Welcome Back, Carlos Beltran

PJ EdelmanCorrespondent ISeptember 4, 2008

This is starting to seem like a real trend.

Beltran, amidst monster expectations, criticism, and quiet play, has finally hit his stride in these closing weeks of the regular season.

In the last three years, Beltran, almost perfectly, has hit below .250 in June and July, and over .300 in August (the one exception is June 2006, when he hit .316).

Either it's the oncoming postseason or the below-standard middle months that he has become so accustomed to, but Beltran always seems to grow red hot as the season closes.

As a Mets' fan, it's frustrating; the entire baseball world watched a postseason of a lifetime in 2004, when Beltran put the fall classic under the spell of his near-superhuman performance in the postseason with the Houston Astros.  Beltran collected 20 hits, 21 runs, 6 stolen bases, and oh yeah, hit .435 with 8 homeruns--in 12 games.

Not bad for a 'five tool' player entering free agency.

The Mets have now realized what Beltran is, now that the adrenaline from that playoffs has long since drained away and left the team with the remains of a pretty good player: a hitter that hits right around his career average of .280 and 25 homeruns.  He is a very good hitter, but definitely not the best, not even on his current team. 

His homerun power is not what makes him a significant piece to the Mets' hopes for a successful playoff run.

True, he did hit 41 bombs in a huge year in 2006, but his power and average are far from what makes him so important to the Mets. 

Rather, Beltran's most two best assets are his productivity and his defense.

Beltran has reached 100 RBI seven times in his 11-year-career so far, and only needs four more to obtain that total once again.  He can hit in the clutch, and has the natural talent to get the runner from third home, even if he makes out. 

But his defense his by far and away his most valued skill.  No one is more graceful in centerfield than Beltran.  There may be more acrobatic outfielders--Hunter, Sizemore, or Granderson--but Beltran's smooth strides and seemingly effortless ability allows him to almost always be in the right place at the right time. 

But when he needs to, he can do amazing things, even reach aviation-level (check out the bird), as he did when robbing Ryan Ludwick's shot earlier this year.

But for Mets' fans, his defense is rarely the problem; It's the consistency.  Why does he only catch fire at the beginning and end of the season?

Perhaps it is a problem of motivation.  Beltran is a naturally quiet and introverted individual, and performs at his best when he must prove that his talent does not reflect his personality.  At the beginning of the year, under the opening spotlight, Beltran shows the league why he signed with the Mets to a seven year, $119 million deal.  And when the postseason nears, he performs the same way.  

But in the middle months?  Beltran takes advantage of the relative anonymity of the 'dog days' and encircles himself in a shroud of baseball dust that conceals him from the heaviest scrutiny. 

Please, Carlos!  Mets' fans love you.  But you have to live up to your end of the contract.  $119 million in seven years means 35 homeruns, a near .300 average, and your patented stellar defense.  The team needs consistency from you, all year-round.  We know you have it.  We know you are capable of it.  We've seen it.

We're glad to have you back, Carlos, but next year, won't you stay a little longer?