Not-so-hot Carter takes heat for '98 Ex-Jay: 'Lot of downfall for this team points to me'

Sidelight

July 11, 1998|By Bill Free tTC | Bill Free tTC,SUN STAFF

Joe Carter has always had a flair for the dramatic and when he said he wanted to go out on top of the baseball world with the talented Orioles this season, it was a very believable scenario.

Even when the Orioles slumped badly in May, the always-positive Carter convinced people to keep the faith.

Now that time has apparently run out on Carter's dream of a world championship in the final season of his career, he has stepped forward to take "a lot" of the blame for the team residing in fourth place.

"A lot of the downfall for this team points to me," Carter said before last night's 3-2 win. "I'm not doing what I'm capable of. I haven't performed the way I wanted to. That game last night [Thursday] was one of the worst games I've ever had."

Carter was even the target of boos Thursday night as he went 0-for-4 and couldn't knock in runners from second and third base three times in a 3-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Carter was so distraught after his final at-bat in the eighth inning that he was consoled by manager Ray Miller.

"Joe was about to kill himself," Miller said before last night's game. "He hit into a double play and hit a semi-line drive to third with a chance to break the game open in the eighth. I told him he's had a great career and the game is a matter of inches. He's back in the same spot tonight against a great right-hander [Pedro Martinez] and hopefully he'll get a big hit."

Carter didn't get a hit in three at-bats last night, but he did steal second and third base in the fourth inning, giving him a grand total of three stolen bases this year.

It was the first time Carter has stolen two bases in a game since July 19, 1994.

Miller said that Carter contributed defensively to Thursday's win "with three outstanding catches in right field."

But Carter was still upset with his lack of clutch hitting and said "only the win made me feel better. If we had lost, I would have really been down."

The boos?

"They're probably frustrated with the team and I was an easy target the way I played," he said. "But I woke up this morning

and my name was in the lineup when I got to the park."

Carter was expected to produce a lot of runs this season after signing a one-year contract worth $3.3 million as a free agent from the Toronto Blue Jays. He drove in 107 and 102 runs in his last two years with the Blue Jays.

However, he is hitting .252 this year with 28 RBIs and nine home runs.

Those stats don't come close to what Carter, 38, had in mind for his farewell tour when he announced he would retire after playing one season in Baltimore.

"I have no excuses," he said. "I haven't been hurt. That's what makes baseball so interesting. You never know what is going to happen. We're not robots. Money can't buy a winning team. It has to happen on the field."

Carter believes the Orioles "had the horses" when they took the field for Opening Day.

"When they go down with injuries, you have to replace them," he said. "We lost our No. 1 starter [Mike Mussina] twice and Jeffrey Hammonds has been out for more than a month. And Jimmy Key has been out since May. Those things happen in baseball."

With his dream unfulfilled, would Carter consider changing his mind about retiring?

"No, this is it for me," he said. "I'm still retiring."

Pub Date: 7/11/98

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