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Scenes From Rooting for Carlos Beltran

Posted By Howard Megdal On June 1, 2012 @ 9:50 am In Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

January 2005- I returned from a date with my girlfriend, now my wife, to see a countdown clock on ESPNNews. If the Astros failed to offer Beltran arbitration by midnight, he wouldn’t be returning to Houston, and the consensus seemed to be the Mets would swoop in.

My girlfriend sat and watched the clock with me. It was probably for the best that she saw a full reckoning of my baseball-related insanity. Midnight came, we high-fived, and she asked what we’d won. I explained that the Astros wouldn’t be getting Carlos Beltran. She was confused as to why we’d celebrate another team simply not getting a player we wanted to see on the Mets.

“You’ll see,” I said. We awoke to Carlos Beltran finalizing a contract with the Mets. Christmas morning on a January winter day for a couple of Jews used to presents at sundown.

April 2005- the home opener. I’ll propose later that week. It’s a new era for everybody. The Mets are 1-5, but we all know that doesn’t mean much. These are the Pedro Martinez Mets now, and more crucially, the Carlos Beltran Mets. I’m wearing the Carlos Beltran jersey that was my girlfriend’s first birthday gift to me. Beltran quietly reaches base three times, nearly hits one out to right field. New York wins 8-4, we celebrate. It feels like the start of something monumental. A day after we get engaged, Beltran collects three hits in a win over Florida.

August 2005- The Mets, with a win, can climb to within a half-game of the Phillies for the wild card. Carlos Beltran hits a home run off of Robinson Tejeda in the first inning. Four plate appearances, three hits and a walk to show for it. His season has been mediocre by Beltran standards, but in the biggest game the Mets played in years, he was brilliant. The Mets win, 6-4. Ramon Castro seals the win with a home run, and I fall off the bed in cheering surprise. My fiancee laughs at me while the cats scatter.

May 2006- This is the year. The Mets storm out to a strong start, and Beltran’s OPS is around 1.000 when he steps to the plate in the 16th inning against Ryan Madson. The 2006 Mets don’t lose games like this, until the very end of the year. Beltran launches one deep into the right field bullpen. My fiancee is asleep- all sensible people are after midnight on a Tuesday. I make a mock newspaper summary of what she missed, so she can read about it in the morning.

August 2006- Somewhere in the Mediterranean, I manage to get online from my honeymoon, and watch Beltran do the same thing again, this time to the Cardinals. Game-winning home run, halfway across the world. I know I’m returning shortly to married life, and some cold October evenings at the start of it. I can feel Shea’s chill through the European sun. I tell my sunbathing wife to remind me to buy a Mets blanket when we get home.

October 2006- We walk out of Shea Stadium. I am disappointed, but my wife is in tears. I assure her rationally, point out that Carlos Beltran is 28, David Wright and Jose Reyes are 24. This is just the beginning, I told her.

July 2007-  A Saturday night out. The plan is to watch from the beginning, on delay, when we get home from dinner and a movie. But around 11:30 PM, my phone starts buzzing frantically. We’d just walked in the door, and turn on the game to see something a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ISWZihIMp0”we’d never seen before/a: the greatest catch of my lifetime. Willie Mays may have caught his in the World Series. But he didn’t climb a hill to do it.

August-September 2007- My first year covering the Mets, so it is a blur of enduring images. Seeing Carlos Beltran post a .991 OPS, hit 14 homers from August 10 through the end of the season. Seeing the same Beltran, so graceful and brilliant on the field, limping around the clubhouse on knees that would require surgery following the season. Seeing Willie Randolph, tense, express tight-lipped confidence in his faltering team. Explaining to everyone that this slump was not Carlos Beltran’s fault, waiting for the slide to end. Seeing the season end instead, way too soon.

2006-the present- Trying to avoid angry words or violence in conversations about Carlos Beltran and how good/clutch/soft he is or isn’t.

September 2008- There, but for the limitations of his team’s bullpen, Carlos Beltran’s two-run homer on the final day of the season could have been the hit that put the New York Mets in the playoffs and forestalled the end of Shea Stadium’s tenure. And his home runs in the 2006 NLCS could have made him the series MVP with a little more help, too. My father and I watched the 2008 season finale at home; we’d attended in 2007, with disastrous consequences. Our attendance or lack of attendance didn’t turn out to be the reason the Mets fell short. Neither was Carlos Beltran. One of us got blamed, though.

Most of 2009- Waiting for Carlos Beltran to return, less to help the Mets on a playoff run, and more to simply enjoy watching him play again.

Repeatedly, 2010- Explaining to people that no, Angel Pagan is not better than Carlos Beltran. Not now, not ever. My wife gets into an argument at work with a colleague on the same subject. Beltran returns, the Mets sink in the standings. Further discussions, same subject. And yet, if I were to hit someone making this argument, I’m the one committing assault. Some justice system.

Spring, 2011- I am on hand, in Port St. Lucie, to cover Carlos Beltran’s first game in the field. He’s volunteered to play right, and we watch him on a back field. I see him awkwardly chase a ball in the gap, see him slowly meander to his position each inning. His timing is way off at the plate. I think Beltran’s days as an elite performer are gone. I am so very wrong.

May 2011- My one-year-old daughter and I watch Carlos Beltran hit three home runs in a game at Coors Field. I tell her, “It’s too bad you weren’t born a little sooner, so you could have watched Carlos Beltran play in his prime.” She’ll understand someday.

July 2011- Rumors everywhere. The prospects tantalize: Domonic Brown? Gary Brown? Zack Wheeler? The trade makes sense. Let it happen. Beltran’s final at-bat at Citi Field, he gets some sustained applause. Not enough, it feels like. Go out like Ted Williams! No, a fly out to left. Somewhere, someone is using this as justification to rip Beltran once again. My wife inexplicably loved that Lucas Prada song, a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-e8Mkjnx80”“And We Say… Let’s Go Mets!”/a It was dated even when it was new.  I’ll listen: I’m a sucker for any song that name-checks Chad Bradford. “We don’t have one great Carlos, we’ve got two.” Not anymore. Our 15 jerseys join our 21 jerseys, our 45 jerseys. Our 7 jerseys are next.

June 2012- Beltran will be wearing unfamiliar colors. We’ll cheer him as we always have. He’ll receive a reception that doesn’t quite befit him. And then he’ll probably do something great on the field that not enough Mets fans will properly see.


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