Friday, November 17, 2017

Muchas Gracias, Carlos Beltran

"I am blessed to have played this game for 20 years.  I am blessed to have played for so many great organizations. I am blessed to have shared all of my experiences with my wife and my three kids, my family and friends. To have so many loving fans. 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. And I am blessed to be a champion. But now, my time as a player has come to an end. Today, I am officially announcing my retirement. Muchas gracias, béisbol."  -- Carlos Beltran on his retirement from baseball
Carlos Beltran announced his retirement this week.  If not for suffering though some injury-plagued seasons in his prime, Carlos would be a lock for entry into the Hall of Fame.  A nine-time All-Star, he finished with over 2700 hits, over 400 homeruns and over 1500 RBIs -- numbers that do not automatically put him over the top.  But when healthy, Carlos Beltran was one of the best players in the game -- he could hit, hit with power, steal bases and cover centerfield as well and as gracefully as anyone.  Based on advance metrics, he is just below the pantheon of the greatest centerfielders of all time (e.g., Mays, Cobb, Mantle, Griffey, DiMaggio) but is in the top ten.  His similarity score puts him closest to two Hall of Famers, Andre Dawson and Dave Winfield.

Beltran played six-plus years with the Mets, and also played for the Royals, Astros (twice), Giants (briefly), Yankees, Cardinals, and Rangers.

I wrote the following in July 2011, after Carlos was traded from the Mets to the Giants:

"What we’ve seen from Beltran is ours to keep forever, no matter what team he’s playing for tomorrow. Carlos Beltran playing baseball at the peak of his ability is a beautiful sight to behold, and we got to watch it hundreds of times."  Ted Berg
There are some Met fans who have never forgiven Carlos Beltran for taking a called strike three with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh and final game of the 2006 playoffs.  It was a brutal end to a great season and the Mets have suffered nothing but heartbreak and frustration since.  But the Mets would not have come close to making the playoffs that year without the incredible season Carlos had.  He was an All Star, played a brilliant centerfield, earning him the first of three consecutive Gold Glove awards, and put up huge offensive numbers, especially for a Met (41 home runs, 127 runs scored, 116 RBIs).

I recently wrote about great players who came to the Mets with high expectation only to flounder.  Carlos was not one of them.  The Mets signed him after his monstrous 2004 post-season with the Astros to a 7-year contract that at the time was the biggest in franchise history.  In his first year, he suffered from injuries, including those stemming from an outfield collision with Mike Cameron, and his numbers were off.  But for three years, 2006-2008, before getting hurt once again, he was great.  And this year, finally healthy after knee surgery, he has rebounded superbly, making the All Star team once again, and becoming the much sought after hitter for contending teams. 

As a Met, Beltran hit 149 home runs (6th All Time), had 557 RBIs (6th), scored 548 runs (6th) and stole 100 bases (11th).  He has been a great leader on the field and was known for charitable works off the field.  Although admittedly not a deep pool, he is one of the greatest Mets ever.  But with his 7-year contract coming to an end and the Mets going nowhere this season, they decided to trade the 34-year old to the Giants.

I understand why the Mets made this deal.  They got an excellent pitching prospect, Zach Wheeler, in exchange for two months of Beltran.  But it is a shame that the business of baseball comes down to buyers and sellers in the second half of the year, with struggling teams having to give up players before they are lost to free agency -- especially players as fun to watch and who have given so much to the team as Carlos Beltran.  He will be missed.


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