By Robert Dominguez
Welcome back, Carlos. All is forgiven — as long as you lead the Mets to the postseason.
Carlos Beltran in a New York Mets uniform, wearing his old number 15 no less, was an unlikely sight when the former All-Star outfielder was officially introduced as the team’s new manager at Citi Field on Nov. 4.
He may be a Hall of Fame contender, a class act and one of the best players to ever don the orange-and-blue, but Beltran’s seven-year stint with the Mets from 2005-2011 didn’t end particularly well thanks to some nagging injuries and plenty of friction with the front office.
Then there’s the memory of his infamous Game 7 at-bat of the 2006 NLCS that still makes frustrated fans foam with rage: Bottom of the ninth, two down, Cards up by two, bases jammed … and Beltran freezes at a wicked curve for strike three, dashing the Mets’ World Series dream.
Yet it was nothing but smiles and sunshine at the Citi Field press conference with Beltran, still fit and robust at 42, eager to pull off what shouldn’t be all that big a Mets miracle — push a squad packed with good young talent that performed way below its potential in 2019 into October and beyond.
It won’t be easy, of course, considering the Mets’ history of breaking their loyal fandom’s collective heart. And the fact they desperately need more than a few reliable relievers.
But bringing in Beltran is a good start. Despite his lack of experience at the helm, hiring a known name who’s young, baseball-savvy and universally respected is a big positive for the Mets after the disappointment and underachievement of the brief Mickey Callaway era.
And in a sport where about a third of the players are from baseball-crazy Latin America, the Puerto Rico-born Beltran joins a select club that is no longer a rarity. He’s now the fifth Latino manager in the game, along with the Nationals’ Dave Martinez, Alex Cora of the Red Sox, the White Sox’s Rick Renteria and the Blue Jays’ Charlie Montoyo.
Just two seasons ago, Renteria, a Mexican-American born in Los Angeles, was the lone Latino skipper.
The fact that fellow Puerto Ricans Cora, in 2018, and Martinez last season won the World Series isn’t lost on Beltran. Or that Cora did it in his first season as manager and Martinez in his second.
“It’s a blessing to be here at this level and to represent Puerto Rico and Latinos around the world,” an emotional Beltran said at the conference. “If you work hard, fight for your dreams, in my mind, anything is possible.”
Even the first Mets championship in 33 years.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.”
Photo source: Marianne O’Leary — Under Creative Commons license