Is it really time to retire Gary Carter’s number?

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Today the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro calls for Gary Carter’s number to be retired by the Mets.

I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules about when it’s appropriate to retire someone’s number — there clearly aren’t, as every team approaches it differently — but I do find myself approaching this with more questions than answers.

  • Question: Why, in the 22 years since Carter has retired, haven’t the Mets retired his number?
  • Question: If there’s a reason for that — say, someone just decided that Carter wasn’t worthy of such an honor — how has it changed due to Carter’s diagnosis?
  • Question: If there wasn’t a reason for that and it was mere lazy oversight, is changing course on that now — in light of a possibly terminal cancer diagnosis — an awkward thing for Carter? Does it turn the affair into a premature wake? If I’m Gary Carter, do I ask “hey, why didn’t you do this before now?”

Of course I also can’t help but think that none of these little questions matter. Serious illness changes things. It makes it excusable for someone like the Mets brass to change their minds. It also makes it OK for Carter to rise above any resentment he may have had that the Mets hadn’t honored him before now (if, indeed, he has any, and I have no idea if he does).  Oh, and it’s worth noting that the first ever retired number was Lou Gehrig’s, done in 1940, prior to his death but clearly done in response to its imminence.

Yet I’m still a bit ambivalent about this. Part of me wants to say that it’s weird to rush to honor Carter now, and that it sends an unsettling signal of finality when everything in our being tells us that it’s time to fight and think positively no matter how long the odds.  Part of me wants to say that there’s no downside to a celebration of Carter, even if the timing is a bit awkward. And I can’t ignore the fact that my ambivalence has a lot more to do with my discomfort with the idea of death than anything having to do with Gary Carter and retired numbers.

Ultimately I suppose all of this depends on Carter and how he’d feel about it all if the Mets approached him.

What do you feel about it?