Carlos Beltran will have an eventual date up in Cooperstown when the Baseball Hall of Fame calls. Seven different teams and 20 years of a career leaves no doubt about the nine-time All-Star who hit 435 career home runs and got a World Series ring with the Houston Astros.
But there is one stigma that will always be remembered during his seven years in New York with the Mets and that was not a Hall of Fame moment: October 19, 2006, bottom of the ninth with two outs and bases loaded in Game 7 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium and the Mets trailing by two.
Adam Wainwright throws the curve and Beltran did not swing on strike three.
That was not a defining moment in New York Mets history and certainly not memorable for Carlos Beltran, and for Mets fans a moment they never forget. But Beltran never ducked a question, moved on, and gave the Mets some great years.
He was that pivotal player in a lineup that got the Mets one game away from meeting the Tigers in the World Series. That strikeout was the last playoff moment at Shea Stadium and years later Carlos Beltran had heard from the fans and not all good.
“They are loyal fans,” Beltran said about Mets fans. “It is a part of baseball,” he would say about that Wainwright pitch.
In all due respect, Carlos Beltran should not be remembered for that one pitch that still stings and does not qualify for a good highlight reel. He announced his retirement from the game of baseball Monday and said on the Players’ Tribune, “I am blessed to be a champion. But now my time as a player has come to an end.”
And there was more about Carlos Beltran than the player. He was always first in line to meet the media during the good and bad in the clubhouse with a thrill of victory or agony of defeat. That final game of the NLCS and it was Beltran who didn’t put his head down and faced the music.
Those young and athletic World Champion Houston Astros will tell you that Carlos Beltran was their leader as a veteran in the clubhouse.
The Hall of Fame is built on statistics and Beltran has the numbers. However, a ballplayer does not get that enshrinement for their efforts off the field. Beltran said, “To have been able to build a school in Puerto Rico and change the lives of so many kids…to have won the Roberto Clemente Award which is the greatest honor I could have ever received as a ballplayer.”
That in itself and even with all the numbers on the field, describes why Carlos Beltran left an impact. He reached people of all diversities and his knowledge of the game could lead to other aspirations as a coach or in a managerial role.
There was a report, and shortly after his official announcement of retirement, that Yankees GM Brian Cashman would not eliminate Carlos Beltran from the field of candidates to success Joe Girardi in the dugout. There has always been that mutual respect that developed more when Beltran played on the other side of town for three years before heading to Texas and Houston.
Beltran is a numbers type of player and in this new generation of the way baseball is being played, he could be the type of manager that fits into the Brian Cashman way of thinking.
That question as to who will guide the Yankees in the next few years will be resolved soon. The prevailing opinion is, Carlos Beltran has left a legacy on the game of baseball for who he was. A good teammate, a manageable player, and of course a clubhouse leader.
New York was blessed to have Carlos Beltran for a decade on both sides of town. Hall of Fame is a matter of time and that pitch from Wainwright should not define his legacy.
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