety of candidates, including former Oakland A’s general manager Sandy Alderson and Tampa Bay Rays VP Gerry Hunsicker.

As for Manuel, his tenure ends in utter failure. After an impressive run in 2008, after replacing Willie Randolph, the season quickly ended in failure when the Mets collapsed for the second year in a row. That was followed by two under .500 seasons, which triggered the coming moves.

Although, Brooklyn manager Wally Backman remains the front runner, Wilpon will wait until a new GM is named before bringing in a manager. Former manager Bobby Valentine will also be considered, but there may still be open wounds from his last go around which was highly successful in 1999 and 2000 but ultimately his outspokenness got him fired in 2002.

Any announcement is expected Monday at the earliest.

Posted under Bobby Valentine, Brooklyn, Gm, Jeff Wilpon, Lows, Luis Castillo, Manager Bobby Valentine, Mets, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, Open Wounds, Salaries, Sandy Alderson, Six Years, Tampa Bay Rays, Tenure, Top Story, Utter Failure, Vp, Wally Backman, Willie Randolph

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 1, 2010