Beltran

We were in Florida in a place we still stubbornly called Baseball City. This was 1999 — it had been a long time since you could say the name without smirking. A decade earlier there had been an amusement park here called “Boardwalk and Baseball;” it was a strange blend of carnival, petting zoo, circus and baseball. ESPN hosted a game show here for a short while. The Kansas City Royals moved in when they were still one of America’s great baseball teams.

By 1999, though, the only thing left from the old “Boardwalk and Baseball” dream were sections of rail of the roller coaster. These tracks apparently were too difficult to take down. so they stayed up and wound through the spring training grounds, tracks going nowhere, a too-obvious-symbol for the Kansas City Royals. In 1999, the Royals had no owner, no money, no real idea what to do next. That was the year they brought in a Canadian softball pitcher for a tryout. The Royals brass — of whatever you call the people trying to make some sense of this mess — gathered around the pitcher and argued whether or not he was balking on every pitch.

We still called the place Baseball City. Maybe it was irony. Maybe it was just guileless hope.

The Royals had not been the same since their owner and patriarch Ewing Kauffman had died in in 1993. Kauffman was not much of a baseball fan when he stepped forward and brought the Royals to town. But he was the shrewdest of businessmen, and he hired smart people like Cedric Tallis and John Schuerholz to run baseball operations, and he was ingenious in how he ran the business side of the team. He gave community leaders blue jackets, called them “Royals Lancers” and had them sell season tickets. He had his scouts find raw athletes with little baseball experience and put them in a baseball academy — that was how the Royals developed Frank White.

And before he died, Kauffman developed a complicated succession plan that would keep the Royals in Kansas City. That was the good part. The bad part was that it was exceedingly hard to execute. Six years after he died, 1999, the Royals were still without an owner; they were being run by a trust and the money of a few local businesses. The Royals had a $32 million payroll the year before, one of the lowest in baseball. They had to cut it in half for 1999.

So, they looked at softball pitchers, and they drafted players who didn’t want too much money, and they traded away moderately high-priced players like Jeff Conine and Kevin Appier, and more than anything they dipped into their minor league system and brought up people who were absolutely not ready for the big leagues. A second baseman named Carlos Febles was rushed up from Class AA. They go very excited about a young pitcher named Orber Moreno who, suddenly and unexpectedly, was throwing 100 mph (not for long, he would blow out his arm just as the season started).

One of those people was a talented but enigmatic young man from Puerto Rico named Carlos Beltran.

Beltran had been the classic underachiever — everybody knew he had first-round talent but he was taken in the second round because nobody seemed sure if he cared enough about baseball to try. As a 19-year-old in Class A, he flashed a touch of power, a hint of speed, but he hit .249 and drove coaches and managers mad. Where was the fire? Where was the hunger? Next year, at 20, they started him in High A ball and he hit .229. They sent him down to low A and he was entirely useless.

Nobody seemed sure what to do with him. The talent was enormous. Beltran was a switch-hitter. He had this astonishing speed that was masked by his grace — he hardly seemed to be running. He had natural power. When he decided to unleash throws, his arm was fantastic. But something was always holding him back. He was painfully shy, easily embarrassed, the language barrier overwhelmed him.

The Royals decided to try him back in high Class A as a 21-year-old, and he played somewhat better. He showed a little more aggression. He really did not play well enough to earn a promotion, but the Royals gave him one anyway just to see what would happen. And, well, wow. He went to Class AA Wichita and all of a sudden he was electrifying. He hit .352/.427/.687 with 14 homers and seven stolen bases in just 47 games.

What happened? Nobody in Kansas City seemed entirely sure. They called him up to Kansas City in September to get a close up look. And it was striking: Beltran seemed at home in the big leagues. He hit three triples in 14 games, stole the first three bases he attempted, looked at home in Kansas City’s vast center field. What happened?

People argued what to do next. Some wanted to send Beltran to Class AAA and get him some more minor league experience — it was obvious he wasn’t ready for the big leagues. Others though understood that Kansas City faced a different kind of reality — the Royals had no money, no real hope, nothing to excite the fans and nobody to play center field.

“We could use a break,” Royals general manager Herk Robinson said when announcing that the team was going with Beltran. It was a telling quote. He was grasping. He had no idea if this Beltran burst was real or just a three month optical illusion. But he was not in position to question the Royals’ good fortune.

Carlos Beltran would start in center field on Opening Day. The Royals manager at the time, Tony Muser, was not crazy about it — he was sure that Beltran needed more minor league time — but understood the deal. “He’s not a star,” Muser warned everybody. He told Beltran that his only job was to play hard and play good center field. “I don’t care if you hit .200,” he told Beltran. “If you do what I’m saying, I’ll have your back.”

And Beltran? We talked underneath the old roller coaster at what we still called Baseball City, and he was uneasy and uncomfortable and I wished (as I have often wished) that I could speak fluent Spanish because it was unfair of me to ask him to express his bewildering emotions in an unfamiliar language.

But one time he did speak with some clarity. He said: “It’s exciting to be here.” And then he paused and tried to form the next sentence in his mind before speaking.

And he said: “I think the excitement makes me play better.”

* * *

Carlos Beltran won Rookie of the Year that first season. He was raw, made a lot of mistakes, but the numbers amazed. He was the first rookie to ever hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases, drive in 100 runs and score 100 runs. He’s still the only rookie ever to do that. The Royals were predictably awful, the worst Royals team in history up to that point, but they had four young guys — Beltran, Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Mike Sweeney — who seemed on the brink of superstardom.

The other three went on to immediate stardom. In 2000, the next year, Sweeney hit .333 with 29 homers and 144 RBIs. Dye hit .321 with 33 homers, won a Gold Glove and and started in the All-Star Game. Damon hit .327 and led the league in runs scored (136) and stolen bases (46). “I could run in those days, remember?” Damon said to me many years later.

And Beltran? It was all too much for him. The excitement had turned into pressure. The novelty had become tiresome. His 2000 season was a nightmare. He couldn’t hit. He looked uninterested in the field. He got hurt. When the Royals tried to send him to Florida for rehab, he refused to go. Nobody was entirely sure why — it seemed like a language clash — but it seemed that Beltran was worried that once he went to Florida the Royals wouldn’t bring him back. His confidence was crushed. The language barrier still overwhelmed him. Teammates would talk about how miserable he seemed.

“He wasn’t ready,” one Royals decision maker told me. “He was ready from a baseball perspective. But he wasn’t ready emotionally.”

A lingering image: Somebody once brought one of those toy remote control cars to the clubhouse — Beltran played with it for what seemed like hours. He just moved that car all over the clubhouse, running over discarded clothes, bumping it into teammates and sportswriters, he never took his eye off of it. He really was a kid in so many ways; you probably know that not long after that he got a pet monkey because he had dreamed that he got a pet monkey. You know that apartment Tom Hanks got in “Big,” the one with the trampoline in the living room and the Coca Cola machine that spit out cans of Coke without money? Beltran in those early days would have loved a place like that. He was a young man who, in many ways, seemed resentful of his own great talent. That talent led people to expect things from him. He didn’t like expectations. He would rather be playing.

That, I think, is when people started to wonder in Beltran even liked baseball.

All of that passed pretty quickly though. Beltran was a quietly great baseball player for Kansas City the next three years. From 2001-2004, Beltran hit 295/.365/.512 with 79 homers, 107 stolen bases, 12 caught stealing, he scored 100 runs and drove in 100 all three years. He made amazing plays in the outfield. Nobody outside of Kansas City seemed to notice — he didn’t make a single All-Star Team, did not get a Gold Glove award.

And few people inside Kansas City seemed to appreciate it. Not too long ago, I heard a freestyle skier explain his sport. He said that the job is to do ridiculously hard things and make them look incredibly easy. That’s what Beltran did. But in baseball, unlike the half-pipe, you don’t get credit for making things look easy. You get skepticism. You get mistrust. Beltran as so graceful, so smooth, so natural that people always thought he wasn’t trying hard enough. When he hit 29 home runs, people felt sure he should have hit 40. When he stole 41 bases in 45 attempts, people thought he easily could steal 60 if he was willing to take more chances. When he made absurd, preposterous, amazing catches look easy, people thought those catches WERE easy.

Once Garrett Anderson crushed a drive into the right field gap, and it was a double for sure, and the Royals pitcher that day, Brian Anderson, slapped his glove into his thigh in frustration. Beltran, impossibly, ran the ball down, caught it, then wheeled and fired to first base and and doubled off Chone Figgins, who was so sure the ball was uncatchable that he was ROUNDING THIRD BASE at the time.

“You know what blew me away,” Anderson would say. “There was no way he could catch that ball. No way. And then, he not only catches it, he catches it by his side. He doesn’t have to dive. He doesn’t have to stretch. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

To Anderson, it would be something unforgettable. But to so many people that day it was just a nice catch because that’s how Beltran made it look. He did stuff like that all the time. Once he raced back on a Mike Cameron fly ball, jumped in perfect sync as he got to the wall and stole a top-of-the-wall double or a home run, it was hard to tell which because it happened so fast. Again, it looked like a great play to the untrained eye. But to people used to watching baseball, people whose eyes grasp the geometry of baseball, the play was impossible. Utterly impossible. There was no way, based on the height of the ball, the speed of the hit and the amount of ground to be covered that Beltran could have possible caught that ball.

“I’ve been to two hog killings and a county fair,” pitcher Curt Leskanic said. “And I haven’t seen anything like what Beltran did tonight.”

But it was Beltran’s destiny to be appreciated more after he left Kansas City. His extraordinary feats were better seen in memory. Maybe that was natural. The Royals teams were mostly dreadful — they did have a surprising run in 2003 — and the best players kept getting traded to save money and everybody knew that Beltran, sooner rather than later, would be shipped off too. There was no point in getting too attached. When Beltran was in Kansas City, he was a bit like the young Springsteen — raw, exciting, moody, a genius but unrefined, and there was a cult of people who were mesmerized by him and a bunch of others who wondered what was the big deal.

At some point toward the end of his Kansas City time, I went to see Beltran in Puerto Rico. He was taking batting practice at a local high school a walk from his home. There were local kids in the outfield to shag fly balls. His Mom and Dad were in the stands to watch. This was a very different conversation from the one in Baseball City. Now Beltran was a star, and he was confident, and he comfortable speaking English, and he told me that his time in Kansas City was running out. The team was just not going in the right direction. He needed to move on and play in big games. “I don’t want to be a good player,” he said. “I want to be the best.”

It was the first time I had ever heard him talk like that. I asked him that question that had long haunted him: “Is baseball fun for you?” He was no longer that unsure kid. He looked out in the field where 16-year-old kids waited for him to hit. He explained that this was the GAME of baseball, this, hitting on a field in his hometown with his parents in the stands and the happy chatter of kids echoing through the park.

“Major League baseball,” he said. “That is business.”

* * *

He was traded to Houston in late June of 2004 and that October he had a postseason for the ages. In five games against Atlanta, he hit 455 with four homers and two stolen bases. In seven games against St. Louis he hit .417 with four homes and four stolen bases. It is the greatest sustained run of postseason play in baseball history, I believe.

The Astros were desperate to keep him after that, but Beltran had business on his mind. He signed with the New York Mets for $119 million over seven years. The first year was a struggle (though he made his first All-Star team) but the second was one of the best ever for any Mets player. He hit .275/.388/.594 with 41 homers, 18 stolen bases, a Gold Glove and 8.2 wins above replacement. Ryan Howard won the MVP award — Beltran, as a complete player, was certainly better.

He wasn’t as magical in the postseason, but he had his moments. In Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against St. Louis, his two-run homer scored the only runs of the game. In Game 4, with the Mets trailing in the series, Beltran reached base all five times he came to the plate, hit two home runs, scored four runs, did everything. In Game 6, with the Mets facing elimination, he scored a key run.

And in Game 7, he doubled in the first and scored on a single. He drew a leadoff walk to start off the eighth with the score tied 1-1 but could not score. Then, in the ninth, two outs, with the Mets down by two and the bases loaded, he came up to face a young Adam Wainwright. The place was going bonkers. Wainwright threw three pitches, the last a gorgeous curveball that mesmerized Beltran. He watched it go by for strike three.

And he became known in New York as “Swing the bat, Carlos.”

Well, this is what it is like to play in the spotlight. You play the game you take your chances. The rest of his time in New York was star-crossed and injury plagued. He made three more All-Star teams, won two more Gold Gloves, stole bases at an astonishingly high rate and banged 92 home runs. But the Mets were doomed in those years, twice collapsing down the stretch to lose division titles to Philadelphia. He was shipped to San Francisco before his contract ran out. Beltran never really won over New York. The contract was too big. The injuries happened too often. The inconsistency was too much. The moment he didn’t swing the bat was too difficult to forget.

* * *

Two years ago, Beltran signed a two-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, and everyone understood the deal. Beltran was no longer young, no longer indestructible, no longer a viable center fielder, no longer a base-stealing threat, no longer the emotional five-tool player who could do impossible things and make them look as easy as the sample question. No, they were signing him to be a presence, to hit home runs, to drive in runs, to matter in the middle of the lineup.

And that’s what he did. Last year, he banged 32 home runs, as a 35-year old. This year, he hit .296 with 24 home runs. He stole a few bases (though not with the same success rate) and his fielding in right field is OK but certainly not brilliant, he doesn’t get on base like he once did. There are no illusions that Beltran is still a great baseball player. He’s a good player. He’s a useful player.

But now he is getting the accolades. Now he is getting the admiration. He has made the All-Star Team the last two years. He has been talked, more and more, as a Hall of Fame candidate. And now, during the postseason, every time he gets a big hit people throw confetti and marvel at his October magnificence.

In truth, Beltran has been good, but not legendary, in his postseasons since 2004. That year in Houston was one-of-a-kind. Since then, Beltran has hit .290/.395/.598 in October, which is certainly outstanding, but it’s not the insane .333/.443/..725 career numbers that everyone talks about again and again.

And this offseason, when he’s being constantly compared with Ruth and Gehrig, he’s hitting .207. He had the big home run in Game 3 against Pittsburgh, and he had a fantastic Game 1 against Los Angeles which included a two-run double, a strong throw to the plate to throw out Mark Ellis and the walk-off single in the 13th. These sparked people to reflect on Beltran as one of the greatest postseason players ever.

It seems to me a “Color of Money” overcompensation. For years and years, Paul Newman was one of Hollywood’s greatest actors. And, for bizarre reasons, he could not win an Oscar. He got beat out for “The Hustler,” for “Hud,” for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” for “Cool Hand Luke,” for “The Verdict,” for “Absence of Malice.” That doesn’t even include “Butch Cassidy” or “The Sting” or, of course, “Slap Shot.”

At some point, everyone realized this was kind of ridiculous and so they gave Newman the Oscar for “The Color of Money” even though it was a pretty bad movie and Newman’s performance in it was generally uninspiring. The idea, I suppose, was to retroactively acknowledge the man’s greatness. I get that same feeling with Beltran. He will get some big hits in the postseason because he’s still a good hitter, and people will overstate the moment and call him a clutch conquerer. That’s OK, I think. He spent a lot of amazing years getting overlooked.

Beltran is 36 now, a veteran, a warhorse, and if he has a couple more good years he will make a real Hall of Fame case for himself. If he doesn’t, he will probably fall short. This is the dirty little secret of the Hall — it’s often what a player does AFTER his greatness diminished that define his career.

When watching Beltran, I often think back to my favorite Carlos moment, a rescheduled afternoon game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in September of 2003. The Royals were on the cusp of an actual pennant race — not quite in it and not quite out — and they trailed the Diamondbacks by one in a game they really needed to win. Arizona’s closer Matt Mantei was in the game. He could throw 100 mph then. With the shadows flickering in the late afternoon, it probably looked like 200 mph.

Beltran came up with one out in the ninth. It was clear — he had no chance of getting an actual hit against Mantei. Instead, he battled through a seven-pitch at-bat. He drew a walk. Then he stole second base. He stole third base. Ken Harvey — Royals fans remember him well — hit a very short fly ball that the right fielder and second baseman both could catch. It would have been been ridiculous to try and score on it. But Beltran went anyway. He figured it was the Royals only shot. He cleanly beat the throw. It was astounding.*

Of course, Beltran is not that player now. But he’s got just enough of that player in him to make you remember. And maybe that’s the point.

* * *

*The Royals eventually lost that game, of course.

39 thoughts on “Beltran

    1. Ross

      I’d like to think he’d have a pretty good shot, but judging by the BR Hall of Fame voting, it wouldn’t even be close. He needs a few more good years and he’s a legitimate candidate, though. His odds increase if guys like Larry Walker get in first.

      Reply
    2. bellweather22

      OPS of 122. 61WAR. 308 HRs. .283/.359/.854. One Top 5 for MVP. The stats and the narrative really aren’t there unless, like Joe stated, he’s got a couple of more good years left to pad the stats.

      Reply
  1. Joe Jonas

    As a Cards fan, I will never forget that 2004 Beltran. His performance in that postseason was Bondsian in that you just knew you weren’t gonna get the guy out, you just hoped you could keep him to a single/walk. I have never seen a player hit like that over a 7 game stretch (not even Pujols at his best), and I doubt I ever will again.

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    1. KHAZAD

      I have. Perhaps you took it for granted because you are a Cards fan, but it was Pujols in the same series. I will always remember that as the post season series that seemed to be just two guys going mano a mano. They were both on base 18 times in the series. They both hit 4 home runs. Carlos added 4 stolen bases without being caught. Their OPS’s were both in the 1.5+ area. There were 63 runs scored in the series, and Pujols and Beltran either scored or drove in 34 of them. It was amazing.

      Of course, as Joe mentioned, Beltran was perhaps even better in in the first series against Atlanta, so I agree with you if you take it to a 12 game stretch. I was rooting for Houston just so I could see if Beltran could continue his hot stretch in the World Series.

      Reply
  2. Bill Caffrey

    The Mets did trade him before his contract was up, but it was widely acknowledged to be the logical move. The team was in freefall and they were able to land a major prospect (Zack Wheeler) even though Beltran would only be a half-season rental for the Giants.

    It’s forgotten now because they went on to lose anyway, but on the last day of the season, with the Mets having blown the division again, a win would have guaranteed at least a tie for the wildcard. Beltran hit a game-tying 2R HR in the bottom of the 6th (the only 2 runs the Mets would score in an eventual 4-2 loss).

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  3. Chris M

    For the record, there is a subset of Mets fans who absolutely appreciate everything Carlos did for us. I am one of them. The guy is one of the 5 best Mets position players of all time, maybe even top 3, he was the best player on the best Mets teams of this century, and he was just fun to watch. He made some of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen, including one catch over the wall at Shea that is easily the best I’ve ever seen in person.

    Maybe it signals a culture shift, because the player that I always thought of when watching Beltran was Joe DiMaggio. Everyone always talks about how smooth DiMaggio was, how he made difficult plays look easy, never looked like he was exerting himself, etc. The same things were true of Beltran. Yet DiMaggio was beloved, Beltran never was. Maybe if Pedro hadn’t gotten hurt in ’06 and the 97 win Mets were able to beat the 82 win Cardinals, and then the Tigers things could have been a lot better here for Carlos.

    Plus he got us Zack Wheeler. His legacy will endure.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      You’re comparing Beltran to DiMaggio? Maybe in CF, but certainly DiMaggio is a MUCH better hitter. I’d quote the numbers, but it’s not close and I don’t think I have to. Plus, Mets fans have every right not to like Beltran. He was a .260/.270hitter much of his time there and he had a bad contract that he never lived up to. Then he was injured for a couple of years… Then it was just time for him to leave and SF took him off the Mets hands.

      Reply
      1. Chris M

        Yes, I meant defensively. Obviously wasn’t Joe D at the plate, but he was no slouch and if you’re using BA as your knock against him I assume you are old enough to have actually seen DiMaggio play, or else you’re on the wrong website.

        Beltran was worth 31.2 WAR for the Mets, which is 3rd all-time for them (behind only Wright and Strawberry), and he has less ABs as a Met than anyone else in the top 10 except John Stearns, who’s #10 and a long way behind Beltran.

        If we’re judging players by one at-bat, I guess Mariano Rivera is extremely overrated, since he blew Game 7 of a World Series, not to mention that he pretty much single handedly let the Red Sox break the curse in ’04

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      2. BKMetsFan

        Beltran lived up to his contract. He’s one of the few players to ever really live up to a $100 million+ contract (based on WAR/$ numbers). Batting average is a shitty stat. SF gave the Mets probably their best pitching project for a two-month Beltran rental, because he was having a hell of a season and they needed a big bat for their playoff push. They by no means “took him off the Mets hands,” which seems to imply the Mets were desperate to unload him. Joe DiMaggio was better than Carlos Beltran; that is the thing you said that was correct. Everything else was not.

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      1. Paul Zummo

        David Wright would have to be in there as a top three Met position player. In fact he’s pretty much moved into sole possession of first place, or at least is close.

        At any rate, I’m another Mets fan who very much appreciated Beltran, and I think by the end of his run in New York most fans had finally warmed to him.

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      2. Chris M

        Wright is #1 at this point, Piazza is #2, and then for me it’s either Beltran or Strawberry for #3. Reyes is probably next to round out the top 5, though personally I would put Alfonzo and Olerud ahead of him, but that’s probably due to my undying love for the 1999 team.

        I’m just slightly too young to remember the ’86 team (born in 1984), so I never saw Keith, but he’d probably belong ahead of Olerud too. He never had a season quite like Olerud’s ’98, but he played at a high level for the club for twice as long.

        And though he played way before my time, Cleon Jones deserves some love too – guy was the first legitimate star offensive player they had, and had a really nice 4-year run from ’68-’71 that probably doesn’t get enough recognition because it happened when offense was at it’s post deadball era nadir and all the focus was (rightly) on the pitching staff.

        What this conversation really highlights is the fact that the Mets have truly had a pretty awful history on the offensive side of the game. When a guy who only played 3 seasons for the team can legitimately be thrown into a top 5 conversation, that’s pretty bad.

        Reply
  4. KC Oracle (@KCOracle)

    I think “Swing the Bat, Carlos” has generally been overrated. Watching the Royals, he put up good numbers, but was never really a force. He had a great two playoff weeks for Houston. Then he walked away becase he wanted the bright lights of New York (he even tried to sell out the Mets with a last minute offer to the Yankees), where he is forever tainted by “THE STRIKEOUT.” It is ridiculous to argue that a guy’s post season record should catapult him into the HOF, when he has never played in the WS and who took three straight pitches to strike out when a basehit would have put his team in the WS. I hope he makes the WS this year, but my guess is that if he wants to have that moment, he needs to return to the Royals. We’ll see if he has a heart. He presumably does not need an extra few million dollars. If he does not return to the Royals, my guess is he will pay for his “this is business” self interested approach to his career wihtout ever achieving WS success. He also could decide to hustle a little bit in RF for the Cardinals.

    Reply
    1. Matt

      “Watching the Royals, he put up good numbers, but was never really a force.” From 2001-2003, he hit between 24-29 HRs, drove in 100-105, scored 102-114, and stole between 31-41 bases every single year. Even accounting for the fact it was a different offensive era, his OPS+ in those years: 123, 114, 132. In 2003, he was top 10 in MVP voting.

      Defend yourself sir.

      Reply
  5. John Sims

    Another great article, Joe! I didn’t know much about Carlos Beltran, but as you always do, you brought his career to life for me. It’s a fascinating, ironic coincidence that this young man who seems to have battled so long to become a mature person and and a mature player was the public voice condemning the immature antics of another phenom, Yasiel Puige.

    http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/mlb/story/_/id/9827666/2013-mlb-playoffs-yasiel-puig-los-angeles-dodgers-annoys-carlos-beltran-st-louis-cardinals

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      To me, they are not even close to the same type of players. Puig has a big game. Big hits, fast daring base runner, swings at everything. Also overthrows the cutoff man or air mails the base he’s throwing to. Gets thrown out trying to go for a base he has no business trying for and strikes out on a ball two feet off tHe plate. Beltran has similar talent, but his game is much more controlled. He’s a patient hitter, a high percentage base stealer and doesn’t uncork wild do or die throws. So if Beltran wants to comment on Puig, I say have at it.

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    1. forsch31

      Cardinals probably wouldn’t do a “sign-and-trade”. What they might do is keep him around for a season, reassess where they are and Beltran is, and if they need to trade him, do so in the off-season.

      The big problem is that Beltran wants to be a starter, not platooned, and probably wants a 2-to-3 year contract. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have roster crunch and Oscar Taveras in the system ready for the majors (he would have been up this year if not for a season-ending injury). Do you play Matt Adams over Allen Craig, or do you put Allen Craig in the outfield and let Taveras attempt to steal Jon Jay’s job during the season? Adding Beltran to that and giving the veteran the playing time he wants makes that calculation a hundred times more difficult. Beltran would be a great mentor for Taveras, but Taveras is really a right fielder now trying to become a centerfielder. One year for Beltran would be absolutely perfect, but it gets dicer after that.

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    1. bellweather22

      You are comparing Beltran to two guys who a lot of people don’t agree should be in the HOF, Winfield and Dawson, and a couple of guys, Abreu and Walker who aren’t getting or won’t get a lot of HOF support. When you play this hidden player game, aren’t you supposed to pick guys we know and agree should be in the HOF so that the guy you’re show casing is shown as worthy?

      Reply
      1. Ross

        That’s one way to do it, but that’s not really what spurred the idea for me. As a guy who watched Abreu’s entire career and never felt he was fully appreciated (he began his career about a decade too soon regarding the lack of appreciation for his ability to draw walks and score runs), I was looking over his accomplishments when he announced his retirement. Then when the media started pumping Beltran as a future HOF candidate I was comparing his career to Abreu’s and struck by the statistical similarities, yet the very different public opinions (Abreu was similar to Beltran in that he didn’t “look” like he was trying hard, especially at the plate).

        I agree with you that Dawson doesn’t hold up to sabermetric standards and especially on this blog would be considered an undeserving HOFer. I think it’s inaccurate to say too many people would leave Winfield out, so I’m considering him a solid HOFer, though not an elite one. Walker’s a guy many many people think should get in or at least get much more consideration. Beltran is viewed as a potential candidate while Abreu probably won’t get any support at all.

        What was interesting to me was viewing how close a lot of the stats for each of these guys was, yet how differently each is viewed through public opinion. So I guess to more concisely answer your question, I wasn’t showcasing Beltran or any one player, I just thought looking at all 5 was interesting and since Joe wrote this blog about Beltran I obviously saw the opportunity to share.

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    1. ksbeck76

      Likewise, if you have multiple job offers, it’s not sinister to take the one that pays the best. It’s always struck me as hypocritical that we criticize ballplayers for being self-interested when they are doing exactly what almost everyone else does in their professional life.

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      1. KHAZAD

        I agree with this. Oracle sounds pretty bitter about Beltran. KC traded him away. He signed a free agent deal for the most money when it came up, as 95% (and that might be an underestimation) of players do.

        Then he intimates that Carlos would only have a heart if he came back to KC. I am a Royals fan, and would love to see him end his career here (and we do have a gaping hole in RF), but Carlos doesn’t owe KC anything. It is not his home. He is not from here. He gave us 6 years of good performances and we traded him. Also, the idea that KC is somehow his path to World Series success is ridiculous.

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  6. Ron Filipowicz

    Man I loved watching him play in KC. Your descriptions of his talent and demeanor are spot on. Everything he did seemed so easy and effortless. So relaxed. I can’t remember what year…obviously to buy out a year of free agency but is it urban legend that the Royals offered 3yrs/24 million and he would have signed for 25? I can’t remember where I read that. I am holding on the irrational thought that he would actually consider re-signing w the Royals.

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    1. Karyn

      I don’t think he’s part of the Royals’ plans. He’d cost too much, and want too many years. KC can’t sign a big name guy; they have to spend wisely in free agency and hope enough guys have above-average years at the same time.

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  7. Mike

    “Beltran never really won over New York.”

    As Chris M noted above, I assure you there are plenty of Met fans who were won over. Big time. The ’06 team was one of the Mets best all-time, possibly trailing only the ’86 and ’88 versions. And Beltran was the best on a stacked team (Wright, Reyes, Delgado).

    Hell, he’s the Mets’ best all-time center fielder. Admittedly, we ain’t talking Mantle or Mays here (nor even Averill or Ashburn, though he was the best of the ’62 Mets), but when you cleanly beat Dykstra and Agee, you sure aren’t worthy of not winning over the city.

    Other than the called 3rd strike (an INSANE pitch that he’d have been insane to swing at), I think it was the ’05 season, and the first month of ’06 that hurt him. He simply wasn’t very good in ’05. His most notable play was the brutal outfield collision with Cameron. And early in ’06 he was on-and-off and if I recall, refused to take a curtain call after a home run. Delgado personally calling him out, and apparently Beltran sort of responded.

    Who knows on that part. But Delgado became a HUGE fan and sportwriter favorite, while Beltran had to continually earn respect.

    Anyhow, Beltran was a monster that year, and without him, they never reach game 7 of the NLCS.

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  8. Aaron Babcock

    Joe, you probably don’t remember this. But I said in the pressbox one day that I thought Carlos could be a HOF player one day. I remember being laughed out of the pressbox (not by you). I was always enamored with his grace and speed. Regardless of the outcome, I feel lucky to have seen him play so many games in person.

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  9. bellweather22

    I agree since the Royals won’t be getting a home town discount. I think only those in KC think of Beltran as some sort of KC legacy player. I’m sure Beltran doesn’t feel that way, even if he speaks fondly of the city. Beltran will be entering his 37 year old year. His last two years were solid, and if you could guarantee those results, any team would want him…. and I’m sure some team out there will be willing to pay well for that hope. But, how many years does he have left. Even a two year contract could start to look bad if Beltran can’t stay on the field or starts to show a significant decline. If KC was on the doorstep of a Championship, I’d say OK, maybe give it a shot. But, realistically the Royals are on the doorstep of making the playoffs, not actually winning anything.

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  10. Mike Bissell

    There’s no denying Beltran’s talent. But, as a Cardinal fan, I’d prefer not to have to watch another season of his half-hearted jogging around in the outfield, and his periods of seeming disinterest at the plate.

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  11. Gene

    My opinion on his Hall-worthiness is of no consequence, but as a Cardinal fan I’ll just say it’s been an honor and privilege to watch Beltran play every day for 2 years, even with his late-career weaknesses.

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  12. Eric

    Holy cow I remember being at the Royals game referenced at the bottom of the post. My parents took my sister and I out of school to go watch the game. I remember sitting 20 rows behind home plate and seeing Beltran tie the game with that incredible slide. I’ve probably been to 100 baseball games, but that’s one play I’ll never forget.

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  13. asa lasky

    minor thing but: How would it matter if the Royals had been one game behind the Diamondbacks in ’03? They are in different leagues!

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  14. Matt Janik

    Fellow Mets fans make me embarrassed to be a Mets fan sometimes. Arguably the best outfielder in franchise history, and we got to watch the prime of one of the greatest outfielders of the generation, and yet, one ridiculously absurd curveball somehow means he’s worthless? Don’t be ridiculous.

    It has been a damn PRIVILEGE to watch Carlos Beltran play baseball for the last decade, and if you think otherwise, I can’t respect any other opinion you have on the sport.

    Favorite impossible Beltran catch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5T_WGR0q8I

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