As the 2020 Season approached, the Mets tapped Carlos Beltran as their new Manager. It was a feel-good story. Beltran was the best Center Fielder in Mets history. He ended a sure Hall of Fame career and was slated to lead a team that just missed the playoffs the year before. The team was populated with young, home-grown emerging stars: deGrom, Alonso, McNeil, Nimmo. After the tumultuous leadership of an oftentimes in-over-his-head Mickey Callaway, Beltran’s baseball savvy ways seemed destined to put the team over the top in 2020.
Then disaster struck – both for Beltran and for the world. The Astros sign-stealing scandal cost Beltran his job. COVID-19 cost the world millions of lives and much more.
The world has since healed from the terrible tragedy of that terrible disease. And so, too, has Beltran’s reputation within the baseball community been repaired by the passage of time.
This Steve Cohen-led franchise is reconciling with one of its great players and clearly one of its future leaders. Beltran’s pedigree is undeniable. He played for the Royals, Astros, Mets, Cardinals, Giants, Yankees and Rangers. He played winning baseball, including as a 9-time All Star and World Champion with the Astros. His heady play on the field set him apart from most who played the game before him and those who have played it since.
Beltran’s brilliance on the field reminded many of Willie Mays. Each had a baseball IQ that was off the charts. Mays directed his fellow outfielders, including Bobby Bonds, in the correct fielding positions. When Willie spoke, he commanded the respect of everyone around him. Similarly, Beltran was an on-the-field leader. He helped others, including David Wright, with an innovative batting drill where he placed numbers on tennis balls and fired them toward the plate. He helped develop better batting eyes for teammates who could identify the numbers on the balls as they whizzed by the batting cage home plate.
His future with the Mets is not yet known, but at the age of 45, he can certainly be seen as a Manager-in-waiting. The Mets current skipper, Buck Showalter, is 66 years old. Showalter demonstrated extraordinary skill at the helm last year, but his track record with other teams follows a familiar pattern. His first few years are successful, until his message grows tired and worn. Then he loses the clubhouse.
Hopefully, his tenure with the Mets will be different. He oversees a talented but fragile roster. If things fall into place, Buck may well manage a World Series championship team this year. Should that come to pass, Showalter could consider a farewell from baseball at the pinnacle of his career. And that would open the door to Carlos Beltran’s as NY Mets manager.
Established stars like Verlander and Scherzer would welcome a fellow Hall-of-Famer in the dugout. Striking similarities exist between Lindor and Beltran as far as their on the filed production goes. They are a natural fit as Manager and on-the-field leader. But Beltran’s real value comes from what he would bring to future stars like Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio. The best managers get the most out of their players and with Beltran’s knowledge of the game and his leadership on the field, he would be in the best position to help these emerging stars to get the most out of their talents. An infield of Alonso (who should be offered an extension as soon as possible), McNeil, Lindor, Baty and Alvarez is the stuff of dreams for Mets fans – where Beltran can help Baty and Alvarez can live up to the potential they showed in the minors. If Beltran can show Mauricio how to adapt to Left Field, the team will have a young controllable core and established stars under team control for many years.
It should be noted that this entire scenario is made possible by Steve Cohen’s ownership of the team. It is because of his commitment to making the Mets a first-class organization that the team has been able to acquire new talent to the organization. (I still can’t get over that Justin Verlander is a Met and it’s not all we’re talking about.) Mets fans rejoiced when the Wilpons sold the team – but no one could have anticipated the overnight change in culture that has occurred since he bought the franchise. The cost conscious days of Fred and Jeff have been replaced with a new confidence and optimism. Beltran’s hiring, while unexpected, seems to fit right into place for this new Mets era.