Carlos Beltran Is Likable, But Will He Succeed As Mets Manager?

Jason Keidel
November 07, 2019 - 1:21 pm
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Many baseball fans - including yours truly - hammered the Mets when they passed on Joe Girardi as their next skipper. 

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Girardi's bona fides were obvious. He had managed in the Big Apple for a decade, averaged 91 wins per year, and won a World Series. Girardi even led the moribund Marlins and won Manager of the Year.  

Instead, the Mets went with Carlos Beltran - a wildly popular and productive player and a borderline Hall of Famer - who had never managed an MLB team in his life. Beltran was embraced not just for his numbers but also for his low-key regularity, the good karma he brought to the clubhouse, and his bilingual abilities. 

Maybe Beltran morphs into a fine leader. Maybe he squeezes the talent out of underachieving players. Maybe he inspires Yoenis Cespedes to return to baseball after a laughable litany of injuries ever since the Mets gave him his money. On the surface, Beltran is not an overtly bad choice. He just has no experience. 

Aaron Boone didn’t have any experience either when the Yankees hired him. Now Boone is a finalist for Manager of the Year, the first to win 100 games in his first two seasons. Dave Martinez, who had never managed in the majors, just took the Nationals to the World Series title. Similarly, Dave Roberts, who broke our hearts in 2004 with a single stolen base, has led the Dodgers to two World Series appearances. Alex Cora was still unproven when he stewarded the Red Sox to the 2018 world championship. 

Carlos Beltran and Brodie Van Wagenen
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

But the Beltran hiring still had some curious characteristics. The Mets fired Mickey Callaway for the lack of success the team had with him. But it's also no secret that the club had complete control over him. So the fact that they fired one neophyte and hired another hints at the team's need to do the same. And the role of the manager-marionette in Flushing continues. 

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen introduced Beltran while reminding us with rapid-fire persistence about how much the Mets adore their employees. Flushing would again be the East Coast iteration of Haight-Ashbury, with love and peace prevailing. Van Wagenen loves the players. Beltran loves the players. The Wilsons love the players. It's the Autumn of Love. 

Hopefully, the Mets see more in Beltran than merely his ability to speak Spanish. We hope he's allowed to fill out a lineup card. We hope he makes all the moves on the diamond. We hope, whether he wins or loses, that he's allowed to do it with his brains, and on his terms. Otherwise, the Mets will keep the revolving door planted outside the manager's office, and simply rinse and repeat whenever they don't reach the team's October expectations. 

Maybe Girardi was the most qualified man for the job, but there is something comforting about Beltran. Beyond his 2,725 hits, his 435 homers, or his 20-year career as a supremely clutch player, he was equally loved as a Met and a Yankee - a tough NYC exacta to pull off. 

He's known for having the hottest playoff run of his generation, when he swatted 20 hits, blasted eight homers, and drove in 14 runs in 12 games for the Astros in October 2004. Mets fans also know him for watching the final pitch of the 2006 NLCS - a filthy curveball from Adam Wainwright - rise and fall into the catcher's mitt. Few players know more dimensions of Major League Baseball than Carlos Beltran. 

As likable as Beltran is, he will be judged more on how his players play than on his affection for them, or our affection for him. We want him to do well because it would be a good story of a good man getting big-time results in the Big Apple. And as a Puerto Rican, Beltran has crossover appeal in a city that has long enjoyed a robust Latin population. Beltran has been voted one of People Magazine's 100 most beautiful people. He's was long voted one of baseball’s best players. And perhaps he will be voted into Cooperstown. 

Whether any of that makes him a winning manager remains to be seen. It's a fine thing that Carlos Beltran is so likable. But he needs his results to be bankable. Or else the Mets will love another manager. 

Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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