Remember this guy? He was the 7-year, $119M man in Flushing until last July, when he became the bait for Zack Wheeler.
Today, we get to watch Carlos Beltran swing for St. Louis. After playing out 2010 in San Francisco, Beltran settled for a mere two years and $26M to play for the Pujoless Cardinals. Through 49 games this year, Beltran is batting like the All-Star the Mets signed prior to the 2005 season. His 15 HRs match the total he hit with the Mets through twice as many games; his .594 slugging percentage is equal to his career high in 2006; his .988 OPS is 4 points higher than his career high (also in 2006). His legs must be feeling pretty good as well — he’s already swiped 6 bases, which is one less than he stole in 2010 and 2011 combinged.
With Beltran belting the ball the way he is, no one in St. Louis is lamenting the loss of their formerly beloved Prince Albert Pujols — especially since Pujols is hitting only .240 with a sub-.700 OPS on the Left Coast.
How has Beltran put up such big numbers through the first quarter of the season? Is he simply on a tear? Did he spend his winter drinking from the Fountain of Youth? Is he more relaxed in stress-free St. Louis?
Probably, it’s a combination of things allowing this new Cardinal to spread his wings. However, one factor jumps out at me: the supporting cast in St. Louis. When Carlos Beltran hit like a superstar in Houston, it was as a #2 hitter, with sluggers Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent, and Lance Berkman around him. His best years as a Met coincided with people like Carlos Delgado, David Wright, and Jose Reyes all performing at their peak levels. This year, Beltran reunited with a similarly revived Berkman, plus the big bat of Matt Holliday, as well as surprisingly swift starts by Yadier Molina, Jon Jay, Rafael Furcal, and David Freese. There’s no need for Beltran to be “the man” in St. Louis, because so many others are contributing. I think much of Beltran’s under-performance as a Met — in addition to the chronic injuries — had at least something to do with the perception of needing to carry the club, to be the main feared slugger in the lineup. That said, I wonder if Beltran would be performing similarly if he was wearing a Mets uniform today. Also, if Beltran were back in the orange and blue, would David Wright have emerged as the team leader? And finally, would the Mets be in first place right now, rather than looking up at the Nationals?
What do you think? And, are you looking forward to seeing Beltran play tonight? How do you expect the Citi Field crowd to receive him? Should the Mets have tried to sign him last winter — or was it necessary to make room for youngsters such as Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Mike Baxter?
Post your feelings in the comments.