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Beltran Primed For A Big Rebound Season



The 2011 seasons will be crossroads years for Carlos Beltran as he will be entering a contract year come 2012 and are coming off a series of injuries that has brought into question his durability to play a full season.  It would be wise not to count him out  because he is  extremely talented  and has an inner strength few fans realize he possesses.

Beltran is perhaps the most misunderstood and under appreciated player in all of New York.  When he has played the Mets have excelled as a team and when he has not, they have struggled.  Case in Point: the 2009 season when an injury ravaged Met team stayed in the race through June thanks mainly to the offensive exploits of Beltran playing hurt and the hot hotting David Wright.  In fact, that duo got to Mariano Rivera to almost pin a loss on the Yankee reliever until Luis Castillo fumbled away the game's final out.  They pulled into Philly in early July without Beltran and that was the exact moment the season went in the dumpster.

I have made the effort to get to know Beltran in the past few years and the last 2 seasons have hurt him deeply.  He loves to play and could not be on the field in the manner in which he was accustomed--every day.  He does not mind playing hurt as evidenced by his quick return to te lineup after his fateful collision with Mike Cameron in Year one of his contract and the fact he played with knee pain for most of the latter stages of the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

And then there is the night he took the third strike to end the Met season in 2006.  I said that then and I will say it now--nobody and I mean nobody--was hitting that pitch not even Adam Wainright's teammate Albert Pujols.  It was a terrific curve ball and Beltran's best shot was to hope the home plate umpire missed it too.  If the truth be told, Beltran had a great series--2 homers and along with Carlos Delgado, did most of the Met hitting in that NLCS.  Billy Wagner skated through the fire in that criticism but serving up a So Taguchi homer in Game 2 might have had a bigger impact in that series than any of Beltran's at-bats.

Met fans have never forgiven Beltran for that at-bat but he has told me he understands that is part of playing in New York.  Last year, Beltran returned and looked gimpy in the first month or so, but started to look better both at the plate and in the outfield once the calendar turned to September.  The type of surgery he had generally has a 12 month rehab or more so it is understandable he did not perform at his customary level.

This winter, Beltran got back to his normal routine--remember he did not even begin running drills until late April last year--and that will help him reside in a comfort zone he is accustomed to.  Beltran cares deeply about what his legacy is here in New York and do not let his quiet demeanor fool you.  He has a burning desire to compete and does more leading in the Met clubhouse than you might think.  Ask Angel Pagan--who talked to Beltran so much last year even when the Met star was rehabbing.  They talked about consistency and how only hard work with talent can breed success. 

It is quite possible that at some point this year Beltran and Pagan will swirch positions in the outfield but that will not deter Beltran from helping Pagan or any other young Met player.  He is not interested in making a big deal about it with the media--he just does it.  I am always more impressed with players who do things like this without desiring credit and that is the way Beltran is programmed.  If he were a piece of cake, he'd be no icing and all cake.

Of course, in New York the bottom line is results and the Met star outfielder will have to do that to earn a contract with the Mets or any other team in the game once the dust clears on the 2011 season.  I would not count Beltran out just yet--he has talent, desire, motivation, and a burning desire to win.  And that burning desire is something the fans or media have never really understood.  But trust me--it is as fervent as any player's desire to win in that clubhouse.



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