Esposito: Beltran Back in Flushing to Manage Mets

You knew it was a big deal press conference when the Mets hosted the media to announce that Carlos Beltran had been tabbed as the club’s 22nd manager in the spacious Foxwoods Club Plaza on the Excelsior Level (5th Floor). Flanks of cameras, photographers, reporters, and many, many employees flooded the plaza to welcome No. 15 back into the ranks as the team’s new field general.

When Mickey Callaway was hired to do the same two years ago, his press conference was held in the much smaller press conference downstairs near the clubhouse, the room where you see all of the pre and post game media sessions seen on SNY and other TV outlets.

Of course, Beltran, accompanied by his wife, Jessica, and his three children, Ivana, Chiara, and Ivan Carlos, was delighted with the new challenge – after he got the go-ahead from the wife.

“I’m overwhelmed by the opportunity,” Beltran said at the presser, “and at the same time excited to again establish relationships with this city (and) embrace the game of baseball.

“My wife, Jessica, has been very supportive, and I had to first be sure she was willing to do this again.”

Mets COO Jeff Wilpon welcomed Beltran back to the organization in a press release, but did not speak at the presser.

“We’re thrilled, as we know our passionate fans will be, to have Carlos Beltran back in the family,” Wilpon delivered. “Thanks to Brodie and his entire baseball operations for their expansive, diverse, and collaborative managerial search process.”

Beltran signed a three-year contract (terms not disclosed) with a club option fourth year.

The search process was indeed, extensive, and the Mets kept their choices close to the vest. But it became well known they had several interviews with multiple candidates, including former Mets infielder Tim Bogar, baseball broadcaster/analyst Eduardo Perez (son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez), and the “people’s choice,” former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who signed up with NL East rival Philadelphia, so won’t that be an interesting 19-game to-and-fro next season. The rookie versus the veteran, and we’ll see who succeeds in those matchups.

Twins coach Derek Shelton, Mets coach Luis Rojas (son of Felipe Alou), Brewers coach Pat Murphy, Padres coach Skip Schumaker, and Diamondbacks executive Mike Bell also were considered.

There was a rumor floating that a “bombshell” candidate was considered, but that was never revealed, someone that might have generated big type headlines. It’s unconfirmed, but there are some who believe that bombshell was Houston Astros manager A. J. Hinch, a close friend to Van Wagenen, but it is thought the Astros refused to give the Mets permission to speak to him about the job, which is their right.

You would have thought BVW might have interviewed former Met Edgardo Alfonzo for the gig, who just managed the Brooklyn Cyclones to an Eastern League Championship. But not only didn’t Fonzie get the interview, he was relieved of his duties as a minor league skipper and dropped back into “ambassador” status, one who makes personal appearances and signs autographs.

“Our decision not to bring Edgardo back was a player development decision,” said Van Wagenen. “Edgardo’s been a good soldier for the organization, and he will continue to be so going forward.”

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen was asked why he chose an inexperienced manager over an experienced skipper to helm the Metropolitans, but he dodged that salvo by indicating that experience wasn’t a criteria.

“The feedback on Carlos was universally positive,” said Van Wagenen. “We talked to former teammates, We talked to former coaches, former executives. Carlos didn’t want a job. He wanted this job.”

BVW was equally impressed with Beltran’s “authenticity and sincerity.”

“He’s authentic with his communication,” BVW offered. “And he’s going to bring that authenticity to the clubhouse on a daily basis. And at the end of the day, Carlos is going to do what it takes to win. He’s going to find creative ways to get better and creative ways to attack his opponents.”

Beltran, 42 (and who will turn 43 next April), is ready to bring his 20 years of major league experience to the dugout.

“I know what players like and what players don’t like,” Beltran professed. “I want to create a culture that is positive. And fun. At the end of the day, it should be fun.”

And just like about every manager in the game today, Beltran embraces the extent of analytics, choosing to label it, “information,” and is committed to utilizing that “information.”

“Analytics to me is nothing other than having all this information to make a good decision. So it’s important to this game. If it’s there, and it’s going to help you, why not? And you have to get to know your players. Some players don’t like a lot of information. And some players like a lot of information. So you have to be able to balance that out. You have to let the players know that this information is going to benefit their careers.”

Beltran admitted that he has already received some 260 texts from his friends in baseball, former teammates, coaches, and managers, and he answered them all. Included in that grouping was from one who might soon be named as his bench coach, former Mets skipper Terry Collins.

“Terry Collins will be one of my mentors,” Beltran beamed, and stated he counts Collins as one of his former managers he will use as a blueprint for calling the shots. “I love Terry Collins. Terry Collins reached out to me (and) if I need help in any way I can reach out to him. I don’t know if he wants to get back in the game or not (Collins remains a Mets “Special Assistant to the General Manager” at this moment), but the fact that he reached out to me and offered help I will take whatever he can (provide). My relationship with Terry Collins is A-Plus.”

No coaches have been announced by this writing, although a few decisions may be made public relatively soon.

Beltran understands that the inevitable criticisms of his managerial decisions, especially those resulting in losses will be heavily scrutinized.

After all, now every W and L gets attached to his record.

“As a player, you deal with (criticisms) all the time. (And) a lot of that as a manager. There’s a lot of second guess. It’s part of the game. I understand that. I will make sure when I make decisions I’m confident 100% in my decision, understanding that a lot of times it might not be a good outcome. In baseball, you get the good with the bad.”

Beltran also admitted he only wanted the Mets job because he lives in the New York area, had been here before, and had close friends in former GMs Omar Minaya (Mets GM 2004-10) and Allan Baird (from his days in Kansas City) at hand to make him feel comfortable.

Beltran, as noted, will again wear No. 15 as Mets skipper. He wore 15 in stints with the Royals, Astros, and Giants as well. With the Yankees, Cardinals, Rangers, and his rookie year with the Royals, he wore 36 for those who keep track of such trivia.

A native of Manati, Puerto Rico, Beltran becomes the first Latino manager in Mets history, and the ninth former Mets player to later manage the club, following: Gil Hodges (1968-71), Yogi Berra (1972-75), Roy McMillan (1975), Joe Torre (1977-81), Bud Harrelson (1990-91), Mike Cubbage (a seven-game interim stint at the end of the 1991 season), Dallas Green (1993-96), Bobby Valentine (1996-2002), and Willie Randolph (2005-08).

Beltran’s 20-year career (1998-2017) took him from Kansas City, to Houston (where he enjoyed a memorable playoff run at the plate), to a seven-year $119-million dollar contract with the Mets from 2005-11, to the Giants (where he was traded for Zack Wheeler, thank you, Sandy Alderson), to the Cardinals, to the Yankees, to the Rangers, and back to Houston.

He’s had a lot of teammates, as you can imagine, but along the way, Beltran has amassed a slash line of .279/.350/.486 in 2,586 games, with 2,725 hits, 565 doubles, 435 home runs, 1,587 RBIs, and 312 stolen bases.

Beltran is just the fifth player in major league history to hit 400 home runs and nab 300 stolen bases.

The former outfielder was a nine-time All-Star (five times as a Met), the Rookie of the Year in 1999, a three-time Gold Glove winner, a twice-named Silver Slugger, and a Top Ten MVP candidate twice.

Some might say he’s even a valid Hall of Fame candidate, although we’re about three years from seeing how he measures up with the BBWAA voters.

His Mets career was memorable, although it ended with a frustrating bat-on-the-shoulder strikeout against a wicked curve by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainright to end the ‘06 NLCS.

Until Pete Alonso came along, Beltran co-held the team’s season home run record with 41 in ‘06 (shared with Todd Hundley), and is still in the Top ten of multiple offensive categories for the club, sixth in home runs (149), runs batted in (559), extra-base hits (374), slugging percentage (.500), and on-base percentage (.369). yes, coincidentally sixth in all those categories. And he’s eighth in runs (551), seventh in doubles (208), seventh in sacrifice flies (38), ninth in walks (449), fifth in OPS (.869), and tenth in total bases (1,567).

Beltran infamously was injured in a horrific collision with teammate Mike Cameron when the Mets were in San Diego in 2005. From the hospital, Beltran was quoted as being, “happy I’m alive.”

Of course, press conferences of this sort are filled with rhetoric. it’s part of the process, and hey, at this moment, the Mets and everybody else in baseball are back at 0-0 and ready to play.

For the Mets to be successful in 2020, the Van Man is going to have to avoid some of his mistakes made in his first year as rookie GM (see Familia, Diaz). That includes what to do about Wheeler (Brodie admitted he will be extending a qualifying offer), and what to do about his lousy bullpen.

Some Mets fans, perhaps many, still do not forgive Beltran for that LCS strikeout, but a new trip to the Fall Classic signing the lineup cards can do a lot to erase that memory. Time will tell.

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