Long before the entire Mets’ team (sans David Wright) took September off; a memory that has been indelibly marked into fans heads for 6 months now, there was a previous not so distant memory Mets fans cringed thinking about…Carlos Beltran watching a called third strike from Adam Wainwright in the 2006 NLCS. Really, up until the last 17 games of last season, that moment, above all else, is what ate away at fans. Even worse, was the ease and casual attitude Beltran took allowing the teams push for the World Series that year with his bat on his shoulder.
But wait…2008 spring training is upon us, and even though everyday players are not yet required to show up, many of the Mets veterans have. Or have they? Carlos Beltran, in what seemed to be an innocent meeting with some press in the dugout at Tradition Field all of the sudden spoke. What came out of his mouth however, was not something that Carlos Beltran would say.
“To Jimmy Rollins: We are the team to beat.”
WHAT?!!? Ever since acquiring Johan Santana and being named the uncrowned champion of the NL East, every Met player that has been asked about it, has stuck to their guns and said, “Yes we’re better, but the Phillies won the division last year, so they are indeed the team to beat.” So imagine the shock to many fans ears and eyes when they hear and read Carlos “I do my talking on the field” Beltran had the balls to say what his teammates won’t.
Beltran’s complete comments were:
“Let me tell you this, without Santana, we felt, as a team, that we had a chance to win in our division. With him now, I have no doubt that we’re going to win in our division. I have no doubt in that. We’ve got what it takes.”
That was enough of a statement to make. Like I said, a statement David Wright has refused to embrace. Even afterwards, Wright stood by the idea that the Phils are the team to beat. When asked about becoming enemy #1 in “The City of Brotherly Love” Beltran didn’t back off either.
“I don’t care,” Beltran said. “They boo me in Houston. One more city won’t make a difference.”
But the biggest question is, does he finally care what fans in his team’s home city think? Willie Randolph attributed Beltran’s confidence to being a new father and laughed the comments off. Myself, I don’t know what to think. If Carlos Beltran starts to show even the slightest bit of effort to be more than a really talented player who is content with doing his job and collecting his check, then sign me up to the “New” Carlos Beltran fan club. Yes, in just a matter of a few weeks there’s enough of a chance that this will be a one time thing that Vegas won’t even put it up on the board. Yes, there is a great chance that come his first 0-4 with 3 K’s day at Shea he’ll retreat to his shell and never be heard from again. And yes, there is even the chance that this might backfire as the Mets fans had hoped Rollins’ comments last year would (his mis betrothed MVP award would say is didn’t).
Seriously though, as Billy Wagner said in response after Beltran made his comments:
“There’s no use in us showing up if we don’t believe that we are that type of team. For me, I don’t think I would ever go out and say it just because I believe in going out there on the field and doing it, but hey, you know what? He’s my teammate. I got his back.”
For anyone who thinks that this is actual fodder for people in Philadelphia, as someone who (sadly) lives there, let me assure you, they’ve already taken up to crowning themselves the best and have downplayed the addition of Santana to such a degree you’d think the Mets had just gotten Kris Benson…ooops, sorry Phillies fans…he’s your headache now (though I’m more inclined to subscribe to a newspaper here now if Anna Benson-mania runs wild here).
Here’s what you hear, if all you do is read Philly papers and watch Phillies coverage on Comcast down here. “Pedro Feliz is a great addition. We have the best home grown talent of any team. Our only weakness is depth on the bench. Yes the backend of our ratation has some questions, but it did last year and we won. The Mets can add anyone they want, we have a better team.” This is a city with the shortest long term memory in the world. Let me explain. In late June last year wanted it’s manager’s head, wanted Pat Burrell gone, wanted Brett Myers to just keep his mouth shut. Now their world beaters in the fans and sadly their beat writers eyes, but believe you me, the minute they start to slide, these fans and writers will remember.
So kudos to Carlos Beltran, because down here, they’re already trying to convince themselves that they are atually better than the Mets and even if no one on the Mets came out and said what Beltran did, this city already convinced themselves they had, so why not just come out and say it, if, like Beltran says he does, believe it.