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.
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.