The fallout from the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal has likely claimed its final participant.
Beltran had only been on the job since the Mets hired him as the successor to Mickey Callaway on Nov. 1, at which point he seemed like an inspired choice.
Though the 42-year-old hadn't managed in the majors before the Mets gave him a shot, he was arguably a Hall of Fame-caliber player in a 20-year career that ended with his winning a World Series ring with the Astros in 2017. He also came with a strong reputation as a leader with a keen mind for the game.
Yet in an indirect way, it's the latter that has led to his Mets ouster.
Unlike former Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, who were hit with one-year bans and then fired, Beltran was spared from the initial wave of penalties levied against the Astros by Major League Baseball following its investigation into the club's system for stealing signs during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, which was first reported by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic.
Commissioner Rob Manfred's actual report, however, pointed to Beltran as a key player alongside former Astros bench coach Alex Cora in the devising of said system. Here's a screencap of the key part:
This doesn't mean that Houston's operation—which involved using video equipment to decode signs and banging a trash can to tip hitters off to incoming pitches—necessarily originated with Beltran. Manfred's report makes him sound less like a ringleader and more like a co-conspirator.
If Beltran were still an active player, he might not have been named at all. Though Manfred didn't shy from characterizing the Astros' wrongdoing as "player-driven," he refused to penalize any players, saying it would be "difficult and impractical."
Nevertheless, some heads needed to roll as a result of baseball's investigation. The Astros did, after all, disregard both rules and warnings to gain a competitive advantage, and in so doing won 101 games and the World Series in 2017.
Luhnow and Hinch were obvious targets for punishment, and the Astros also got hit with a $5 million fine and the forfeiture of first- and second-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021. Beltran and Cora were more difficult targets given that they had since departed the organization, but Manfred effectively marked them for death by singling them out in his report.
"Well, Alex—by his own admission, and we agreed—played a central role in what went on in Houston, and we all agreed that it was wrong and that we had a responsibility as stewards, as [owner] John [Henry] had said, to have a standard here where that sort of behavior is not acceptable," Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said Wednesday, per Ian Browne of MLB.com.
The Red Sox still have their own offshoot of this saga to worry about. Though they supposedly didn't go as far as the Astros in stealing signs, an additional report from Rosenthal and Drellich alleges that they had a system of their own during the 2018 season. Likewise, the 108 wins and World Series championship they collected that year are also ripe for skepticism.
Otherwise, the sacking of Beltran likely closes the book on the Astros' end of things. For his part, he can only say he's sorry.
"As a veteran player on the team I should've recognized the severity of the issue and truly regret the actions that were taken," reads part of a statement Beltran issued to ESPN's Marly Rivera. "I am a man of faith and integrity and what took place did not demonstrate those characteristics that are so very important to me and my family."
The Mets, meanwhile, can be forgiven if they feel like they've gotten the rawest deal out of this whole thing.
They might not have hired Beltran in hopes he could do for them what he did for the Astros. And even if they did, they didn't benefit from whatever shady practices—which Cora may or may not have hinted at during a press conference in London last June—he might have implemented.
All the Mets can do is try to find a new manager before their pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 12, which is less than a month away. Per Rosenthal, in-house quality control coach Luis Rojas may be the leading contender:
In the meantime, the big picture of the Astros' sign-stealing scheme is that of one of baseball's worst scandals. An entire team went rogue, and the final cost includes money, draft picks and four high-level jobs.
This isn't even to mention how much of baseball's integrity has been compromised. Sans a more exact answer, "a lot" will have to do.