Thursday, July 28, 2011
So Long, Beltran: A Non-Mets Fan Perspective
The Mets finally traded Carlos Beltran after what seems like months of speculation to the San Francisco Giants. This seems to be a win-win situation for all of the parties involved. Beltran (he of the no trade clause) gets to go to a team that meets every one of the criteria he set up: a first place, national league team that is contending (the world champs no less) with a butt load of pitching. Not to mention he can now have the privilege of hitting in a home run hitters friendly ball park instead of the cavernous Citi Field. The Mets receive a guy who (despite mediocre numbers) is supposedly a can't miss prospect if you ask Hater J and league sources. Supposedly this Wheeler character was the sticking point in the trade, before the Giants eventually relented and threw him at the last minute. Now the Mets can get back to focusing on teasing their fans for the next 2 months. Never quite falling out of the race totally, but never truly having a legitimate chance at the playoffs unless the Braves or Phillies have a collapse like...well, the Mets. The only loser is San Francisco fans who now have to listen to Jon Miller saying "BeltrAN" in that fat, pretentious way of his 162 times a year.
So where does this leave Carlos Beltran's legacy? I heard Gary Apple (or somebody) say that he was the greatest center fielder to ever wear a Mets uniform on the Beer Money channel last night, and I think there can definitely be a case made for that. Most people (especially Mets fans and casual baseball fans) will remember him for what he didn't do, in particular standing there like a jackass with a bat on his shoulder like he was posing for his Topps card while the St. Louis Cardinals danced around him. This is the conundrum we're faced with when discussing Beltran, unfortunately. The people who should be able to give the best opinion of him since they saw the most of him - the die-hard Mets fan - can only remember one thing about him (and it's a shitty thing indeed). To complicate things even further, when trying to place him in his proper place in Mets' history, the die-hard's opinion is clouded by the ghost of 1986. Nothing any Mets player has done in the past 25 years will ever be worth anything to the Mets fan in comparison to that glorious 86 world series team. I guess I can't blame them, since the Mets of the last 25 years have run the gamut from unlikeable losers to epic choke artists. Still, it shouldn't take away from Beltran's legacy as possibly the greatest center fielder in orange and blue history. In baseball, more than any other sport, an individual shouldn't be judged by team success alone, especially a position player. There are too many variables that factor into a team winning or losing to lump it all on one guy's shoulders. And the other center fielders in Mets history don't really stack up. Mookie may be a fan favorite and will forever be remembered fondly for being on the other side of that Buckner screw-up, but besides stolen bases, he's dominated by Carlos. Even with the injuries, Beltran stays near the top in every power category over the past 4 years. Any season in which he played at least 100 games, he was a dominant force. Willie Mays was, of course, great, but was an aging shell of himself by the time he arrived at Shea. Mookie's partner who split time in center with him, Lenny "Nails" Dykstra was a tough sumbitch, but is no all time great (and is now a huge dirtbag) even if he was a part of the mythical '86 team. So, even with the litany of injuries and occasional choke moments, let's be fair and respect Carlos Beltran as one of the all time great Mets. Take it from a Yankee fan.