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No place to hide for Beltran

Mike SteffanosTuesday, February 21, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Bryan Hoch has a nice Carlos Beltran piece on Mets.com. Beltran admits to Hoch that he was trying too hard last year, and looks forward to turning things around in 2006:

It was a very difficult year. Last year is in the past. This year, I'm looking forward to a new season and showing the fans and everyone what I'm capable of doing.

...When you come to a new place like I did last year for the first time, you're wondering how it's going to be. This year, I feel relaxed and feel great.

Beltran also feels that he made a mistake trying to play thorough that quad injury in 2005:

That was something that I probably did wrong last year. I should have let the injury heal completely 100 percent. I just wanted to be there, and instead of helping the team, I was hurting the team. You learn from that.

I don't have exact figures in front of me, but my recollection of last season before the injury was that Beltran was hitting close to .300, though his power numbers weren't good and he wasn't running enough. He seemed a little tentative, but not overwhelmed by New York. Playing through the injury put him into a long slump that seemed to erode his confidence. Then he started getting some boos and went into a stretch where he was trying to pull everything. It seemed like the year got away from him one piece at a time, and he could never quite pull it back together.

Please don't mistake the above to be me making excuses for Beltran. He killed the Mets in 2005, and if he has a comparable season in 2006 he'll be an albatross around the necks of Mets fans for these next 6 years. I don't think that will happen, though. I think he's going to wind up being a very good player in New York -- if not quite the superstar his paycheck would seem to indicate.

Most of us were in favor of Beltran's signing when it happened. Even more than Pedro's signing, this signaled to the rest of Major League Baseball that the Mets weren't going to be just a bad punchline any longer. It created a buzz and an excitement around the Mets that we hadn't felt in quite a while. We knew at the time we were overpaying for Beltran, but we understood why. We understood Beltran is quite unlikely to ever put up triple crown numbers, but the coupe of signing the best young free agent position player of the winter had an intrinsic value in and of itself.

If sometimes I need to remind myself that Victor Diaz is only 24, maybe I also need to leave myself a memo that Beltran is 28. As mature and polished as he can come across in interviews, he doesn't have a ton of life experience to draw from. When I was 28, I didn't have all the answers.

Beltran is a grounded, non-fancy type who I believe will settle into New York and produce. As much as it inspires some to question my IQ, this is why I don't have the huge problem with Beltran batting third that some of you do. I think he can grow into that role, and do a good job. I like Wright at 4 or 5 in the order, because I see him developing into even more of an RBI machine than he already is.

And yes, I do understand why many believe Beltran should be moved down to the 2-hole. I just don't necessarily agree. I think Willie Randolph challenged Beltran by leaving him third. I'm a believer that people often do better when you ask for more rather than less from them. It's worked in my own life. So -- although I am not dead set against Beltran batting second, I'm not hugely in favor of it, either. That doesn't make me a bad person.

CBS SportsLine: It's the same old song
Scott Miller has Five things to know from Mets camp. Mostly they concern trading Seo and Benson and moving Heilman to the rotation. Wish these guys could get off this subject now -- I think we all get it.

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