Tonight in Flushing, the main event will be Matt Harvey and the under-card will be David Wright. Getting lost in all the hoopla of the All-Star Game festivities, is the fact that perhaps the greatest all around offensive player to ever don the orange and blue is returning to Citi Field in a game where he isn’t the enemy.
Carlos Beltran‘s departure via trade in 2011 didn’t take any Mets fans by surprise, and he was given polite applause during what most figured would be his last game at Citi Field. He was then given a decent enough reception when he returned to Queens as a Cardinal. However, a smattering of fans standing and cheering as if they’re watching golf isn’t the tribute Beltran deserved. He deserved a long-lasting, roaring ovation. Tonight, Mets fans have a chance to give him one.
Far too often, I’m forced to read tweets from fans who still link Beltran only with the called third strike he took from Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. It’s absurd, unfair, and laughable that some fans not only identify Beltran with that moment, but refuse to “forgive” him for it. Here’s a newsflash: Carlos Beltran did nothing wrong while he was a Met, and he isn’t the reason the Mets didn’t make the World Series in 2006. If it wasn’t for Beltran’s home run in Game 1 of that year’s NLCS, and his two homers during Game 4 in St. Louis, the Mets likely would’ve lost that series before it even got to the deciding game.
Here’s what Carlos Beltran did while he was a member of the New York Mets: Against the advice of team doctors, he played with broken bones in his face after one of the scariest collisions anyone has ever seen in 2005. He played the outfield so incredibly that it often looked as if he wasn’t trying, gliding like a gazelle to make ridiculous catches seem routine. He was an incredible performer in the 2006 Playoffs, and had three consecutive seasons (2006 through 2008) where he topped 112 RBI’s.
Injuries held Beltran back during the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, but he was tremendous again in 2011, allowing for the Mets to receive Zack Wheeler as a parting gift when they dealt Beltran to the Giants that July.
Beltran was reserved, and some fans took that as a sign that he didn’t care enough. That notion is ridiculous. Carlos Beltran was a leader. He led by example, led with his performance, and often took younger players under his wing (something he did quietly, without looking for credit).
In total, he clubbed 149 home runs and drove in 559 runs as a member of the Mets. If he winds up in the Hall of Fame one day, there’s a strong chance his plaque will feature a Mets cap atop his head. Beltran is a free agent after this season, and I’d be thrilled if the Mets brought him back to help finish what he started. It would be the perfect end to an incredible career.
In the meantime, Mets fans have a chance tonight to show Beltran what he meant to us. When he’s introduced tonight on the field before the game, everyone should be standing and applauding. The roar should be deafening, loud enough and sustained enough to make the usually stoic Beltran tip his cap and crack a smile. Mets fans didn’t do a good enough job of showing Beltran how much he meant to us while he was here. Tonight, we have a chance to rectify that. Let’s make it happen.