It amazes me that to this day Carlos Beltran still gets booed in Minute Maid Park every time he comes to the plate.
I was reminded of this when Beltran strode to the plate in the ninth inning of what should of been an easy win for the Astros Tuesday night. The Cardinals were making a strong case for a comeback after getting a couple of runs off David Carpenter and then Matt Adams, a 2009 23rd round draftee by Jeff Luhnow, greeting Brett Myers with a two-run homerun as he entered the game to make it a 9-8 contest.
Beltran strode to the plate with the Cardinals down a run and an opportunity to strengthen his vilification in Houston. He would pop-out to third basemen Chris Johnson and as he jogged back to the dugout I noticed he kept his head down as the crowd cheered at his misfortune. At that point I began to wonder if the vilification was warranted.
I've heard announcers say that the negative reaction when Beltran steps up to the plate is unwarranted. He was a big contributor to one of the greatest Astros teams in franchise history, by providing highlight reel catches and bombs.
Acquired for Octavio Dotel and John Buck Beltran hit .258/.368/.559, stole 28 bases and hit 23 homeruns in 90 games with Houston. He upped that by having one of the greatest postseason's ever batting .455/.500/1.091 with four homeruns in the NLDS and then .417/.563/.958 with another four runs in the NLCS.
As you know the 2004 Astros team fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
I remember being excited about the trade an excitement only matched by the 1998 trade that brought Randy Johnson to Houston. I just hoped that history wasn't going to repeat itself. I stayed glued to the hot stove news, scrounging and consuming any information I could get on the negotiations.
All the articles and quotes I read indicated that Carlos Beltran didn't care as much about money as he cared about joining a winning organization. Apparently that meant the New York Yankees, after apparently they passed Beltran and Scott Boras went looking for suitors. He would eventually end with the New York Mets.
Those comments about joinning a winning organization have really stuck with me through out the years. The Astros had been a game away and more specifically a Jim Edmonds catch away from the World Series. The city of Houston embraced him with full force and hoped that embrace would be enough to keep him here in Houston.
Instead of being the face of a franchise, in Houston his name could of been lost among the other stars on the team: Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. He wouldn't be relied on to carry the team and wouldn't have to face the scrutiny of a fan base looking to blame someone if the team faltered. Houston was a perfect fit for him, but his desire to play in New York apparently trumped that.
The Astros put up a good fight in negotiations. Yes, the difference in offers between New York and Houston were substantial but so is the cost of living in New York and Houston. The end result, however, was that the Astros didn't offer Beltran enough. He would instead go to New York and play well, but suffered injuries and the scrutiny of a New York fan base.
Ironically, for Houston, three years later they would get in another bidding war with the New York Mets this time winning and securing the service of Carlos Lee who would set the organization back several years. In 2008 alone Beltran posted a 7.6 fWAR which is more than Lee produced in WAR for 2007, 3.4 fWAR, AND 2008, 3.6 fWAR. McLane gets his share of the blame for going after the wrong guy.
In the end though it was Carlos Beltran's decision to spur the southern hospitality of Houston for the flashing lights of New York, and thus he turned his back on a fan base that had full embraced him, for one that never fully appreciated him. He said he wanted to be on a winning team, but then chose a team coming off a 71-91 year. For Astro fans that hurts.
The Mets would turn it around and reach the post season in 2006, but the everlasting memory of Beltran, for Mets fans, is taking that final pitch of the NLCS for a strike. Forget that he hit .296/.387/.667 in that NLCS and was a big reason why they were in the NLCS in first place (7.9 fWAR for the 2006 season), the lasting memory of him striking out is one that burns in the memories of Mets fans.
The Astros did well despite losing Beltran, reaching the World Series in 2005, but it was all down hill from there. And I'm sure many like minded fans like myself have played through several of the could have been scenario's if Beltran had stayed in Houston. Do the Astros get swept in 2005? Do the Astros make the post season in 2006? Do the Astros sing Carlos Lee in 2007? His decision had a profound negative impact on the organization.
Is it fair? Probably not.
I'm not a big proponent of booing, I don't think it accomplishes anything. If I ever get to a game with Carlos Beltran at the plate I probably wouldn't boo, but I also wouldn't blame the Astro fan sitting next to me for doing it. Drayton McLane and the previous front offices are largely to blame for the predicament the Astros are currently in, but what started it all was a player that the city of Houston full embraced deciding they weren't worth his time.