Oct 23

Carlos Beltran And Angel Pagan Have No Regrets

Angel Pagan is going to the World Series and Carlos Beltran is not. It is the third time in his career Beltran fell short in the NLCS. Of course, you remember 2006, so there’s no reason to rehash that painful memory.

PAGAN: Was he pointing west?

Just let it fade away. You’ll see, in time it will be just a dull ache rather than a sharp twinge.

When you look at the seasons enjoyed by Beltran and Pagan, naturally there’s the thought of what if they had stayed, but the truth is neither were destined to stay in New York. Beltran was always a mercenary and Pagan came here as a plug-in.

That’s also how they left.

To understand why neither have regrets leaving Flushing, despite a stated admiration for their former teammates, it is important to understand how, and why they left. In both cases, it was an unceremonious departure.

For Beltran, the Mets’ financial house of cards was starting to crumble and despite a strong first half in 2011, there was no way they were going to pick up his option. The Mets were thinking younger and cheaper, which is why they were willing to replace him in center with Pagan in the first place.

Beltran had been largely mistreated and not appreciated by Mets after he took that third strike from Adam Wainwright he had no chance of hitting. Although he played hurt and injured, and produced when he was healthy, Met fans always wanted something more from Pagan. An extraordinary switch hitter, it was expected he’d become another Mickey Mantle. Nobody could reach that level, although Beltran is arguable one of the top five position players the franchise had, in a group that includes David Wright, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza.

The key moment in the breakdown of the Mets-Beltran marriage came when in the delay in undergoing surgery in 2009. When it was clear the Mets were out of things late in the second half, rather than having Beltran undergo surgery, then GM Omar Minaya foolishly opted to bring him back in September when it was clear he couldn’t play.

Then Minaya got in a spitting match with Beltran in the offseason about surgery to the point where the outfielder had surgery on his own. Consequently, Beltran missed most of the 2010 season and was a health question going into 2011.

Mets management under Minaya made it impossible for Beltran to the point where he wouldn’t want to come back. It was a relief for everybody when he was traded to the Giants for Zach Wheeler.

Following Beltran out the door was Pagan, also to the Giants, when they dealt him to the Giants for deadweight outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez, the latter two who have likely seen their last days as Mets.

Pagan seemingly had a breakout year in 2010, but became moody and despondent – it was later revealed he suffered for depression – and he regressed, returning to lapses of concentration in the field and giving away too many at-bats at the plate.

The same reason why the Mets acquired him – a change of scenery was needed – was the driving force for the trade. The Mets hoped moving on would made a difference for Torres; the Giants thought the same about Pagan.

It happened only for Pagan, now a postseason star for the Giants. Both Pagan and Beltran are happy to be gone. You should be happy for them because there was no way they were staying.

 

 

Oct 11

Former Mets Shining In Playoffs; Beltran, Pagan and O’Day Playing Well

The Mets’ fear in releasing Jason Bay is he would suddenly find it somewhere else. They had the same trepidation with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

Watching these playoffs, it is easy to see their thinking, but that doesn’t mean it is justified.

Outfielders Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, and reliever Darren O’Day all distinguished themselves yesterday, and wouldn’t you know it, those are all holes for the Mets.

Angel Pagan had a huge day in the leadoff slot – another Mets’ hole – with two hits, two walks, two runs and two RBI in three at-bats. The homer was to lead off the game to get the Giants rolling so could live another day.

I don’t know what the Giants’ plans are for Pagan, but he certainly played better for them than Andres Torres did for the Mets. Pagan was an inconsistent player here and often let his concentration wander on the bases and on defense. Maybe he wasn’t ready, but he was definitely old enough where he shouldn’t have been making rookie mistakes. Perhaps the Mets weren’t patient with him.

I hoped it would work out when the Mets moved him to center and shifted Beltran to right, but Pagan never took the way he did the preceding year when he played when Beltran was injured.

Beltran, who homered twice in Game 2, had two more hits yesterday as the Cardinals took a 2-1 games lead over Washington. Beltran, who shines in the postseason, is hitting .417 in the series. And this, is after coming off a superb season.

Belran was injured at the end of his stay with the Mets, but when healthy produced. He moved without a hitch to right field and he played hurt. What else could the Mets want from him? Oh yeah, they wanted him to do it for half the price.

The Mets paved the way for Beltran’s exit with the flap over his knee surgery. After that, there was no way he was staying. Especially considering their financial situation.

O’Day appeared in four games for the 2009 Mets, but was released when they couldn’t find a spot for him on the roster. Mike Pelfrey was ailing at the time, but balked at going on the disabled list. He couldn’t make a start and the Mets had to bring somebody up to replace him  for a turn. That meant somebody had to go and it was O’Day.

Rather than exerting his authority and judgment, Omar Minaya gave in to Pelfrey and it cost the Mets. O’Day was quickly signed by Texas and became a bullpen stalwart that season and he was terrific for the Orioles this season with a 7-1 record, 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Plus, he only made $1.35 million this year.

O’Day put the Yankees down in order last night.

Wouldn’t you know it? The game was decided by Raul Ibanez’s two homers. Ibanez was a player the Mets wouldn’t consider after he left Philadelphia. An outfield plug and power bat off the bench? Nah, that wouldn’t fit in Citi Field.

There are plenty of others with ties to the Mets this October, including Endy Chavez – did I mention the Mets need outfield help? – and coach Chip Hale and manager Bob Melvin in Oakland, and, of course, Davey Johnson in Washington.

There’s always an explanation for why somebody doesn’t work out for a team, and Beltran, Pagan and O’Day all left for different reasons.

But, were they good reasons?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

May 16

David Wright Should Be Named Captain At The Right Time

I’ve advocated David Wright as Mets captain several times on this blog, first at the end of the 2006 season. There’s nobody else remotely close to consider, but like the others this would be an awkward time.

WRIGHT: Captain material.

Before, there was the fear of how much weight he would carry in a room that featured veterans Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Jose Reyes, you might recall gravitated toward Delgado for advice despite his well publicized friendship with Reyes.

Then, when Beltran was injured and everybody knew he was leaving, there was the risk of alienating the temperamental Reyes.

Reyes is gone now, but the Mets still aren’t moving, and won’t do so until Wright’s contract is resolved. How embarrassing would it be for the Mets to name Wright captain and have him leave as a free agent? That could only happen to the Mets.

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Apr 08

Lucas Duda Powers Mets

Out of the ashes of last season we might have uncovered some life, that being Lucas Duda’s power. The guy is frighteningly strong and homered twice yesterday to beat the Braves.

DUDA: In HR trot.

With last season a washout from the beginning, it was a matter of time before Carlos Beltran was traded and that opened the door for Duda. That, and Ike Davis’ freakish injury.

After the Beltran trade the Mets finally acknowledged Duda’s future was in right field and played him there at the end. When you have a losing team, you must always think ahead and that’s what the Mets were able to accomplish last year with Duda.

“Lucas benefited from last summer when he was in the lineup every day and he realized he belongs,” manager Terry Collins said. “He put good swings on mistakes, he’s got the strength to hit it out of anywhere. He’s got a chance to be some kind of power hitter.”

Duda took advantage on the shorter dimensions with one of his homers, but the ball was still crushed. Later, he admitted to a confidence burst.

“Any time you produce a little bit you get that confidence going, and its carried over,” Duda said. “I think everybody [has doubts]. I don’t think you’d be human if you don’t.”

With Duda, Davis and David Wright, the Mets have some potent power potential in the middle of the order. They’d have even more if Jason Bay would produce.