Carlos Beltran has never been many things. He’s never been the most popular player on the Mets. He’s never been a media darling. He’s never been the vocal rah-rah type of leader some teams have. He’s never had to be any of these people because for years, Beltran has let his play on the field do the talking for him. Yet he still has his critics.
There are some fans who will never forgive him for keeping the bat on his shoulders against Adam Wainwright. Others have difficulties with Beltran for getting injured and playing when he’s only been 85% healthy. Some fans blame him for anything they can think of, hiding behind the hash tags of #BlameBeltran on Twitter (even though the hash tag was originally created to be ironic).
The Wilpons’ financial problems? #BlameBeltran. Angel Pagan’s poor start before getting injured? #BlameBeltran. Chicken nacho stand at Citi Field out of nachos? #BlameBeltran.
It has almost gotten to the point that Beltran has become the scapegoat for any little negative blip on the Mets’ radar. Yet through all this, the Mets’ rightfielder has continued to give his best effort on the field, not allowing the negativity surrounding the team and their fans affect his production.
The latest example of this came last night in Colorado. With a lineup featuring Willie Harris as the No. 2 hitter, slumping Jason Bay batting cleanup, and Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner hitting fifth and sixth, respectively, the Mets appeared to lack punch. So what did Carlos Beltran do about it? He blasted three home runs off three different pitchers, with one coming from the left side of the plate, one from the right side and one from the mole side.
Beltran now has 20 extra-base hits on the season. His 12 doubles lead the league (tied with Jose Reyes, among others) and his eight home runs are one more than he hit last year after he returned from the disabled list at the All-Star Break. He has done this despite the fact that he missed most of spring training (playing in only three Grapefruit League games) and had to adjust to a new defensive position on the field.
Carlos Beltran is playing for a new contract in 2012. The last time he was playing for baseball security was in 2004 when he split his season between the Kansas City Royals and the Houston Astros. That year, he finished the regular season with 38 HR and 42 SB and then put up the type of dominant numbers in the post-season that are usually reserved for the 14-year-old mustachioed kid on a pre-teen Little League team.
Some might say that Beltran’s quick start for the Mets in 2011 is because of the walk year factor. If that’s the case, then what was his motivation for the 2006 to 2008 seasons, which rank among the best three-year stretches of any player in franchise history? In 2009, Beltran was hurt for most of the season, but still managed to play 81 games (exactly half the season). Even with his extended stay at the DL Hotel, he still reached double figures in home runs and stolen bases, while hitting a career-high .325, scoring 50 runs and driving in 48. In other words, he was on pace for a typical Carlos Beltran season.
Last year, he was hurt again and might have returned too quickly from his injury. However, he turned his game up a notch in September, hitting five of his seven home runs in the final month of the season and raising his batting average from the Mendoza Line to .255 at season’s end.
So yes, playing for a new contract has brought out the best in Carlos Beltran (as it would for any major leaguer), but so has good health. He didn’t have that in each of the past two seasons. Mets fans are now being treated to a healthy Carlos Beltran for the first time in three years.
There will always be people out there who will never like Beltran even if he saved their one-of-a-kind John Cena action figure from a house fire. I feel bad for those people. Instead of bad-mouthing a player who has been through all the ups and downs of the past seven seasons, giving his best on the field whenever he’s been healthy enough to play on it, they should be enjoying watching him play during his renaissance season.
More than likely, this will be Beltran’s final season (or half-season if he’s traded) with the Mets. Over the years, he has been one of the most complete players to ever put on the orange and blue, but at the same time, he has also been one of the most underappreciated players. It’s time to give Carlos Beltran the appreciation he deserves. Let’s stop trying to find new ways to #BlameBeltran and enjoy our rightfielder while he’s still here. You never know. It may be some time before a player of his caliber graces our outfield again.