The Last Time Ever I Saw His Face: My Tumultuous Relationship With Carlos Beltran

An article by posted on July 29, 2011

“Not quite as sad as when the Mets traded Seaver.  But sad nonetheless.” ~ Stuff My Dad Texts

(No, literally, my dad sent me this text Wednesday night)

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I was upset last week.

The Mets were not in town that much in the month of July, and I couldn’t make any of the games.  That’s not exactly true.  I was able to make one Saturday game and the Monday night makeup game against the Marlins.

And I was upset.  The reason being was I wasn’t able to see Carlos Beltran play in what seemed to be his last home series wearing a Mets uniform.  He didn’t play the games I went to because he had been battling a flu bug.  Plus I could not get to any of the games later in the week.

Considering I had no plans to go to Miami or Cincinnati in that time period, and I had no desire to go to Washington, D.C. (though there would be a long shot he’d not be with the team at that point), the last time I had seen Beltran in a Mets uniform was in…Texas.  Ballpark at Arlington, to be exact.

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Carlos Beltran hasn’t had an easy relationship with what I like to call the “vocal minority” of the fan base, and it certainly wasn’t easy for me when he first came to the Mets in 2005.  I immediately liked the signing, but had a hard time connecting with him.

But what really pissed me off was in 2006, he cited his lack of production as being a result of feeling “85%.”

Uh, what the huh?  Especially since it seemed like a surprise to those in charge.

I didn’t really trust him after that, especially when the “player’s managers” they had at the time would let Beltran pull rank and bench himself when he wasn’t feeling, as he called it, 100%.  I got frustrated, because I remember a time when a Met would play with a limb hanging off in order to beat another team.

Beltran seemed indicative of the new baseball player, one where he put himself above a common team goal.  We see it with Alex Rodriguez, but he wins MVP awards, so he could theoretically let it slide.

I hated him for it then, the excuses.

I understood better why he did it later on.  He wanted to play, and not take a DL stint.  That’s how badly he wanted to play.  But I have to wonder if his reluctance to do so early in his time with the Mets might have doomed him later on, especially in 2009 and 2010.

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The trip to Arlington pretty much planned itself out.  I go on as many baseball trips each year, and this was a park I was dying to visit, plus we had a huge contingent of Mets fans in that region of the country, that it seemed a foregone conclusion that we’d be going there.

It was also significant because a friend of ours – MMO’s very own Kelly Horn – is not only a Mets fan but a BIG Beltran fan, and she would get to see him play live.

So when my husband and I realized we were going to be at an event with Beltran there, we decided to send Kelly a message, via Carlos himself.

She swears, she screamed when she saw the photo.  The trip would be good friends, good times and visiting a new park.

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One item of contention we hear from people, from the “Anti-Beltran” crowd, is that he didn’t take a curtain call after a home run in 2006.  It took Grandpa Julio Franco to convince him to acknowledge that fans wanted to see him.

Up to that point, Beltran hadn’t done much to endear himself to the fans.  His first year was all right, but not the 7-year contract, $119mm worth we thought we were getting.

I actually didn’t care much about it at the time – I actually thought it was kind of funny.  Recently, in the Beltran retrospectives, we’d heard grumblings about how he didn’t connect with the fans, that the incident weighed heavily on his stature with the fans.

I know why he didn’t do it, and in fact, it gives me more respect for him.  First off, people who held a grudge over something that happened five years ago need to get a grip.  Secondly, Beltran wanted to feel the love from fans, and this was insincere.  Just the day before (and I remember, because I was there), the fans booed him – BOOED HIM!  He made a comment after this particular game that he’s our friend in bad times, and friend in good times.

Good for him for not wanting to take the curtain call.  But I’m glad he did it.

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I remember being very scared that Beltran would be traded prior to the Arlington trip, having Kelly miss her hero play.

People told me I was crazy – that the Mets would never ever trade Beltran…he was owed too much money….he wouldn’t do that well this year anyway.

I said, not so fast.  A team desperate enough to want to go for it all this year would totally “rent” him.  Plus, he’s got a no-arb clause in his contract.  He’s as good as gone.

I didn’t want to see him go, but it’s a business, sadly, and this wasn’t personal.  I just wanted him to hold on till Texas though.

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The rest of 2006 was a blur.  Beltran taking strike three to end the NLCS was a punch in the gut to most Mets fans.  I was even optimistic then.  At the beginning of the season, I had told someone “we’d be lucky to win the Wild Card.”  I had no feeling they would run away with the division, which they did.

I hated when people, especially those who watched the whole series, would blame Beltran for the last out.   In my estimation, the Mets should not have even BEEN in that position.  There was a series dynamic change in Game 2, and several opportunities to win Game 7.  The fact is, the Mets played so as not to lose, not “to win.”  That was the difference there.  That was far from just Beltran’s fault.  I mean, would it have been better to swing and miss?  Would we feel better?

By 2008, we all know how the story goes for the Mets.  Yet, I saw something the last day of 2008 that I hadn’t seen before.

Beltran cared.

He hit a home run.  He looked legitimately pissed off when the Mets lost that game.  This was not the “New Mets” he signed up for, but rather the Same Ol’ Mets we were used to seeing.

It was something that made me Team Beltran.  I even predicted he would be the NL MVP in 2009.

Until his knees, once again, failed him, and he missed a majority of the season.

I missed Beltran so much (even more so than Reyes, also out that season) that when he was rehabbing in Brooklyn with the Cyclones, I went down to see him.  I felt like I was visiting an old friend.

I thought about redemption in 2010.  Didn’t happen.  Also hurt, opted for surgery, made to look like the bad guy because of it.  I was excited to see him again on the road in his return, at AT&T Park in San Francisco.  Ironic, huh, that he will be playing there for at least the rest of 2011.

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Kelly told us to enjoy ourselves, but after careful deliberation she would not be able to make it to Dallas to see her hero, Carlos.

So we went with the rest of our summer family and had fun.  I spent most of the time trying to locate shade and water (it was freaking hot there), and the parts of the game I did see, especially the Saturday game when the Mets were scoring lots of runs, were entertaining.

I think I might have thought about Beltran being traded a few times, but it didn’t occur to me this would be the last time I’d see him live in a Mets uniform at all.  I guess I hadn’t thought that far into the future.  Otherwise, like the majority of his time here, I’d have appreciated those last games in Texas more.

Here I was so concerned that he’d be traded before that series, it didn’t occur to me that it would definitely happen a month after that series.

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I even entertained the idea, had the stars aligned correctly, to drive down to DC if he was still with the team after the Reds series.  I knew it might have been a long shot, but it could be done.  And I’d get to say goodbye, not realizing that with his no-trade clause, the deal had to take place more than one day prior to the trade deadline.

Rats.

I wasn’t nearly as big of a Carlos Beltran fan as my friend Kelly is/was, but I got to see him live and didn’t appreciate him until it was almost too late.  People like her, and my husband and other fans probably recognized how special and good he was much earlier than I did.  For me, it wasn’t too little too late, but I wish I hadn’t spent so much time vilifying him for stuff that wasn’t entirely his fault.

In the meantime, I wish Carlos Beltran the best of luck with his future and potentially in the postseason this year.  However, with every end, comes a new beginning. My dad was right when he said it was sad, but it’s also a time of great hope.  When Beltran signed with the Mets in 2005, it was the “New Mets.”  That never came to fruition, unfortunately.  With Zack Wheeler and potential for the future, this could signify a new New Mets.  Beltran’s entrance capped the lousy years and departure leaves us with the future.

Last year, I warned the naysayers they’ll miss him when he’s gone.  With the Mets looking like they had before he left, it may not be right away exactly.  But it will be something Mets fans won’t appreciate till they see it with 20/20 hindsight.

While visiting Texas was one of the most fun Mets trips I have ever been on, I’ll remember it as the last time I saw Carlos Beltran play in a Mets uniform where I was in attendance.  I hope San Francisco realizes they not only have a great city, but they have a great Met too.

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