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The Personal Side



I think all of us had a pretty darned good idea that whenever and wherever Carlos Beltran decided to sign, that there’d be an abundance of hoop-la surrounding his introduction. However, I never had the slightest clue the news would be this big, even having the knowledge that he was probably going to end up in the king of all baseball cities, New York. Already, I’m starting to see the significance of this addition being compared to the Mets acquiring Gary Carter after the 1984 season to counter the Yankees’ signing of Rickey Henderson. To make a long story short, Carter had a good couple of seasons with the Mets, who won the World Series in 1986, while the Yankees never even reached the playoffs in Henderson’s five seasons with them. Yes, it’s all about the battle for the back page.

Fast-forward to 2005, and we’re seeing the same thing happen again. Barring another incident involving some dude and a camera, the Yankees are going to introduce Randy Johnson tomorrow. Three hours later, Omar Minaya will be talking up Beltran’s merits at Shea. The arms race between the Yankees and Red Sox is now obsolete; the chic Cold War is back where it belongs: A battle between the Home Run Apple and the voice of the Bronx, Bob Shepard. A dogfight involving Death Valley at the Bronx and Death Outfield at Shea. Minaya v. Cashman. Wilpon v. Steinbrenner.

The pressure’s never been higher, and right in the thick of it is Beltran, the man of the hour. Part of me wonders if he – or anybody, for that matter – is cut out to handle the cooker he’s about to be thrown into. Playing any sport in New York is a skill that’s too often ignored by both the media and performance analysts. If you have any doubts, just ask Jeff Weaver, who wasn’t even making a ridiculous amount of money. After all, when a player makes $17 million a season and plays for the Mets, Yankees, Knicks, or Rangers, performing up to expectations is never enough, and God help anybody who fails.

The question is if Beltran’s got the kind of thick skin to handle the boos and disparaging articles that will surely be fired off the instant he falls into a 1-18 slump in the middle of June. Although I don’t know him personally, my opinion is that if anybody can deal there, it’s Carlos. As Allard Baird noted in a Monday Kansas City Star article, his former star center fielder separates the game on the field and the emotional side of baseball better than most, and isn’t going to get caught up in drama, night clubs, and the night life. However, I think this marriage is going to take a little bit of work and some give-and-take by both the player and the fans in this instance. Beltran’s going to have to open up a little bit more, be more of a clubhouse leader, and be patient with the media. (See Pennington, Chad.) Mets fans? Well, they need to realize that Beltran’s a shut-up-and-play kind of guy if there ever was one. It isn’t in his nature to lead in any other way than by example, so patience is needed there too.

There’s going to be an adjustment period for Beltran, but as one of the classiest individuals in baseball, I don’t think he’s going to have much trouble at all adapting away from his more hometown-like previous baseball stops in Kansas City and Houston.
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