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Are They Pressing? No 'Kid'ding

With all the hubbub the last few days regarding the inabilities of Msrs Bonds and Rodriguez to hit a milestone home run, I became reminded of something similar from Mets history.

I'm referring to Gary Carter's pursuit of 300 home runs, a story that is one of the most painful I can remember in my life as a Mets fan.

On May 16, 1988, Carter hit his 299th career home run, in San Diego. Little did anyone know then that his 300th would not come until nearly three months later.

During the 64-game stretch that followed Gary Carter went from a solid batsman, one hitting .284 and slugging .550 with 8 home runs in 31 games, to a psyched-out, horribly mediocre hitter, one who hit .237 with 15 RBI, and treated balls hit to the warning track as if they were major events. It was so blatantly obvious that Carter was pressing that it became hard to watch his at-bats. And yet, he was still selected by fans to be the NL's starting catcher in the All-Star Game. In a column by Joe Durso, that July 8th, Carter talked about the pressure of hitting 300 and said the following

''It's become somewhat of an albatross, now that everybody's talking about it. But it gets magnified greatly by the media. When I hit number 300, will people hold up signs in the stands asking when I'll hit number 301? ... 'But if I was scouting myself, I'd say: He's in a slump. That's all. Not in a decline. I'm in a slump. ''In May, when we came back from the West Coast at the end of the month, I was still batting .295. By then, I'd hit number 299 in San Diego and wanted very badly to hit the next one here for the home fans. Now, it doesn't matter where I hit it.''

Where turned out to be in Chicago, on August 11th, a well-remembered game from that season, with Carter's 300th coming in the second inning, snapping the 225-at-bat drought against Al Nipper (whom he homered against twice in the 1986 World Series). The wind was blowing out that day and that might have helped the cause for Carter, who clubbed what I recall to be a no doubter to left field.

''I feel as though a weight has been lifted off me," Carter told the media afterwards, though that proved not to be true (following the homer, he hit .207 with 2 home runs the rest of the season).

The one thing that it did do though was to lift a weight off a team that, while greatly resembling its predecessor from two seasons ago, seemed to be missing a little bit of that needed magical spark. With the Mets trailing by a run in the ninth inning, Kevin McReynolds hit a dramatic two-out grand slam off Goose Gossage to put the Mets ahead for good. Including that game, the Mets went 33-14 to close 1988, including a win against the Pirates on September 12, a game Carter won with career home run #302, a walk-off home run.

True Metkids know...Barry Bonds has hit career home runs # 2, 17, 18, 39, 40, 60, 95, 156, 157, 174, 175, 176, 180, 182, 183, 201, 202, 229, 244, 252, 253, 265, 268, 286, 327, 401, 428, 456, 509, 550, 578, 624, 649, 650, 693, 710, 711, and 745 against the Mets.

Also of note: The Mets went through a July without a walk-off win for the first time since the 2000 season.


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