Joe Carter may not have set the world afire with his batting average and on-base percentage, but he was a run-producing stud throughout the 1980s. He reached 100 RBI ten times (that’s two more than recently inducted Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice) over the course of his career. He was one of the best speed/power combo guys in baseball who had five years of 20+ steals and 20+ homeruns.
Originally a first round draft pick by the Cubs in 1981, Joe made his Major League debut with the Cubs in 1983. He didn’t show much in his first trial at the majors, hitting .176 with 21 strikeouts and no walks drawn in 23 games. The Cubs felt that Carter was simply a tools ballplayer who wouldn’t translate his tools into performance. But they were wrong. During the ’84 season they dealt their former number one pick to the Indians with fellow outfielder Mel Hall and pitcher Don Schulze for pitchers Rick Sutcliffe and George Frazier and backstop Ron Hassey. In Cleveland, Joe came into his own.
Made a regular after the deal with the Cubs, Carter hit .275 as a rookie with the Tribe. He put up decent numbers in 1985 but enjoyed his breakout campaign in 1986. Playing for a fifth place Indians team, Joe nevertheless paced the American League with 121 RBI. More impressive was the fact that he was the only Major League outfielder to reach 200 hits, 100 runs and 100 RBI during the season. He just missed becoming a member of the exclusive 30/30 club when he swatted 29 long balls and pilfered 29 bases. He joined that club the following year.
Joe was the only 30/30 player in the American League in 1987 when he clubbed 32 homers and stole 31 bases. Despite this accomplishment, playing for the lackluster Indians squad kept Carter unnoticed as he didn’t make the All-Star team nor was he given a single MVP vote. Joe only drove in 98 runs in 1988; had he tallied two more RBI he would have strung together nine straight seasons with 100 RBI. Instead, he has to settle for eight 100 RBI seasons during a nine-year run that spanned the 1986 through 1994 seasons.
Joe reached his highwater mark for homeruns in 1989 when he sent 35 balls into the seats. However, despite 35 dingers and 105 RBI, his low batting average and low on-base percentage forced the Indians to make a trade with the Padres after the season. Cleveland dealt their run-producing machine to San Diego for second baseman Carlos Baerga, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. and outfielder/third baseman Chris James.
Back in the National League in 1990, Joe had a typical Carter season: he drove in 115 runs, belted 24 homers and stole 22 bases. He played in every game for the Padres that year, but despite his Ironman aura and stellar run production, the Padres packaged him in a blockbuster deal with Toronto that saw him and Robbie Alomar transfer to Toronto for first baseman Fred McGriff and shortstop Tony Fernandez. Carter’s greatest hour would come north of the border.
After years of toiling with the Indians, Joe was finally named to his first All-Star team in 1991 and boy did he deserve it. He led Toronto to the postseason with an impressive offensive line of 42 doubles/33 HR/108 RBI. His Blue Jays were trounced by the Twins in the ALCS as Joe was the only Jay to homer in the series. The Blue Jays made their way back to the postseason in 1992 with Joe leading AL right fielders in homeruns (34) and RBI (119). He blasted a pair of homers in the World Series as he helped bring Toronto its first Championship.
A second championship was in the cards in 1993 when Joe again led Toronto to the World Series by pacing AL right fielders in homers and RBI for the second straight season. His finest hour came in the ’93 World Series when Joe’s famous walkoff homerun off Wild Thing Mitch Williams became a baseball highlight for the ages. After trying on his second World Series ring, Carter was one of a select few players to reach 100 RBI during the strike shortened 1994 season.
After an off-year in 1995 when he failed to reach 100 RBI for the first time since 1988, Joe rebounded in ’96 by swatting 30 homeruns and driving in 107 runs. He had his tenth and final 100 RBI season in 1997. Granted free agency after the season, the aging slugger signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He was traded to the Giants in a deadline deal for failed prospect Darin Blood and finished out his career in San Francisco.
G 2,189/R 1,170/H 2,184/2B 432/3B 53/HR 396/RBI 1,445/SB 231/BB 527/SO 1,387/BA .259/SA .464/OBP .306