07/27/11 11:09 PM ET
Beltran deal one Mets had to make
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
And if the Mets do feel they've been sabotaged by the trade, then that is a salute to manager Terry Collins, who has his team playing competitive and entertaining baseball and has his players confident and convinced they can win. That is an achievement of note -- even if their belief is misplaced.
They can win more than they lose, but not enough to be realistic postseason contenders.
What general manager Sandy Alderson has done is borderline remarkable. He has saved the club money, about $2 million -- no small consideration for a club with fiscal issues -- and has imported a 21-year-old pitcher with seemingly greater potential than any pitcher in the Mets' system, all for the price of a talented and valuable player who had no chance of pushing his team higher in the standings.
Because the contract Beltran signed in 2005 prohibited the club from offering him salary arbitration after its expiration, the Mets would gain no compensation for losing him to free agency. So Beltran leaving after the season wouldn't have earned them a selection in the First-Year Player Draft next June.
Because of that, consider this a move that is nearly without cost other than the East-to-West transfer of significant coin. Beltran had value, the Giants had need and Alderson had the wherewithal to connect the two, to exploit the Giants' position. And he imported more talent -- right-handed Zack Wheeler -- than most baseball folks thought he would.
Had Beltran remained, the Mets might have won a few more games between now and the end of September than they will without him. But his departure is likely to help them more in the long term than his presence would have helped had he completed his seventh season with the club.
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Beltran had impact in his six-plus seasons with the Mets, most of it quite positive. Blemishes and/or troubles were not uncommon though, and too often, too much was made of them. His strikeout against Adam Wainwright for the 27th out in Game 7 of the 2006 NL Championship Series hardly was the reason the Mets didn't play in the World Series. Recall Game 2, when they had all but beaten Chris Carpenter before Guillermo Mota tried to strike out Scott Spiezio with a fastball. That's when the series was lost. But newspapers and the drive-time alarmists found Beltran guilty for one at-bat while exonerating others.
His injuries were too many and too serious for him to have been the player the Mets hoped for when they guaranteed him $117 million. When he was healthy, he was a splendid player, as talented as any player the Mets have had other than Darryl Strawberry. He was a good, sometimes brilliant center fielder, and he played right field this season as well as anyone has played the position in the Mets' history, save Mike Cameron in 2005. And if he threw to the wrong base occasionally, at least the throws were strong and mostly on target.
By Mets standards, Beltran's 2006 season was extraordinary -- 127 runs, 116 RBIs, 41 home runs, 95 walks, 99 strikeouts, 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts, a .275 average, a .388 on-base average and a .594 slugging percentage accomplished in 140 games and 510 at-bats. By most standards, it was exceptional.
And in the subsequent two seasons, he averaged 104 runs, 112 RBIs, 30 home runs and 24 steals with a .280 batting average, a .365 on-base average and a .512 slugging percentage. So what's not to like?
If Beltran is merely a complementary player as some folks believe, he was due untold compliments during his Mets tenure. The presence of Carlos Delgado made him a greater threat, but he did deliver, no matter how his role was identified.
Occasionally, his on-the-field courage was questioned. Omar Minaya, the man most responsible for bringing Beltran to the Mets, often defended him, but once suggested Beltran wasn't a hard-nosed player. Beltran ran into walls, second basemen, catchers and Cameron enough to dispel that notion. He played hurt. He wasn't Pete Rose -- how many are? He didn't overwhelm his audience with his demeanor, and his abandon wasn't reckless.
But he played when he could and played well for the most part. No question he worked at his craft and willingly shared his sense of the game with his teammates. Beltran is, without question, a proud, caring and generous man who, sadly, was appreciated only when he delivered in spectacular ways.
The Mets never achieved all they had expected to during his time with them. That which was left undone was not his doing, but it will be the undoing of his legacy with the Mets.
The collapses they endured in 2007 and '08 will stain those teams forever. And perhaps one more hit or catch by Beltran in one game here or there would have put the team in the postseason in one of those seasons. Those shortfalls, however, were not his responsibility any more than they were the fault of any other player.
The Mets might have wanted more from Beltran, but he gave them what he could when he could. And he leaves now, wishing he could have done more -- as in enough. Don't blame him though, appreciate what he did do. And understand he has helped them now by leaving.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.