I was in Pittsburgh over the weekend where I attended my first Pirates home game in more than 20 years. To say they improved the stadium since then is an understatement: PNC Park is even nicer than it looks on television. The scale is just right, the atmosphere and views and neighborhood and service are terrific, it doesn’t appear to radically alter the balance of offense and defense in any way, it owes more to history than gimmickry, good seats were affordable and the scoreboard doesn’t come off as an anchor for surrounding ads. In other words, it’s just about everything CitiField is not. And I might be dense but never realized until I sat there what a ripoff of Pittsburgh the “Shea Bridge” is. I know the Mets admired this park and endeavored to use it in some ways to inform their park, but boy did they swing and miss.
Here’s something I liked. Whenever a Pirate batter first came to the plate, the scoreboard graphic introduced him by panning across a “mural” of former Pirates (and Homestead Grays of the Negro League) in period unis, from which the current batter appeared to “step out” from. While I was running downtown the next morning, I came across the actual mural, which I since learned is a billboard-sized reproduction of a painting by a local artist.
You’ll recognize Willie Stagell in the gold jersey and in the shot of a statue outside the stadium I snapped here. The Pirates rightly retired his No. 8 jersey, which brings to mind another contrast getting a lot of sudden attention recently, and that’s a well-intentioned but ultimately wrongheaded campaign for the Mets to retire No. 8 in honor of Gary Carter.
The news about The Kid’s health is heartbreaking and tragic. But it doesn’t make him the Mets’ equivalent of Willie Stargell, much less Tom Seaver, the only Mets player to have been honored with a retired jersey. As argued here before, retiring No. 8 — obviously a topic the Mets have long considered given their reluctance to have issued the jersey since Desi Relaford last wore it in 2002 — would surely require an accompanying retirement of 17 for Keith Hernandez, 16 for Dwight Gooden, 18 for Darryl Strawberry, 1 for Mookie Wilson and perhaps, 5 for Davey Johnson and 50 for Sid Fernandez. That’s before considering what it will say about Jerry Koosman, Bud Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Howard Johnson, Jerry Grote, Edgardo Alfonzo and other players who played more than Gary Carter’s five years for the Mets, and had more than Gary Carter’s two good years for the Mets.
The Mets have appropriately enshrined Carter in the team’s Hall of Fame, which if they’d only made an effort to promote all these years, could serve as appropriate salve for those determined to interpret a failure to retire a uniform number as an act of disrespect (and to a cancer patient at that). Subjective it may be, but its long been our stance here that retired numbers should be reserved for the true greats and not the Hall of Famers who pass through, no matter how charasmatic (or tragic). Stargell for the Pirates? a No-Brainer. He spent his entire career with the Pirates and is most closely associated with them. The best way to honor Carter — and his teammates — might be a symbolic retirement of the never-worn jersey No. 86, and for them to honor Carter’s memory by issuing No. 8 to the next energetic, powerful catcher who comes along.
Stuff I missed until now: The return of Lucas Duda and No. 77, DJ Carrasco and accompanying reassignments of Nick Evans and Dale Thayer.