Hello Carlos Beltran. It is nice to see you again. Or is it?
The relationship between Carlos Beltran and the Mets did not end all that well. The divorce didn’t get ugly. But there was a healthy slice of contention to be had by all parties involved. His beginning here didn’t go any smoother either.
Carlos Beltran parlayed an unconscious 2004 playoff performance with the Houston Astros, into one of those long term $100 million dollar plus free agent contracts with the Mets. Before signing his name on the Orange line however, Carlos offered his services to the cross-town Yankees first, and at a reduced rate no less. Brian Cashman declined the offer, and Carlos Beltran wound up “settling” for the Mets’ money.
That fact was not lost on Mets fans. That he struggled in his first season here compounded his dilemma. Fans were hard on Beltran in 2005, and we learned rather quickly how sensitive he was, or, how unprepared for the New York scrutiny he was in for upon signing that big contract. The fans booed him early and often, and he took it personally.
His season was then almost derailed after a calamitous collision Carlos suffered when he and Mike Cameron, playing right field, came together in a gruesome crashing of heads, as both were in full pursuit of a fly to right-center field. While Beltran finished the season with 151 games played, his first season in a Mets’ uniform no doubt partly suffered as a result.
The rift between Beltran and Fan came to a head early in 2006 over a curtain call in which Carlos Beltran refused to oblige those in attendance. Perhaps luckier for Carlos Beltran than anyone, Julio Franco was still on the team to teach Carlos that maybe discretion was the better part of valor in his situation. Julio Franco basically told Beltran he couldn’t take on the fans. He would overwhelmingly lose that battle. The night was no doubt a lesson learned on Carlos Beltran.
The relationship between fan and Beltran smoothed out, then flourished over the rest of the 2006 season. Right up until he took a curve ball from Adam Wainwright in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS, sending St. Louis to the World Series, and not the Mets. That’s one unfortunately, Mets fans still haven’t allowed Carlos to live down.
I won’t lie. I knew a curve ball was coming. I think a preponderance of Mets fans did too. But before we, or I, go blaming Beltran for our lack of success in 2006, first consider Endy Chavez’ miraculous catch. Then talk to me about Aaron Heilman, and what an abject failure he was. I wouldn’t have trusted him to mail a letter that season. Who didn’t think bad things would happen with him in the game? Then you can talk to me about Willie Randolph’s failure to bunt a runner over…. Talk to me about those items first, before we delve into why Carlos Beltran got locked up on a curve ball.
By the 2009 season, injuries were a real part of Beltran’s career, adding to Mets fan’s dismay. The low point in the relationship between Carlos Beltran and the Mets’ front office came during Surgery Gate; when Beltran supposedly authorized his own surgical procedure to repair his knee, without knowledge or apparently at the time, authorization from the Mets. That whole series of events turned into a PR fiasco for Omar Minaya, John Ricco, and the Mets’ Front Office, that Jeff Wilpon in particular did not at all appreciate.
Carlos Beltran did quite well upon his full-time return to action in the 2011 season. Many questioned how effective he would be. As a matter of fact, many said he would never regain his old form, and that he was through. Beltran responded with very effective play. The impending trade of Beltran was a matter he himself knew was coming, along with Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins, and every fan. It was clear to all parties, the time for Carlos Beltran and the Mets to part ways, had come. Then very quietly, he was gone; traded to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for a pitching prospect named Zach Wheeler.
The Mets never had any real success to speak of when signing free agents. So let us now be clear regarding the record on Carlos Beltran. As free agents go, he is the best player the Mets ever purchased on the open market. He came to New York at a time when the Mets didn’t really have much going on. So that’s a credit to him. Because after the firing of Steve Phillips, Fred Wilpon effectively put the organization on hold during Jim Duquette’s time as General Manager. And who would want to play under those conditions? Omar Minaya, Pedro Martinez, and Carlos Beltran, were initial components and steps forward again, for the organization in several years.
Carlos Beltran came to New York and played up to his career averages, and in fact had his career year (years) here. His 41 home runs in 2006 were his single season career best. His 33 home runs in 2007 marked his fourth, thirty home run season. And his 27 home runs in 2008, made it the fourth season he hit over twenty five. Between 2006 and 2008, he amassed 101 home runs and 340 RBI. In 2006, he achieved his career best, with 116 RBI. He followed that up with two more consecutive 112 RBI seasons. Prior to coming to the Mets, his previous career high was 108 RBI.
Throw in the fact Carlos Beltran was arguably the National League’s best defensive center fielder over that span, it is hard to discredit the fact he was among the top players to ever play for the Mets. And as far as that free agent contract goes, he was money well spent. The Mets, for the most part, got their money’s worth. You can’t say that about too many teams, and similar large contract purchases these days. Regardless of how Carlos Beltran’s time ended here, the Mets can say, at least they realized a return value with him.
At thirty-five years old, Carlos Beltran is finally healthy again and playing; no, thriving; with the St. Louis Cardinals this season. Being healthy is the key, and with regards to Beltran, his 2012 season is no surpise. Heading into Friday’s series opener against the Mets at Citi Field, Beltran is hitting .294 in forty-nine games played. He has fifteen home runs so far, which is more than Lucas Duda, and Scott Hairston combined. Carlos’ forty-two RBI, rank second in the National League behind L.A.’s Andre Ethier. That’s also twelve more RBI than David Wright, who leads the Mets.
And yet, Terry’s Kids, with no power at all, are a game better than the Cardinals. Funny game this baseball. Eventually, this series against the Cardinals will indeed be about baseball. But initially, Friday’s game will be about Carlos Beltran; the former Mets stand-out.
It is quite ironic to me, how Jose Reyes was arguably the more beloved player of the two, and yet because of the way Reyes left, on a walk off bunt single and then chasing sunnier days and wealthier times in Miami, that he is now a reviled ex-Met. Where as Carlos Beltran, who didn’t always have the best relationship with the fans while here, or with the organization for that matter, gets traded, and returns to Citi Field Friday night, with very little hard feelings for the former Flushing center fielder, even though that game in 2006 will always be singed in our collective memory.
I won’t be there Friday night like I was when Jose Reyes returned to Roosevelt Avenue. But I’m guessing Carlos will get a warmer reception than the chillier welcome Mr. Miami received earlier this season. Unlike Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran already had apathy working against him. And that; apathy; probably more than anything, caused Beltran to leave quietly in the night. For there was no ballyhoo from us.