Jun 01

History Revised With Carlos Beltran Returning

Covering baseball for over two decades taught me several things, some simple and others more complex. Several of these valuable lessons will come into play tonight with Carlos Beltran’s return to New York to face the Mets as a member of the Cardinals.

Baseball has its ironies and Beltran comes back playing for the team that bounced the Mets from the 2006 NLCS. He also finds himself playing behind the pitcher, Adam Wainwright, who threw the knee buckling curveball that froze Beltran and forever placed him into the darkest recesses of Mets lore.

BELTRAN: Had some magic moments with that swing.

As far as irony goes, this is pretty delicious stuff, but not so savory are the remembrances of Beltran by Mets’ fans of his tenure here and comments made, and written, by several members of the New York media, beginning with WFAN’s Craig Carton, nothing more than a shock jock who vainly tries to entertain with vulgarity and cheap, crass humor.

This morning he crudely made fun of a mole on the side of Beltran’s face.

Making fun of a person’s looks or physical abnormality in the attempt of humor is simply low. It also does nothing to add to the supposed theory of New York fans and media being sophisticated. How sophisticated is it to joke about a person’s physical appearance or blemish? Are we still in the fifth grade, Carton? And, what is it Boomer Esiason always ends his show with? Stay classy New York.

Nothing classy about Carton this morning.

I don’t think much about Beltran’s reception tonight. He’ll get his fair share of cheers. Boos, too. There will also be indifference, which, to an athlete is more venomous than hate.

When it comes to Beltran’s career with the Mets, there’s nothing about it that warrants hate. Beltran was signed after a historic playoff run with the Houston Astros. The Mets, then on the verge of developing into a contender, were at an interesting phase in their history and Beltran was signed as a cornerstone.

The Mets wrestled Beltran from the Yankees that winter, but there would always be the wonder if he really wanted Queens because his agent, Scott Boras, made a last minute pitch to the Yankees.

Beltran struggled his first season with the Mets – a lot of players do in making the transition to the city – but what highlighted that summer was him playing with a broken face after a horrific outfield collision with Mike Cameron.

Say what you will about Beltran’s quiet, and low key demeanor and persona, but he played hurt and when healthy produced and posted significant numbers. He might have been one of the Mets’ best position players they have ever had if he was healthy his entire tenure here.

Beltran had an incredible 2006 season, which unfortunately for him has been reduced to one at-bat. More of those sophisticated fans at work, right?

The Mets haven’t been close to the World Series since, but that hasn’t been Beltran’s fault as much as it was their inability to bolster their rotation and bullpen, to overcome a long string of serious injuries and poor signings and acquisitions.

To say Beltran’s at-bat against Wainwright slammed shut the Mets’ playoff aspirations is an oversimplification because there is that matter of blowing a seven-game lead with 17 remaining in 2007 plus another late-season collapse in 2008. Totally unfair to pin that all on Beltran.

Beltran was a very good player on a flawed team and should be remembered for his ability to perform while frequently injured. Outside of the episode when Beltran had surgery on his own – and can you blame him considering the Mets’ shoddy history of handling of injuries? – he was pretty much a team player.

Much has been attempted to be made of about a divide in the Mets’ clubhouse between the Hispanic and American players with Beltran being made a cause. In reality, the central figure in that friction was more Carlos Delgado, brought on by his differences with then manager Willie Randolph.

Delgado had some clubhouse lawyer in him, while Beltran’s personality precluded him from being a vocal presence. And, Delgado had a deeper influence on Jose Reyes than Beltran, so keep than in mind, too, when laying the groundwork for Reyes’ departure.

Beltran was a very good player who didn’t live up to the expectations created  by that monster postseason when he was with Houston. He was never going to live up to those lofty expectations or that salary.

The important thing to remember, however, is he tried. And for that, he deserves your respect and cheers tonight.

 

 

 

 

Jul 21

Today in Mets’ History: A tip of the hat to Beltran.

Thanks to Ray Sadecki for noting today might be Carlos Beltran’s last home game as a member of the Mets. Will they trade him before the trade deadline or extend this out until August? All indications are the Mets will move before July 31.

Ray asked for some reflections on the Beltran Era, and what sticks out most for me is him playing with a broken face after his outfield collision with Mike Cameron. Most outfielders would have packed it in, but Beltran kept on playing while others weren’t. Beltran played hurt, and he played hurt often. He is a gamer.

In 2006, he carried the Mets like the All-Star he was. I’ll never begrudge him for Adam Wainwright because it was a nasty pitch and who wouldn’t get caught on that?

From 2006-08, Beltran hit at least 27 homers with 112 RBI, but injuries sapped his production those two seasons. I’ll remember how the Mets rushed him back for a few more at-bats rather than undergo surgery immediately. It got to the point where Beltran had surgery on his own, causing him to be late for the 2010 season. That was on Omar Minaya.

I’ll always regard Beltran as a player capable of carrying a team on his back for a week or two, but not to the point where he’d shape a game like Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds. Then again, I’ll always remember Beltran as a clean player, one who was good to the game.

It’s a shame the Mets’ financial problems forced this position. If this had been handled better during the surgery issue and the Mets’ not caught with their pants down in the Ponzi scandal, then perhaps we’d be talking about an extension for him.

Beltran had a good career here when healthy. His career is over with the Mets, but there will an extension for him somewhere.

 

 

 

 

Jun 24

Analyzing a Reyes move.

General manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees would not make a run at Jose Reyes at the trade deadline.

“That’s just not going to happen … we have an everyday shortstop in Derek Jeter,’’ Cashman said.

REYES: What will happen?

Barring a significant injury to Jeter or Alex Rodriguez – which would require Jeter to move to third – there’s no need by the Yankees for Reyes. Because they placated to Jeter last winter, the Yankees probably cost themselves a dynamic replacement in Reyes, who could easily be a 20-plus homer player in Yankee Stadium.

That doesn’t mean Reyes won’t draw interest at the deadline or in the free-agent market this winter. Reyes all but guaranteed he would test the market when he said he wouldn’t negotiate during the season. It doesn’t mean he’s gone for good, but the Mets aren’t expected to approach the reported seven-year, $145-million he could command.

Just because the Yankees might not be players, it doesn’t mean Reyes would automatically slide back to the Mets. Boston has the need for a shortstop, plus the resources to pry Reyes away. The Washington Nationals also have a willingness to spend.

There are several wild-cards to consider that could impact where Reyes goes, such as the presence on the market of potential big-ticker players Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Mark Buehrle, Adam Wainwright and possibly CC Sabathia (he has an opt out clause).

There’s also the matter of how much the Mets’ financial situation might change by then, and the outcome of a new collective bargaining agreement (the current one expires in December).

Sep 29

Manuel reflects on a season lost

It was interesting to hear Jerry Manuel evaluate his performance last night on SNY, admitting he pushed the envelope in bringing back Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, and the experiment with Reyes at third.

MANUEL: The dreams of success have faded.

Much of the self-evaluation had been written by posters at the time, but it must be remembered Manuel is working off different information and conditions that we were.

Quite simply, Manuel knew there was pressure on him to win this year, and that only made it easier to be tempted, especially when the player says he’s ready.

Manuel didn’t get into it, but there was inconsistency in how he made out his lineup, set up his bullpen and bench. Lest we not forget, it was Manuel’s insistence to stay with Jenrry Mejeia, who has been shut down with a shoulder injury.

I also didn’t like how Manuel handled Jeff Francoeur and John Maine, but there are always be dust ups in the player-manager relationship.

Last night Manuel was candid, forthright and honest. There was very little excuse making, other than to say the collapse of the offense played a major factor into the season’s outcome. And. I don’t look at that as an excuse as much as a statement of fact.

If this had been Manuel’s first season with the Mets, you could make an argument for another chance, but he presided over the September collapse in 2008 and last year’s disaster. There were extenuating circumstances after both that warranted a second chance, the bottom line is that through a myriad of reasons, the Mets have taken a step back since 2006, and in this market, with this stadium and the expectations, somebody will have to pay the price for failure.

Keeping Manuel with roughly the same payroll as this season is to tell the fanbase “our hope is that we stay healthy and improve,’’ which is something they’ve been saying since Carlos Beltran took that third strike from Adam Wainwright.

Keeping Manuel would be saying this year was acceptable.

Jul 27

Mets Chat Room; Cardinals in town.

Game #100 vs. Cardinals

Things can always get worse. The question is: Will they ever get better? I mean, this year.

The weak-hitting Mets – who were shut out four time on their disastrous West Coast trip – open a three-game series tonight at Citi Field against St. Louis and Adam Wainwright, who is 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA over his last five starts and hasn’t allowed a run in 25 straight innings.

That’s whom the Mets will try to get better against.

The Mets went 2-9 on the trip, hit .196 and scored just 23 runs. One of the games they won was a gift from a bad umpire’s call.

“There’s no question that everybody’s frustrated,’’ said David Wright. “I think it adds to the frustration that our starters have been throwing the ball extremely well and our bullpen’s been solid. We just can’t get any runs for them. But now is not the time to hang your head or mope around.’’

Needing to pitch a shutout tonight – or at least it seems that way – will be Jonathon Niese, the beneficiary of all of four runs over his last three starts. He is 0-2 with a 3.20 ERA in that span.

The Mets return home with their coaching staff intact. There was speculation Howard Johnson would take the fall for the offense, but they decided that since their offense clicked in June that it would again.