The Yankees brought in an entirely new arsenal of weapons for 2014. Who can blame them after the discouraging line-ups Giraardi had to throw out there each day last season? Most of the focus was on Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, All-Star catcher Brian McCann, and the turncoat Jacoby Ellsbury. The fourth cog in the new look Yankees is back for his second stint in New York and hopes this time around he goes out on a positive note.
Carlos Beltran signed a $15 million dollar deal to play right field for the Yankees this season. It wasn’t that long ago that he was the all-world center fielder for the crosstown rival, New York Mets. The Mets shipped him off to San Francisco for Zach Wheeler after Beltran gave the Mets seven of the best years of his career. The second he left, the Mets management and fan base turned on him.
“I don’t know what they gained from what they did to me,” Beltran told reporters. “But I know what I gained. It made me a stronger person. Look, if you are a bad guy, you are a bad guy everywhere and the people in the game know it. The people who have played with me know it is not true.”
Beltran was the offensive leader for the Mets in the mid-2000s when they were still relevant, so when the Mets didn’t win, it was perceived as Beltran’s fault. He could have easily been MVP of the 2006 season, batting .275 with 41 HRs, 116 RBI, 127 runs scored, and 18 SBs, yet all people remember was that he was the guy who struck out to end Game 7 of the NLCS (a series in which he batted .296 with 3 HRs, 4 RBI, and 8 runs scored). He ranks amongst the all-time Met greats in several categories, yet all people remember was that he wanted more money. He played through some pretty rough injuries from 2005 to 2008, producing MVP numbers, but all people remember were his injury plagued seasons before he was traded. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Beltran feels that he was given a bum wrap his first go-round in New York.
It all came to a head in the 2010 season prior to Beltran’s trade when conflicting reports of what transpired began popping up in the press. The Mets first claimed Beltran went for knee surgery without consent from the team. The team then told of how Beltran skipped out on a planned visit to Walter Reed Medical Center to meet with wounded vets. Beltran, however, has stood pat that the Mets, indeed, gave him permission for the surgery and that the Mets were fully aware that he was allowed to miss the Walter Reed visit while he set up his baseball academy in Puerto Rico.
We may never know the truth, but Beltran has a lot in his favor. Past coaches have openly gushed about Beltran, commenting that he wasn’t just a special talent but made the teams they coached better. Fellow new Yankee Brian McCann has already called him, “an amazing teammate and person.” Yankees Special Spring Coach Lee Mazzilli who works with the outfielders noted how Beltran has been mentoring the young Yankee outfield prospects without ever being asked. It was his efforts he voluntarily makes with young players that pushed the Yankees to sign him over other free agent candidates.
It is undeniable that the New York media and fan bases are relentless. They have extremely high expectations of their highly paid superstars and when you leave town without producing a ring, no matter what greatness you achieved, they will turn on you. Beltran is in the fortunate position of having a chance to win New Yorkers back by changing the bad perception of his previous New York persona to a positive reality. And if he can help get that 28th trophy, he will become a hero.