Only in the game of baseball can the cruelty of a perfect pitch thrown at the perfect time over shadow a very productive thirteen year career that includes over 1,600 games played and over 6,000 at bats. It doesn’t seem right does it?
So who’s to blame?
Quite simply put, we are. At least the more pessimistic variety of Mets fans that is. Maybe it is the fact that I live over 700 miles away from the Big Apple. It provides me a unique perspective on all matters Amazin’… I have never been able to understand why our fans are turning Carlos Beltran into our very own version of Bill Buckner.
Yup. That Bill Buckner. The player that in many baseball fans eyes, sadly tragic as it is, gave the New York Mets the 1986 title. He made a single mistake at the worst possible time in a career that lasted 22 seasons, 2,517 games, and over 9,000 at bats. By the way, he has a lifetime average of .289.
Stop. Just stop the silliness. Regardless of how Beltran performs this year, let’s try to regain perspective before it is too late. This man does not deserve Buckner’s fate.
“Beltran deserves it!” you say? Let me guess, you believe this because he doesn’t play hard, is selfish, and flat out doesn’t care. I always like to ask the fans that believe this nonsense how they came to this conclusion. Typically, they resort to “evidence” that would lead you to believe they have an all access pass to the Mets clubhouse.
When they see him on TV, he is quiet and unassuming. This, of course, is proof he doesn’t care. He opted to have surgery on his knee in the 2010 offseason without the consent of the Mets front office (depending on who you ask). Proof he is selfish. He slides feet first into second base and runs in a way that appears almost effortless because he is a natural athlete. Proof he doesn’t play hard.
You don’t have access to the dugout or the clubhouse so you are basing your opinion on thirty second sound bites, ten second highlights, and what you hear from loud mouth radio hosts whose sole goal is to create controversy to boost ratings.
You might be able to convince me if you can find one single teammate that will support your claims. I have yet to read anything close to a negative statement from current or former teammates and coaches that question his effort on the field.
As a matter of fact, Beltran was on his way to joining the large club of Met players that were good, not great. Most players would be very happy with that type of career. You know the kind of guys I’m talking about, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Edgardo Alfonzo, John Olerud, Robin Ventura etc. etc.
Had his knee not deteriorated in 2009, he may have been on his way to becoming one of the Amazin’s best players. He put together three consecutive seasons that many that have worn the orange and blue only dreamed of.
It took some time for him to warm up as a Met, but in 2006 he gave us the best season of his entire career. That season included 38 doubles, 41 home runs, 127 runs scored, an all star appearance, a gold glove, and a silver slugger award.
Leading up to the nastiest curveball ever thrown in the post season, he was having a Carlos Beltranesque series. He hit .278, belted three home runs, and knocked in four runs. It’s not Reggie Jackson, but those numbers fall right in line with what he was providing for the Amazin’s all season. One could argue that there would not be a game seven if he didn’t come up with a home run that was responsible for the only two runs scored in the first game of the series.
The curveball changed everything. The negative rants started to fly. Detractors began saying, “Had he swung his bat, the Mets would most surely have been in the World Series.”
After the curveball, many fans ignored the fact that Beltran followed up 2006 with two more stellar seasons:
2007: .276 batting average, 33 home runs, 112 rbi’s, and his second gold glove
2008: .284 batting average, 27 home runs, 112 rbi’s, and his third gold glove
But the Mets choked in those seasons, right? Not because of Beltran, friends. He hit .310 with 14 home runs in 203 bats during those combined Septembers.
The way in which we have treated Carlos Beltran is shameful. The guy has given everything he could on the field. Proof? How about coming back from one of the worst outfield collisions in franchise history? More proof? I wonder how many games he has played on the degenerative knee before giving in to surgery and other treatment.
Were the results worth the contract he signed? Probably not. However, I can’t fault his effort. Nor can I blame him for signing the contract. There isn’t a single player that has laced up a pair of spikes that would have turned that deal down. When it comes down to it, that is all you can ask from an athlete is to give it their best. Especially in a game in which every player fails far more times than they succeed.
We all had high expectations of him when he signed. It is fair to say he did not live up to these lofty expectations. However, it is not fair to question his toughness and or his effort. Prove to me he somehow caused the degenerative condition in his knee and then I’ll change my mind about whether or not I believe he has given the Mets everything he could.
In the meantime, show the man a little respect, applaud when he gets up to the plate and try to enjoy his last season as a Met. Unfortunately, we are looking at his very last one as there are no realistic scenarios in which he returns. At least not one that I can think of.
Stop using him as an excuse for all that was wrong with the Mets in the highly disappointing 2007-2010 seasons. Maybe we can stop him from becoming our Buckner.