The Mets have announced Carlos Beltran as the new manager of the team and he will be officially introduced at a press conference on Monday. From the perspective of a fan who has fond memories of his time as a player on the Mets, this can bring about conflicting feelings—excitement to see a familiar face back in the Mets’ dugout, but tinged with a fear that his legacy may be tarnished if he does not succeed.
Why Allison is excited
During the years that Beltran was on the Mets, he was my favorite player. I admired the quiet intensity with which he played the game and the way he always led by example.
I think those are qualities he can carry with him into his managing. While his tactical ability as a manager is an unknown quantity at this point (as it was with all of the Mets’ candidates outside of Joe Girardi), his knowledge of the game is unquestionable and unparalleled. He is respected in the game among players, coaches, and executives alike and many felt it was inevitable that he would someday manage. That respect players have for his career will give him a certain amount of gravitas in the clubhouse that is only amplified by his history with the team he is managing.
“He’ll be an amazing manager,” said Astros shortstop Carlos Correa about Beltran. “He’s going to help [a] club so much like he helped here in this clubhouse. The atmosphere that he built and the chemistry in the clubhouse still lives on. We still treat each other like brothers, we still take care of business like we should, like professionals. … He’s going to be a game-changer if he gets that job, for sure.”
I’m with Correa. Not only can Beltran be a mentor that his players turn to, especially the Latin players, he can also be a manager that can get that clubhouse to buy in, which is essential, given where the team is at right now. The Mets are coming off a season where they fell just short of the playoffs. These players have seen what their team is capable of. Beltran has the capability to be a leader that can keep that momentum and enthusiasm going into 2020.
Perhaps the most important thing that makes Beltran a good fit for this job, however, is his institutional knowledge when it comes to the Mets and New York. He knows exactly what he is getting into. He has existing relationships with ownership and other members of the organization. He understands the Mets’ weird quirks and their unique way of doing things. And he understands—all too well—the New York sports media and how to navigate that landscape. He has no illusions about the task he is taking on with this job and he’s not going to be blindsided by the New York spotlight. While I think the “he can handle New York” trope is often overplayed, Beltran’s predecessor had a moment where he cracked under the pressure, which only underscores the need for a manager that will not repeat his mistakes.
While I concede that there is a chance that if he does not turn out to be a good manager, the fanbase will be quick to turn on him, just like they did when he was a player, visions of Beltran leading this group to a championship and proudly donning his Mets cap in the Hall of Fame far outweigh any of my trepidations.
Why Thomas is nervous
I’m worried for the same reasons that is Allison so excited; I absolutely adored the Carlos Beltrán era in Queens. He is one of my three favorite Mets of all time, alongside David Wright and Jacob deGrom. He is arguably the best center fielder in the franchise’s history. He is a should-be Hall of Famer who, if he ever does get the call, should go in as a Met -- 839 games played, .280/.369/.500, 129 OPS+, and 31.1 bWAR in Queens, compared to 795 games played, .287/.352/.835, 111 OPS+, and 24.8 bWAR in Kansas CIty, and numbers don’t lie. His number 15 should be retired, never to be worn again -- except for him in the dugout on Opening Day. He is, simply put, a franchise legend.
This is what makes the Mets hiring Beltrán so fun. He is one of the best players to ever don the orange and blue, and he is by all accounts a well-liked and respected person in baseball. As someone who is a sucker for the #BroughtHimHome narrative, it sounds like there should be no downside -- a well-liked and respected player wants to come back home? To the team I love? Where he said the entire time he would not manage anyone but the Mets? It should be a no-brainer, and to say I will not be excited to see him put on a Mets uniform during his press conference would be a flat out lie. But I was left thinking about the negatives as much as the positives.
The manager in baseball is a weird spot for anyone to be in. We have seen legitimately good managers in A.J. Hinch and Dave Roberts have absolutely abysmal performances in this year’s playoffs alone, ones that probably cost their teams wins, and in the former’s case, potentially an entire World Series. This will probably mark their reputations forever -- they will not be remembered for managing two juggernauts in the Astros and Dodgers, they will be remembered for making ludicrous decisions. We, as fans, do not remember the right moves the managers make, because they are the obvious and logical ones. We remember the starter that was left in too long, or the reliever who faced the wrong batter. We remember the mistakes they make, and often hoist blame upon them, deserved or otherwise.
While managers, or head coaches, in other sports have a direct effect on the game -- football coaches call plays and defensive schemes, and basketball and hockey coaches create offenses and defenses that can help or hinder their players, for example. But in baseball, the manager has a rather indirect hold on a game. They make important decisions, but a lot of what they do are things the average fan is not privy to -- what is happening in the clubhouse and whatnot. I am terrified that Beltrán will struggle with being a first time manager, and in turn hurt a legacy in orange and blue that deserves to be pristine. There is a lot to process here, plenty more than if they hired Tim Bogar or Eduardo Pérez or the myriad of candidates the Mets leaked throughout this ridiculously long process -- even more than if they hired Joe Girardi. There is a history with Beltrán that other candidates did not have, and it is as terrifying as it is exciting.