Work in Sports
A man of many strong opinions, Boston centerfielder Carl Everett speaks loudly and carries a big stick
By Tom Verducci
Issue date: June 19, 2000
Play skillfully with a loud noise.
Carl Everett is a man of conviction. As an Apostolic Christian, he believes that the Bible, interpreted literally, is the infallible authority on all matters. As the cocksure centerfielder for the Boston Red Sox he believes in taking on pitchers and questions alike with the same absolute assuredness. The man plays and talks with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Just ask.
Interleague play? "Don't like it," Everett responds. "They only have it because of two teams [the New York Mets and the New York Yankees]. It's all about the money." Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter? "Not a star." The Mets, one of his former teams? "All those [management] people are hypocrites and idiots." The Atlanta Braves' starting pitchers? "You can run on them all day." Big cities? "Hate 'em. I need space." American League baseball? "Boring." Dinosaurs? "Didn't exist."
Uh, come again?
"God created the sun, the stars, the heavens and the earth, and then made Adam and Eve," Everett said last Friday, before the Red Sox lost two of three in Atlanta. "The Bible never says anything about dinosaurs. You can't say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Someone actually saw Adam and Eve. No one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus rex."
What about dinosaur bones?
"Made by man," he says.
Everett has trouble, too, with the idea of man actually walking on the moon. After first rejecting the notion, he concedes, "Yeah, that could have happened. It's possible. That is something you could prove. You can't prove dinosaurs ever existed. I feel it's far-fetched."
Listen up, everybody. Everett is raising a ruckus around baseball. It's not just that at age 29 -- having never batted 500 times in a season, having been passed around like a Christmas fruitcake among five organizations and having attained such a dark reputation in baseball that his teammates call him Dr. Evil -- Everett has emerged as one of the game's most dangerous clutch hitters. It's also that in a cliche-riddled, "give-110%-and-take-'em-one-day-at-a-time" profession, Everett is unflinchingly honest. The man is a walking, talking blunt instrument.
A conversation with Everett can go in any direction and can bludgeon anyone who's the least bit sensitive. Even teammates take precautions, lest Everett -- as he did last week on the bench at Pro Player Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins -- launch into a 20-minute disquisition on the balk rule. "My locker is next to his," shortstop Nomar Garciaparra says, "so I try not to get into long conversations with him. I'll just say, 'Uh, gotta go, Carl.'"
"I guess I'm the brave one," righthander Bret Saberhagen says. "I sit next to him on the bus. Carl can talk to me and carry on a conversation on his cell phone at the same time. That's talent."
"The guy can yap," righthander Pedro Martinez says. "But he can back it up. It's a good thing he is this good."
Through Sunday, Everett was hitting .320 with the kind of authority that once caused Tom McCraw, his former hitting instructor with the Mets and the Houston Astros, to declare, "The scary part about Carl Everett is, he hasn't gotten as good as he's going to get. He has a chance to run off a couple of MVP years." Everett was leading all American League outfielders in home runs (21), RBIs (59) and bulletin-board material. Only Britney Spears posters get tacked up more than Everett quotes.
"Carl Everett is the best player in the major leagues," says Marlins righthander Ryan Dempster. "Just ask Carl Everett."
"If I didn't know him, I'd say, 'What's his problem?'" says Marlins manager John Boles, who was the team's director of player development when Everett played in the Florida system. "But I know him, so it doesn't affect me. It's like our catcher, Paul Bako, who played with him in Houston, said: Carl's the kind of guy opponents hate. When you play with him, you appreciate what he brings. Carl shoots from the hip. Sometimes he's accurate. Sometimes he's not."
These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein.
Everett already has been traded three times and lost once in an expansion draft. In 1992 the Yankees protected such forgettables as Dave Silvestri and Hensley Meulens rather than Everett, their 1990 first-round pick (and 10th overall) in the amateur draft. The Marlins signed him. "I jumped for joy," Everett says of leaving the Yankees. "I never wanted to be drafted by them. There were people in that organization that didn't want me to succeed."
Everett lasted two seasons in the Florida system. His 1994 campaign ended when his Triple A team, the Edmonton Trappers, suspended him for lack of hustle and insubordination that included a verbal confrontation with his manager, Sal Rende. The Marlins decided they'd rather have the light-hitting Chuckie Carr play centerfield than Everett. So in November 1994 they dumped him on the Mets for second baseman Quilvio Veras.
On his first day in New York's spring training camp, Everett, as many players do, walked slowly to fetch a ball while shagging flies in batting practice. Dallas Green, the Mets manager at the time, watching from behind the batting cage, groaned and said, "Now I see why people say the kid's a dog." Green, who was fired in 1996, never gave Everett regular playing time. "He wanted you to kiss his tail, and I wouldn't," Everett says.
While with the Mets, Everett was kicked out of winter ball in Venezuela for going into the stands after some fans who Everett claimed were throwing beer at him. In 1997 he and his wife, Linda, were charged with abusing Carl's six-year-old daughter, Shawna, and their five-year-old son, Carl IV. The charges were dropped, but a New York Family Court judge ruled that Linda, the girl's stepmother, inflicted "excessive corporal punishment" on the children and that Carl did little to stop her. The couple retained custody of Carl IV -- they also have three other children -- but Shawna was placed in the care of her maternal grandmother, where she remains.
Everett contended last week that he has information that would exonerate him but declined to offer details. In a separate interview with CNN/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, taped earlier, he gave glimpses of his parenting methodology -- and his conversational style -- in a typically tortuous Everett monologue. "They're trying to say that we beat 'em with our fists," Everett told CNN/SI. "Trying to say that we slapped our kids. I mean, anyone that's my age or older knows you're going to get your spankings, you're going to get discipline. But in this day and age you have people that don't have any kids trying to tell [other] people how to raise their kids. You know, most of the people that make these laws don't have kids, don't have a relationship. Can't tell you the first meaning of how to change a diaper. You know, how it is to stay up to three or four o'clock in the morning when you have a sick child, when you have a child who's hungry. Most of the people who make these laws can't tell you the first thing about raising a child."
After three seasons in New York, during which the switch-hitting Everett never batted higher than .260 or hit more than 14 homers, the Mets shipped him to the Astros for John Hudek, a journeyman righthanded reliever. Everett found regular playing time and happiness for two seasons in Houston while forging a reputation as a fierce competitor. One day last season, chapped about being given a day off by manager Larry Dierker, he ripped the lineup card off a clubhouse wall, stomped into Dierker's office, tore the card into pieces and threw them on Dierker's desk. "Make up a new one," Everett barked. (Dierker stuck to his lineup.) Despite such ferocity and a breakout year (.325, 25 homers, 108 RBIs), the Astros, knowing he was eligible for free agency after this season, traded him to Boston for two minor leaguers.
"We chose [second baseman Craig] Biggio and [first baseman Jeff] Bagwell over Everett," Houston general manager Gerry Hunsicker says of determining who to re-sign among the club's potential free agents, "rather than putting dollars into an outfielder. We had young outfielders, such as Daryle Ward, Lance Berkman and Richard Hidalgo, who we thought could be impact players."
The homer shall be the standard measure.
"His numbers from the second half of last season showed he learned how to hit with power," says Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, who quickly signed Everett to a three-year contract for $21 million, plus an option for a fourth year at $9.15 million that the club must exercise after this season. "Plus, I believe Carl has matured as far as understanding what he has to do to be an elite ballplayer."
In 97 games from the 1999 All-Star break through Sunday, Everett batted .332 while hitting 35 home runs and driving in 102 runs. Twice last week he won games with late-inning home runs, one a seventh-inning shot to break a scoreless duel between Martinez and Cleveland Indians ace righthander Bartolo Colon, the other a ninth-inning blast against Florida righty reliever Ricky Bones. "I couldn't believe he challenged me inside," Everett said of Bones, who came into the game with a 1.21 ERA. "He used to throw harder than 85 [mph], I'm sure, before surgeries and all that. I don't think 85, 86 is going to get me out inside. He challenged me, and he lost that challenge."
The Marlins chafed at his comments. (Welcome to the club.) In four months with the Red Sox, Everett also has tweaked pitchers Gil Heredia of the Oakland A's ("I wasn't impressed with him at all"), Chuck Finley of Cleveland ("Finley didn't beat us. We beat ourselves"), Reid Cornelius of the Marlins ("I know Reid Cornelius. I know the way he pitches. And I know he's going to hang a few") and Braves lefthander Terry Mulholland, who beat Boston 6-0 with five shutout innings last Saturday ("Mulholland didn't beat us. Their bats beat us").
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
Boston, which has showered Everett with affection, hasn't offered this kind of welcome since the last time Norm walked into Cheers. It helped that even before his first game for the Red Sox, Everett torched Jeter; 37-year-old Yankees rightfielder Paul O'Neill, who he implied was on his last legs; and the rest of the hated Bronx Bombers. "He verbalizes the way a lot of people around here feel about the Yankees," Duquette says. Everett followed up his comments with two home runs against the Minnesota Twins in his first game at Fenway Park, a two-run single to beat the Yankees in his first game for Boston against New York and home runs in every series played at Fenway so far this year. Throw in his clutch hitting (.368 with men in scoring position) and it's no wonder overheated Sox fans are greeting his at bats with chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
If Everett offends people, he doesn't mean to, he says. Indeed, Everett utters even what appear to be his most venomous words in the matter-of-fact manner of someone reading the blackboard specials at a diner. He deals in absolutes. Wins and losses. Truths and lies. What is in the Bible and what is not.
You might think, That butthole, before you meet me. I don't care. If I'm telling you something, I'm just telling you the truth.
Issue date: June 19, 2000