In less than ten hours, former Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran will make his first return to Citi Field since being traded to the Giants for Zack Wheeler almost eleven months ago.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Today, asked and answered the cosmic question that Mets fans will always be haunted by whenever they think of Carlos Beltran: What if Beltran had hit that Wainwright curve?
But had he hit it … had he gotten a ninth hit in that NLCS …well then … His swing to win the pennant would have joined the ranks of Ron Swoboda’s catch and Mookie Wilson’s run.
There’s no doubt that if Beltran had swung and made contact with that curve, his place in New York baseball immortality would have been etched in stone. That singular moment would have been one for the ages and would have defined his career.
But the fact that it didn’t turn out that way was by no means a blemish on what was a tremendous MVP campaign in 2006, an incredible post-season as well, and an overall memorable and solid career as a Met. Had he been healthy for all seven years of that deal he signed in the winter of 2004, many of the team’s long-held franchise records would have come crashing down and even with many games missed due to those bum knees, many of those Mets records still were eclipsed by No. 15.
Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger wrote a poignant article this morning that takes took a look at the evolution of how Beltran came to be an ex-Met and the multi-faceted points of views from all the parties involved including Beltran, John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi, Scott Boras, Zack Wheeler, Brian Sabean and of course Sandy Alderson. It was a very well written essay on how it all went down. My favorite part of it was this excerpt:
Later that evening, about an hour before first pitch at Great American Ball Park, Beltran slipped into the visitors’ clubhouse to say his goodbyes. On his way out, headed to meet his new teammates on the road in Philadelphia, he bumped into John Ricco.
Ricco considered himself one of the last links to Minaya’s front office, the group that Beltran coined the “New Mets.” In the subsequent years, those lofty heights appeared close enough to touch, yet still out of the franchise’s reach. That day, Ricco thanked Beltran for all he gave in his time as a Met.
“There was a lot that happened over the years,” Ricco said. “And we went through a lot of highs and lows.” He added, “A guy comes in, signs as a free agent, gives us six-and-a-half years of his prime. That’s part of a trade that sometimes gets lost, that there is a human element. And I wanted to thank him for that.”
How often do we forget that “human element” whenever we watch a game? We get so caught up in the drama that we sometimes lose touch with the fact these are people with the same feelings and emotions as you and I.
There were some tough times for Beltran while he was here gracing us with his magnificence as a player and his irrefutable class as a human being. The relationship between Beltran and management was never quite what it should have been and oftentimes it appeared as if they went out of their way to make things more tumultuous for Beltran than they had to be.
And while his relationship with the fans was rocky at times too, you wouldn’t have known it by the many charitable things he did for this city while he was here. He never once uttered a single bad word against the fans and the city during his final years, despite some of the venom he had to see, hear and read through the various media outlets. He always maintained the highest level of class, integrity and dignity throughout all the many highs and lows of his tenure with the Mets.
It’s not often that the Mets have been blessed with the magnitude of a player as great as Beltran was. And it may be a long time before another free agent as preeminent as him will ever come along again.
I won’t be at the game tonight, but if I were able to go, you could certainly bet that I would be among the many appreciative Mets fans that will standing and applauding Beltran for all that he gave to this team and for putting the New York Mets back on the map after those dark Art Howe years in 2003 and 2004.
He will forever be known as the greatest center fielder the Mets have ever had, and one of the most complete players that ever donned a Mets uniform.
Thanks for the memories, Carlos.