After six years in a Mets uniform as an accepted but not beloved member of the team, in one move Carlos Beltran has been absolved for his baseball-related sins.
At least that’s the over-the-top reaction to his “unselfish” decision to concede to age and injury and volunteer to move to right field.
But is this worthy of the laudatory love-fest that’s suddenly accompanying the mere mention of Carlos Beltran‘s name?
Beltran isn’t stupid. Regardless of whether or not he feels he can play center field anymore, he knows that this is a contract year and he has to play to get paid; if he thinks that playing right field will better serve that end, then he’ll play right field.
Is he being a team player? Only within the parameters of rational self-interest and there’s nothing wrong with that, but to treat it as a supreme self-sacrifice is going to the other end of the spectrum from those who blame Beltran for the way the Mets collapsed after his return last season and as far back as the strikeout against Adam Wainwright to end the 2006 NLCS.
I’ve said continuously that Beltran was not at fault for the strikeout; Wainwright threw a pitch that was literally unhittable; those that criticize Beltran for not swinging are missing the fact that even had he swung, he wouldn’t have hit it. He was frozen by a perfect pitch.
The true underlying issues Mets fans have always had with Beltran—and the reason they never embraced him as they embraced Pedro Martinez—was that Beltran joined the Mets for one reason and one reason only: money.
It didn’t help his cause that he offered his services to the Yankees for fewer years and less money than he got from the Mets.
Such an act was understandably reviled by Mets fans who are living under the onus of being number two in New York and have to hear about it constantly.
With Beltran, there’s no fan-player connection because he didn’t put up the pretense of wanting to be a Met. It’s strictly business on both sides. The relationship is one of, “if you produce, we’ll cheer for you” but there’s no emotional bond and it stems from that one act from agent Scott Boras to make Beltran a Yankee.
Now he’s getting congratulations for moving to right field.
It’s not as if he parted the Red Sea; he did what he needed to do for himself above all.
The Mets are straddling the line right now of trying to win by putting the best product on that field toward that end and doing what’s best for the club after 2011.
Is the 2011 team better with Angel Pagan in center and Beltran in right? Probably.
Would they be better off in the long run if Beltran shows he can at least play a competent center field and stay healthy? Yes, because playing center field will increase his trade value at mid-season if the Mets season spirals and they fall from contention.
I’m not convinced that Beltran, with his knee still shaky and the problem patched and not repaired, will be the “Carlos Beltran” he was before. He’s a shadow of himself whether he’s in center or right and no sudden appreciation for him as a player or person is going to bring back the MVP candidate he once was.
To imply that he did the team a favor by agreeing to make the move is as absurd as the negativity that surrounded him for his failures as a Met.