Carlos Beltran is probably one of the most misunderstood men in baseball. His talent is evident, but he is so quiet and shy that his full presence is not known to most, and that is unfortunate.
Jerry Manuel and David Wright have both strongly indicated that there is a "network of leaders" on the team, and that no one person is head and shoulders above anyone else in the clubhouse.
Last year during Spring Training, Carlos Beltran told the Phillies in a message, "The Mets are the team to beat." This was mainly directed at Jimmy Rollins, who in 2007, sent the same message to Mets, saying that the "Phillies were the team to beat".
This statement took everyone by surprise because of Beltran's fly-under-the-radar vocal ways, so this proclamation was newsworthy. Being that it came from a veteran, it was a rally cry meant for the Mets. Unfortunately, there was a big problem on the team that emerged mainly due to perceived strained Latino-White relations in the clubhouse due to comments from both Paul LoDuca and Billy Wagner. They both spoke out, under much controversy, that a lot of Latino players were not making thelmselves available to speak to the media, and the burden unfairly fell on David Wright to be the spokesperson.
In the aftermath of the 2007 collapse, Willie Randolph was still managing the team even though several players (Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes at the top of the list) did not get along with Randolph and it was perceived by many that the team did not like Randolph and therefore did not want to play hard for him. This does not have much merit because such attitudes would harm their individual careers a lot more than they would hurt Willie Randolph's managerial status.
Beltrans' message did end up not being the main message of the season, as the shaky job status of Randolph, and his eventual firing in June after a surprise visit by Omar Minaya made front page news throughout New York and in the Major Leagues.
The Mets are understandably reluctant to make such a proclamation again because the Phillies are the World Champs, and as such, deserve the respect that they are in fact the team to beat. After two consecutive September meltdowns, the Mets are considered "chokers" and will not be taken seriously by anyone until they prove otherwise.
The majority of the burden of exorcising the demons of the past two seasons does fall on Beltran, along with Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Johan Santana, as they are considered the "core" of the team.
This "core" does have its work cut out for them, especially with the fact that this spring, they have gone their separate ways to participate in the WBC.
Jerry Manuel has already said that he wants Jose Reyes to have more of an obvious leadership responsibilities. Carlos Delgado and David Wright have shown themselves to be vocal leaders during the last few years, even though Delgado was one player who was "called out" by some of his teammates for escaping from the media after games.
Beltran is the outfield general, no question, as centerfielders generally are. But if he steps up as an outspoken leader, although it will seem out of character and take him from a comfort zone of who he is, Carlos Beltran may no longer be a stranger to so many people and people will think twice before overlooking him in the future.
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