Citi Field Says Farewell to Carlos Beltran

Crowd salutes Beltran in likely last home game as a Met.

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Carlos Beltran Appreciation Society never really materialized.

    Assuming things go down the way everyone is assuming they will go down, it was fairly fitting that Carlos Beltran's final home at-bat as a member of the Mets came against the Cardinals in the ninth inning.

    Beltran's most famous at-bat as a Mets also came in the ninth inning of a game against the Cardinals. It was back in 2006, of course, when Adam Wainwright's curveball plopped into Yadier Molina's glove without so much as a swing from Beltran, giving the Cardinals the National League pennant and giving Fred Wilpon fodder for his infamous New Yorker interview.

    He swung on Thursday afternoon, hitting an innocuous fly ball to left field for the next-to-last out of a 5-2 Mets loss. The game is the last at Citi Field for the Mets until August, which means Beltran will only play there again this season if he's traded to a team with visits to Queens on their schedule.

    Some in the sweaty crowd stood and applauded Beltran for what he's given the Mets over the last seven years, but it was hardly a unanimous effort. That should be surprising, but it wasn't because Beltran's tenure with the Mets has been defined far more often by the things he didn't do instead of the things that he did.

    For many, Beltran's Wikipedia page began and ended with the strikeout against Wainwright and the two injury-marred years in 2009 and 2010. His style, quiet and laid-back, allowed people to think he lacked passion and the team, so dysfunctional during his tenure, played into it by treating him shabbily when it came to his choice to have surgery and their public shaming of him for skipping a hastily organized trip to Walter Reed Hospital because of a commitment to his own charitable foundation.

    He got painted with those brushes over and over again until it seemed the Beltran had been the second coming of Bobby Bonilla.

    He wasn't, not by a long shot. He was, in fact, the best free-agent signing the Mets have ever made.

    If Beltran isn't the best position player in Mets history, he is on the short list and his 2006 season is probably the best single-season performance of any player in franchise history. From 2006 to 2008, Beltran was simply brilliant and he was headed there again in 2009 when his knee betrayed him. 

    He's been better with the Mets than he was before coming to Queens and the aging process all but assures he'll never be this good again. When healthy, he's been exactly what the Mets wanted him to be when he signed with the team even if they've treated him like he's been the exact opposite.

    Those things have been left out of the story far too often, as have the three homers he hit against the Cardinals to keep the Mets in that NLCS until the ninth inning of the seventh game. Lost in the castigations is the home run he hit against the Marlins on the last day of the dreadful 2008 season to give the Mets a chance before Scott Schoeneweis gave it away.

    Lost in the narrative built by Mike Lupica and others of Beltran the selfish star who sat out half the 2010 season to protect his free agency prospects after this season is that he switched from center to right without ever once raising a complaint. Missing from every estimation of his time with the Mets has been the respect accorded to every other player that has played half as well and achieved half as much for the team.

    That's a shame, although those who have appreciated Beltran will get the last laugh in the years to come. Players like Beltran don't come along all that often, something we were reminded of on Thursday when Angel Pagan decided to throw a ball to the Cardinals' first base coach in one last inning of follies for Beltran to watch as a member of the team.

    Maybe everyone will realize what they had as soon as Beltran is gone and the irony in that would be quite rich. They castigated the man for standing and watching something great pass him by while doing the same exact thing themselves.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.