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Gary Carter's greatest moment in baseball was not any single hit or play, but just saying "Yes" at the right time.

By this morning you have no doubt read countless stories about Gary Carter, his playing career, and his character both on and off the field. The links came flying furiously yesterday, because his passing had been a foregone conclusion for quite awhile. Sadly, in our business that means not only sorrow and sympathy but getting a head start on writing the obituary.

There was extra incentive to start early on Carter, because in this case there are no crocodile tears; he was an important and beloved figure in at least two baseball towns and a legitimate Hall of Famer (for more on this aspect of Carter’s career, see Jay Jaffe’s piece elsewhere on the site). His career .262/.335/.439 rates don’t look like much in our offensively bloated era, but he played in a difficult park at a more austere time. At his peak, which lasted (roughly) from 1977 through 1985, Carter hit .276/.349/.478. Give that a park and era adjustment and maybe grant the Kid a few points of production for the wear and tear of catching, and you have a real star. His OPS+ for those years was 129, his TAv about .300. That is to say nothing of his strong defensive abilities.

I don’t want to focus on Carter’s on-field achievements today, but of the crucial moment of team-building in which he played a key role. That was the day he was traded from the Expos to the Mets. This far removed, it is difficult to remember that the Expos were once a legitimate baseball team, not the bastard stepchild of MLB, existing to make salary-dumping deals such as that which sent John Wetteland to the Yankees for the immortal Fernando Seguignol and bundles of greenback dollars.

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With the Cubs GM situation apparently coming to a resolution, we represent a piece from February on the Cubs' historic lack of a definitive executive.

I fear that today’s installment of Broadside is going to come off as an attack on Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, but that is not my intention. Rather, it's the observation that given a wait of more than a century, for the Cubs, the point is not the journey but the destination—over 100 years at sea is quite enough of a journey, thank you. And just as every team can point to their Babe Ruth or Ted Williams and say, “This is our iconic figure,” almost every organization has an executive who came along at a key moment and guided the team through a transitional period to greater heights of success, someone whose oil portrait in the office lobby bears a plaque that says, “Pathfinder.” The best the Cubs can do is hang an empty frame, or perhaps fill it with a sign: “This space for rent.”

This piece began as a look at the Cubs’ chances for this season, but as I later read back what I had written, I found that I had over a thousand words that boiled down to, “The last 102 years weren’t very good, were they?” before I even got to the 2011 team. You don’t need me to tell you that, even though there is a perverse pleasure in observing just how long it's been since the Cubs last got to celebrate a championship. The Pirates and the Royals come in for a lot of mockery, but at least you can refer to Kansas City's 1985 championship with a straight face, and bring up Bret Saberhagen, George Brett, and Dan Quisenberry as if they were contemporary humans instead of the alien subjects of 17th-century Dutch portraiture, strange, candlelit figures with ruff collars around their necks.

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February 16, 2011 10:23 am

The BP Broadside: Every Team Has a Special GM, Except the Cubs

22

Steven Goldman

The iconic GM of the Chicago Cubs is nobody, and that's not changing any time soon.

I fear that today’s installment of Broadside is going to come off as an attack on Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, but that is not my intention. Rather, it's the observation that given a wait of more than a century, for the Cubs, the point is not the journey but the destination—over 100 years at sea is quite enough of a journey, thank you. And just as every team can point to their Babe Ruth or Ted Williams and say, “This is our iconic figure,” almost every organization has an executive who came along at a key moment and guided the team through a transitional period to greater heights of success, someone whose oil portrait in the office lobby bears a plaque that says, “Pathfinder.” The best the Cubs can do is hang an empty frame, or perhaps fill it with a sign: “This space for rent.”

This piece began as a look at the Cubs’ chances for this season, but as I later read back what I had written, I found that I had over a thousand words that boiled down to, “The last 102 years weren’t very good, were they?” before I even got to the 2011 team. You don’t need me to tell you that, even though there is a perverse pleasure in observing just how long it's been since the Cubs last got to celebrate a championship. The Pirates and the Royals come in for a lot of mockery, but at least you can refer to Kansas City's 1985 championship with a straight face, and bring up Bret Saberhagen, George Brett, and Dan Quisenberry as if they were contemporary humans instead of the alien subjects of 17th-century Dutch portraiture, strange, candlelit figures with ruff collars around their necks.

The Cubs aren’t that far away from us, but they’re close; bring up the last Cubs championship and you might as well be talking about the Boer War—a conflict that ended just six years before the Cubs won their last World Series. It was a different game then, played by people who we would not instantly recognize. The average height of the Cubs’ starting lineup in 1908 was about 5’9”. As good as Dustin Pedroia is, it’s hard to take seriously a roster composed of players that were not only his height but, due to their primitive conditioning, averaged 15 pounds less than him. The Cubs must cling to Tinkers-to-Evers-to Chance, but it is long since time to let these weary ghosts rest lest they see a living human the size of Prince Fielder and burst into tiny molecules of frightened ectoplasm.

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February 23, 2006 12:00 am

Can Of Corn: Winners

0

Dayn Perry

Dayn's book is out, and today we get a sample, as he shares a chapter about Doc Gooden's early--and brief--dominance.

Here we have the story of Dwight Gooden's early and astounding rise to prominence taken from Chapter Eight: The Veteran and the Youngster (or, What Teams Can Learn from a Bottle of Wine).

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