On Thursday, July 28, the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants finalized a deal that sent Carlos Beltran and $4 million to San Fran for the highly regarded pitching prospect Zachary Wheeler. After six and a half years, this trade has many Mets fans like me wondering: (A) Where has the time gone? and (B) Was Beltran's tenure with the Mets a success? My answer to both of those questions is 'I don't know.'
The Mets signed Beltran in the beginning of the 2005 calendar year after he had one of the best playoff performances ever for the Houston Astros in 2004. He put the team on his back offensively, hitting eight postseason home runs, which helped the Astros get to the NL Championship Series that year. After the playoffs, many were still singing his praises. His stock rose as he was heading into free agency and, with agent Scott Boras by his side, it was guaranteed that Beltran would land himself a lucrative deal. The Mets were able to sign him for seven years at $119 million. As a result, the spotlight (and the pressure) was on him in the Big Apple.
Stats say that he was one of the best players in the league since 2005 and one of the best Mets ever to put on the uniform. Beltran ranks fourth among all switch hitters in the MLB with 149 HRs, 599 RBI and slugging percentage of .500 since he came to the Mets in 2005.
His ranks among Mets greats are even more impressive: He is one of three Mets to have three Gold Gloves (Ordonez and K. Hernandez are the others), one of four Mets to have a 25/25 season (Strawberry, HoJo, Wright) and one of three Mets to have a 40 HR season (Hundley, Piazza). Then why are so many Mets fans disappointed with his time with the team?
Although stats clearly demonstrate that Beltran was one of the best Mets players of all time, many will remember him most for striking out on Adam Wainwright's curveball with the bases loaded in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. That image has been branded into the minds and hearts of Mets fans permanently, especially after consecutive debacles in September that prevented them from reaching the playoffs in '07 and '08. Along with these heartbreaking outcomes, Beltran missed a total of 236 games, including much of the 2010 campaign. Fans started to believe that Carlos was not clutch and was injury prone. There was an overall feeling that he wasn't a "true Met" because he was never a fiery passionate leader.
No matter how unjust or unreasonable it is for Beltran to get blamed for the Mets not winning it all in 2006, or giving away the NL East Lead in 2007 and 2008, or for the team's inability to reach the .500 mark in 2009 and 2010, that's just what happens when you play in NY and you're the $119 million dollar man. Despite hitting three HRs earlier in the 2006 NLCS, he was SUPPOSED to knock a single to tie that game up. He was SUPPOSED to be more clutch in September of 2007 and 2008, and he WAS NOT supposed to get injured.
Beltran was brought to help bring the Mets back to legitimacy, which he did. Beltran was brought to help the Mets make a run deep into the playoffs, which he did. But, unfortunately for his lasting image in NY, he never brought a title to Queens. Regardless of that, with Beltran's help, Mets fans were given a taste of success and, for that year of 2006, they were dominating the back pages of the newspapers. And now he's gone.
The Mets head into Friday's game against the Washington Nationals, 6.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card and 11.5 games back of the dominant Philadelphia Phillies in the division. If the Mets want to try to make an improbable playoff push, they will have to do it without their All-Star. Meanwhile, Beltran has landed himself on a first place team that has a chance to repeat as champions, and numerous Mets fans are still left wondering 'What if?'