Friday, May 13, 2011

With David Wright and Ike Davis Out Hurt, Mets Beat Rockies 9-5, in The Carlos Beltran Show

September 22, 2007: Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran at bat in the first inning against the Florida Marlins in the Mets' 7-2 victory at Dolphin Stadium, Miami, FL.
By Nicholas Stix
Thursday, May 12, 2011, 11:01 p.m.

[Blogger is down, so this is my only way of posting.]

It was the top of the ninth inning of game one today at Coors Field, with two outs, Willy Harris on first, and the score 7-5, Mets. Carlos Beltran had hit one two-run dinger from each side of the plate. Rockies right-hander Matt Lindstrom—a former Met farmhand who became a Met-killer with Florida—had Beltran down 1-2, and threw the switch-hitting Beltran the sort of low, slow, inside slider almost in the dirt that pitchers use to strike out left-handed hitters with the predictability of the sunrise and sunset. But instead, Beltran, who is a high-ball, fastball hitter, moved up in the batter’s box, reached out and golfed the ball into the right field stands, as if it were the batting practice.

Gary Cohen:

“Carlos Beltran, with his third three-run [sic] home run of the game, puts the Mets ahead of the Rockies, 9-5. All hail Beltran!”

That was two flubs in as many sentences by the usually rock-solid Cohen. The second: Although “hail” was for millennia associated with Caesar, in recent history it has been indelibly associated with a certain itinerant, Austrian-born politician (“heil”).

As Cohen noted, Beltran is now the eighth Met to hit three homers in a game in the team’s almost 50-year history… always on the road. Beltran thus joins Jim Hickman, Claudell Washington, Dave Kingman, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, Edgardo Alfonzo and Jose Reyes. (P.S. I seem to recall that Reyes also golfed his third home run, against the Phillies, into a short porch lefthanded.)

The team’s two other power hitters, David Wright (back) and Ike Davis (ankle), were both out of the lineup hurt.

The 34-year-old Beltran is in the walk year of the $119-million, seven-year contract he signed in January, 2005, as baseball’s most coveted free agent. He missed half of each of the last two seasons with serious knee injuries, whose consequences were exacerbated by pressure he likely got from the front office to come back prematurely. Shortly before last season, Beltran got a second opinion on his own, was advised to go under the knife again just before spring training, and took a lot of flack for supposedly being selfish, since that cost him another half-season. But he was right.


New York Mets vs. Seattle Mariners. Mets Son-in-Chief Jeff Wilpon, with player Development V.P. Tony Bernazard.

Had someone not pressured him to forego a second surgery, he would have been operated on sooner, and seen more action last year than the 64 games he ultimately played in.

Conversely, had Beltran followed the advice he was getting from the team, he would almost certainly have reinjured his knee, which might well have ended his career. As it is, I think new Mets skipper Terry Collins is playing Beltran, whom he moved to right field, and has so far given only two games off, too often. And after today’s performance, you can’t sit the guy down, even though he needs it.

I have a history of criticizing Beltran, particularly for his hostility towards fans early in his Mets tenure, but he has played hard for the team for parts of seven years. Following his bust of a first season in 2005, for the next three seasons he was one of the game’s best all-around players, which included effortless-looking defense in center field that earned him three Gold Gloves. (Julio Franco must get credit for a moment of grace in April, 2006, that saved Beltran’s career in New York.)

But after 2011, Beltran will be glad to be rid of the Mets’ organization and, at this point, you can’t blame him.

The Mets’ top team doctor was the legendary orthopedist Dr. James Nicholas, who is not known for pressuring players into prematurely returning from injuries.

Conversely, the Mets were then run by Omar Minaya, the most incompetent GM in recent baseball history who, while usually loyal to a fault to Hispanics, was desperate to save his job, and thus ready to throw anyone under the bus, as he had done with his out-of-control crony, Mets VP Tony Bernazard, during the 2009 season.

Mets GM Omar Minaya at the 2009 press conference where he announced that he'd fired Tony Bernazard.

I confess to having partially softened towards Beltran, due to stories I’ve heard about his personal character. One of the team announcers told a story a year or two ago about the player’s courtship of his future wife. They had grown up knowing each other in the same Puerto Rican town, Manati, without having ever dated. They ran into each other when he was a minor leaguer, and he started calling her from the road. Every night. For hours. He was blowing his entire paycheck on long distance phone calls.

Another story comes from a Hispanic furniture salesman—unfortunately, I no longer recall whether he was Puerto Rican or Dominican, which can strongly color these things—whom I met at a since-defunct Brooklyn showroom.

The salesman had once sold furniture to Alex Rodriguez, whose then-wife let you know that she was “Mrs. A-Rod.” Another time, he sold furniture to the Beltrans, whom he recalled as polite people without any pretenses.

No comments: