Beltran’s Got It Backward

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“Actually, I’m not thinking about the fans, I’m thinking about myself.”

The first line from this New York Daily News article about Carlos Beltran is telling in its inadvertent accuracy.

He may not realize it, but Beltran was always thinking about himself and the fans knew it.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that…until he twists it to lambaste those same fans for not worshipping him.

Beltran doesn’t seem to understand the fan mindset and it’s causing him to take personally what was the negative part of a purely business relationship between him and the fans.

The more thoughtful Mets fan that doesn’t think with his emotions and understands that Adam Wainwright ended the 2006 NLCS by throwing a great pitch that Beltran, even had he swung, wasn’t going to hit. They’re not the ones who are holding a grudge against Beltran for one moment. The business arrangement between player and fan wound up in the simplest of terms: cheer when he does good; boo when he does bad.

It’s not personal and was never more than that.

Not every player is going to be adored by the fanbase, but when he begins his tenure by having offered his services to the bitter rivals across town for less money and fewer years, it’s not going to be taken well when he puts forth the pretense of having been forced to join a team he didn’t really want to join; a team that was, at best, his third choice.

When Beltran was a free agent, he wanted to stay with the Astros. The Mets offered more money—what he and then-agent Scott Boras wanted—but Boras, in a conciliatory gesture to the desires of his client, went to the Yankees and offered his player to them for a better deal.

Think about this from the perspective of a Mets fan. It was as if he was doing the Mets a favor in an “oh, alright I’ll sign with you” manner.

It works both ways. He didn’t really want to be a Met and it was known. It might have been more palatable if he’d gone to the Yankees and told them, “this is the highest offer and if you match it, I’ll sign with you”. That’s what he did with the Cardinals contract this winter and the Yankees, just as they did in 2005, turned him down.

In 2004, he offered himself to the Yankees for less money. The Mets fans would never ever forgive nor forget.

The Mets didn’t engender the “why me?” lament from Beltran that’s still evident in his latest statements on the matter. He never seemed to understand why he was booed every time the Mets went into Houston to play the Astros.

Did he really not get it?

Did his enabled life of being allowed to essentially do what he wanted because of his prodigious on-field talent lead to such a hardheaded inability to comprehend that the Astros felt jilted by his decision to chase every last penny and leave the place he didn’t want to leave? That the Mets fans felt slighted by his pursuit of the Yankees?

From that point on, there was never going to be a warm and fuzzy relationship between Beltran and the Mets fans.

No amount of fan-player love was going to remove the sullen look on Beltran’s face that bordered on suicidal. He forever appeared as if he’d just lost his luggage. His terrific play would never spur the fans to love him because it circled back to the initial emotion of the reality, “you wanted to go to the Yankees rather than join us”.

One positive from the entire episode is that perhaps a team like the Mets has to take the stand that if a player doesn’t want to be a Met, then they shouldn’t go all out to bring him in. In 2007-2008 the Rays began to turn around their fortunes, in part, because they got rid of players who didn’t want to be there and acted like it.

Beltran wasn’t doing the Mets a favor by taking their money, but that’s the perception that’s floating around and it stems from the actions of Beltran and his then-agent.

He was a good-to-great player for the Mets. They came close and didn’t make it over the final hump. There’s no guarantee he would’ve had a better time playing for the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros or anyone else. He chose to come to the Mets. He chose to offer himself to the Yankees. Now he needs to choose to get past whatever bitterness he feels that the fans didn’t embrace him. It was his own fault and it wasn’t due to the Wainwright curveball that will forever be etched in the memory of fans who see that one pitch as the microcosm of the Omar Minaya-built teams that just…barely….missed.

If anyone needs to get over it, it’s Beltran. The fans have moved on already. That’s what happens when there’s no emotional investment. It’s only partially due to him; it’s mostly the overt failure of that entire group that culminated in the collapse of 2007 and the subsequent firings, housecleanings and financial collapse.

The fans are not upset with Beltran.

They don’t care about him.

And that’s because he didn’t care about them either.