The New York Mets went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an ongoing series, will analyze every single Mets player who picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at outfielder Carlos Beltran.
Every time Carlos Beltran came to bat in front of the Mets’ home crowd, his music reminded fans to appreciate his presence. Él está aquí, the song went. He is here. Now that Beltran is no longer in New York, perhaps some fans realize they should have been more grateful for his presence. Before being traded to the Giants in late July, he reminded us one last time that he is one of the most talented players to ever be a Met.
With his right knee still not fully healed from January 2010 surgery, Carlos came to spring training amid heated debate about whether he should switch positions. Then on February 28, he took matters into his own hands, telling Terry Collins he wanted — not that he was willing, but wanted — to switch to right field. “I came today thinking in my heart, ‘I still think I can play center field,’” Beltran said at the time. “But, at the same time, this is not about Carlos. This is about team.” Third-person references aside, it was a selfless move, and it allowed Angel Pagan — who at the time seemed like the better outfielder — to start in center field.
In April, Beltran started 23 of 27 games and drove in 11 runs out of the cleanup spot. He got hot in the middle of the month, hitting in 16 of 18 games between April 17 and May 7. Then, after a few “0-fors,” he had perhaps his best game as a Met. On May 12 in Colorado, after Ike Davis had just gone on the DL and David Wright had begun resting his back, Beltran hit three home runs for the first time in his career, driving in six runs in a 9-5 win.
After his monster day he had a bit of a hangover, going homer-less with just four RBIs for the rest of the month while hitting in the three-hole with Wright and Davis out. But in June he was solid, keeping his average near .280 with his OBP hovering around .370. His power remained limited, but his 25 RBIs in June helped keep the team afloat.
Carlos truly found his stroke near the end of the month, and in 15 games from June 25 to July 8 he had 20 hits and 16 runs scored. He was a starter in the All-Star Game, batting second as the DH and going 1-for-2 with a run scored. By that point, talks about him being traded were in full tilt, with seemingly every player requesting that Carlos come to his respective city. The discussion became further intensified after Francisco Rodriguez went to the Brewers on July 13.
Nonetheless, Beltran refused to stop hitting. He had seven doubles in eight games early in July, and he had an RBI in each of what would be his last five games as a Met. Then finally, on July 28, Sandy Alderson sent Beltran and the $4 million remaining on his contract to San Francisco in exchange for pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, whom some now consider to be the Mets’ best prospect. The six-and-a-half year Beltran Era was over.
In 419 plate appearances with the Mets in 2011, Beltran hit .289 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs. His OBP was .391, his OPS was .904, and his OPS+ was 150, which matched his Mets-best OPS+ in 2006. His base stealing was almost nonexistent, and his fielding certainly declined. (He was worth three defensive runs below average, according to “total zone” figures.) And yet, miraculously, Carlos stayed healthier than just about any other player on the team. He started 91 out of 103 games in right field and appeared in 98.
His excellent play continued for San Fran as he hit .323 with a .920 OPS in 44 games. On September 14, he hit his 299th and 300th career home runs off Mat Latos. His finished 2011 with a .300 average, a .385 OBP, a .910 OPS, 22 HRs and 84 RBIs.
At age 34, Beltran is not the same coveted free agent he was when the Mets signed him in 2005, fresh off one of the best postseason performances of all time. But Carlos proved a lot this year — to his teammates, to the league, and to the fans.