Gary Carter, An Unfinished Life
by Anthony Stasi
Feb 01, 2012 | 7745 views | 2 2 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It has been 26 years since the Mets have won the World Series, and there are adults who were born years after this team played to the end of October. Their 1986 championship team, however, was one of the deepest teams in modern time.

Gary Carter was the missing link from a successful 1984 season, when the Mets finished second to the Chicago Cubs. In the winter of that season, they acquired Carter from Montreal, and he provided the upward streaming the Mets needed.

Now, Carter is dying of malignant brain tumors. He was accomplished, but New Yorkers already miss what else he may have done.

Not long after his induction into the Hall of Fame, he was managing successfully in the Mets minor league system, and he was criticized for being too overzealous about the chance to manage the Mets at the major league level.

Maybe the Mets were right to not have Carter manage the big team. He is too much of an icon to Met fans. If he had to be fired at some point – and ultimately all managers do get fired - it would have created an awkward situation similar to the uncomfortable way that Yogi Berra was let go by the Yankees in 1985.

Peggy Noonan once wrote that people missed Ronald Reagan, even when he was still alive with Alzheimer’s disease. He was with us, but he was still someplace else. The same is true for Carter. People miss Carter because he will not get to achieve whatever he was about to accomplish, but it would have been great.

Don’t Just Innovate, Motivate

How many students read books...actual books?

Among the high school students in New York City, there are a lot of them who score well in the reading comprehension section of tests. Scoring well on reading exams, however, is not the same as reading actual books.

A friend and professor of constitutional law recently explained that the books he recommends on his class syllabus were the books that advanced his understanding of politics. He also said that he did not read them when he was in college.

“It was quite possible to get through a graduate program without reading very many actual books,” explained this Berkeley graduate.

Feeling shortchanged, he set out to read the important volumes of de Tocqueville, Louis Hartz, and Forrest McDonald. This is not easy reading, but if a professor from a prestigious graduate program did not feel that he read enough books, how many of our high school students read enough?

His story was interesting, especially since I did the same thing after graduating Fordham University. Realizing that I had read virtually none of the classics, I made a list and began reading after graduation.

Philosopher Richard Rorty once wrote that the most important reading is what a teacher or professor feels has moved them. I followed this rule by posting booklists for my students at the college level when the semester was finished. All voluntary reading, and yet students began to ask when to expect the new list.

How do we get students to read books at the high school level? They already have enough assigned reading and exams. Experimental programs where students have been paid to read have worked well.

Maybe a public education system cannot give students cash in order to read books, but there is a way to pay kids through gift cards, online gift certificates, and other benefits in a program that would be totally voluntary. Students who agree to read certain books and answer a series of basic questions would be incentivized to read again.

There is no beauty in that reading. It is boring, and short, and nobody cares about the reproduction of an earthworm. We need to innovate and motivate.

Electronic books are a great idea, and so are incentives. It is time to show rewards, immediate rewards, for effort. We live in a day of instant gratification, and we need to steer education in that direction as well.
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Edgy DC
February 01, 2012
Yogi Berra was/is a pro who knows that managers are hired to be fired. The issue isn't/wasn't that he was too big an icon to fire. (The Senators fired Walter Johnson. The Orioles fired Cal Ripken, Sr.) The issue was that Yogi, willing to resign after 1984, agreed to manage in 1985 with Steinbrenner's personal assurances that he'd last the season. Steinbrenner then axed him after 16 games and didn't even do it personally, but by dispatching GM Clyde King to do it, even though it wasn't King's decision, as it should have been.

It wasn't Berra's status in the Yankee pantheon, that made his firing disgraceful, it was the breach of honor.

Carter was a very successful minor league manager for the Mets, promoted each season of tenure: from Rookie Ball where his team put up a .697 winning percentage, to high A where his team won a Florida State League championship, to AA --- a job he refused to accept because he didn't want the bus rides of the Eastern League.

That was his derogation, of course, but it's not really accurate to suggest that Carter was denied opportunities because he was too much of an icon to fire. I have to say that I admire him for consenting to manage in the minors. Most Hall of Famers stay away from managing, because who needs the grief in a job that can only diminish their status, when they can make more money doing card shows and after-dinner speeches. Gary, alone among Hall-of-Famers of his era, went back to the grindstone. More power to him.

I'm still hoping he has it in him to refuse to make the last out
February 17, 2012
(I am obviously answering this after Carter has now passed away.)

I did not write that he was denied the job because he was too much of an icon to fire. And his success in as a minor league manager (while impressive) has little to do with the point in the article. I wrote that it would have been a mistake to give him the gig as manager of the Mets because it would have risked ruining his legacy with the team. And I still think that is 100% true. The Yankees would have made a similar mistake hiring Don Mattingly as manager. You never want a legend like Carter or Mattingly to take off that uniform for the last time because they were fired. It’s fine if they manage some other team because there is no legacy to tarnish. Mattingly can get fired from Los Angeles and it does not really affect history at all. Of course, this is all moot now that Carter has passed away, but he would have been a good manager at the major league level someplace.