Carlos Beltran isn’t just the manager of the New York Mets, he’s the second-biggest decision made by Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, the first being the acquisitions of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, which made the second-biggest decision really very important.
That decision, to hire Carlos Beltran, looked fine, too, for a couple months, and still looks fine, because there’d have been no reason to suspect on Nov. 1 there’d be a day like Jan. 13.
In the 48 hours that followed, then, it became fairly obvious that the decision to hire Carlos Beltran would be the second-biggest decision involving Carlos Beltran, the first being whether to fire him two and a half months later.
As of Wednesday evening, according to sources, the Mets were considering whether to keep Beltran after he was named as a key player in the sign-stealing scandal rocking baseball.
For two months, Major League Baseball investigated allegations the Houston Astros stole signs for at least two seasons through an elaborate system that ignored commissioner Rob Manfred’s repeated threats to punish those found using technological means to gain advantages. As part of that investigation, according to Monday’s report, 68 people, among them 23 current or former Astros, were interviewed. Players were granted immunity from discipline in return for honest testimony.
In the report, four instrumental people were named. Three were non-players: Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora — Hinch’s bench coach through the 2017 season.
The fourth person was a former player, Beltran, who, like all the players with whom MLB met, would have been spared punishment if investigators determined he told the truth. Indeed, Beltran was not disciplined, other than being singled out in the report as being among the players who set out to “improve” the team’s system of identifying signs and relaying them to hitters. That led to this, this being those seasons of live feeds directed to nearby television monitors and the banging of trash cans and a World Series championship and, also, three men being fired and two organizations changing directions over the course of 30 hours.
It also left the Mets and Beltran. The Mets, of course, were not involved in any way, other than employing Beltran. Beltran was protected by the terms of his interview with investigators. That, again, was contingent on the investigators’ assessment of the veracity of his account from the 2017 season. Perhaps, too, on his story being backed by others’ stories. By appearances, Beltran was found to be truthful, in spite of his previous public denial, though that denial surely complicated things.
And yet, as managers Hinch and Cora pondered their lives after baseball, it seemed fair to ponder the implications of the report on an ex-player implicated in a massive cheating scandal about to begin a new career as a manager. Also, how his bosses might feel about that. Also, how that manager — as the face and voice and conscience and leader of a franchise that has previously had issues in those areas — would be perceived. And how his bosses might feel about that, too.
So far, it is primarily the Astros who will bear the burden of an unsettling and ugly chapter in baseball history, one that will form decisions and conclusions and carry news cycles for the coming season and beyond. Currently under investigation, the Red Sox will have their turn, as well. The Mets, according to sources, are considering what their role might be if they continue on with Beltran.
They hired Beltran and gave him a three-year contract. There is an option for a fourth year. His salary is about $1 million annually, about right for a first-year manager. They chose him from a list of candidates that, near the end, included Eduardo Perez, Pat Murphy, Derek Shelton, Tim Bogar and Luis Rojas. Shelton became manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As of Wednesday evening, Beltran was in Port St. Lucie, Florida, presumably preparing for spring training, performing the duties required of a manager four weeks in front of a camp opening. The Mets — owner Fred Wilpon, COO Jeff Wilpon, Van Wagenen — had not yet commented on the fact their manager had a cameo in Manfred’s report, that he was among the dozens blamed for skewing at least one baseball season and responsible for whatever hit the game has taken to its integrity. Team officials had spoken to Beltran before he met with league investigators and had opportunity to address the topic again since, certainly in the past 48 hours.
The Mets also could have requested from MLB further details from the investigation, details that were not part of Monday’s report, to gain a clearer view of Beltran’s claims and the claims of others involved. It is not known if they did.
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