Ahhhhhhhhh…

In his second consecutive column about Oliver Perez, Mike Lupica tells us not to get “overly worked up” about Oliver Perez. But that’s, well, whatever. That’s not what disgusted me about the column. Check out this part:

And we can all go ’round and ’round the mulberry bush about how [Perez’s contract] is the worst Mets contract this side of Beltran’s.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh…

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

Excuse me? All due respect, sir, but what the f@#$ are you talking about? Did you really just suggest that the three-year, $36 million contract handed to Oliver Perez — a guy who has posted a 6.62 ERA since inking the deal — is not as bad as the hefty one the Mets gave Carlos Beltran before the 2005 season? Is that what you’re saying? Because it really sounds like that’s what you’re saying.

And that’s ridiculous.

Look: I know everyone wants to get in their potshots at Scott Boras, because god forbid an agent be excellent at getting his players tons of money. And since Beltran’s hurt now it’s not as if his contract is a steal. But did you somehow forget the production he provided the team from 2006-2008, when he was one of the very best players in the Major Leagues on both sides of the ball?

Even if you’re on Team Phillips, that galumphing horde of ingrates unappreciative of greatness, you must recognize the difference between paying $12 million a year for Ollie Perez, a guy actively hurting his team, and paying even up to $18.5 million a year for Beltran, a guy actively hurting, but a guy who has only helped the Mets when healthy.

Wait, hold on, we have stats for this. Spreadsheets from our nerdery. Fangraphs converts WAR to a dollar scale to evaluate what a player should make in free agency. Over the course of his contract, even with his injuries, Beltran has already been worth $101.5 million to the Mets. That’s not including any value he might provide this year if and when he returns, or next year when he’s still under contract. So the Mets have already gotten nearly a full return on the $119 million they committed to Beltran before 2005, at least according to that stat.

Perez has been worth -$5.5 million since the start of 2009. Negative 5.5 million. Oliver Perez has been costing the Mets wins since they signed that deal. He cost them wins by pitching terribly, and now he is costing them wins by occupying a roster spot he doesn’t deserve. Oliver Perez should be paying the Mets for the right to pitch awfully, like some sort of absurd and masochistic vanity pursuit — the type you can afford when you’re earning $12 million a year for no reason in particular.

Whatever. Whatever. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love watching Carlos Beltran play baseball, and so I am, as always, hopelessly biased. Maybe Mike Lupica falls in line with the Joe Benignos of the world, those that are sure Beltran hates baseball, and that he’s a lousy player who hasn’t brought the Mets championships and struck out looking one time to end an NLCS in which he hit three home runs.

Here’s what I know: I remember standing in the scrum of reporters around Beltran on the last Friday night of the 2007 season, after Beltran homered but the Mets lost to the Marlins and the team finally fell out of first place. Beltran faced the crowd and said all the right things, a bunch of words that couldn’t in any way convey the shock and horror on his face. With apologies to Tom Glavine, the dude looked devastated.

And I remember a night late in the 2008 season, when the Mets’ bullpen tried to blow Pedro Martinez’s last start with the team but Beltran wouldn’t let them, lining a walkoff single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Before that game, Beltran had told reporters that he learned to stay measured during the ups and downs of that strange season, but that his wife took the late-season losses hard. Then after the game, someone asked him how the missus would feel about the win. He paused for a moment, then burst into a mile-wide smile.

“It’s gonna be a good night,” he said.

You can tell me Beltran isn’t a winner, doesn’t care about baseball and isn’t worth is salary, but I just won’t believe you. And you can bombard me with conspiracy theories about his knee surgery and slow recovery, but I’ll remain skeptical. I have no idea what went down this winter in the he-said, they-said drama, but at this point, based on empirical evidence, I trust Beltran’s baseball instincts more than I do that of the Mets’ front office.

And if he’s only in it for himself and slowly working to come back so he can play for his contract, answer me this: Why the hell did he come back last September, with the team out of the race, with his bone-on-bone knee issue and everything else? I don’t know, but I think maybe Carlos Beltran really, really likes baseball. Or maybe it seizes him in some way I could never understand without being that good at something.

The Flaming Lips:

Tell everybody waiting for Superman
That they should try to hold on as best they can.
He hasn’t dropped them, forgot them or anything
It’s just too heavy for Superman too lift.

16 thoughts on “Ahhhhhhhhh…

  1. I too enjoy watching Beltran play baseball, and I appreciate the value he provided during one of this franchise’s few spurts of relevance.

    Unfortunately, this feels like one of those “create the perception and thus turn it into reality” dealies. The Lupicas of the world don’t like Beltran – have never really liked Beltran, even before his injuries – so if they say his contract is bad enough times, it makes it so. Like concrete, it hardens and becomes conventional wisdom.

    (BTW I’m really glad I read the “Ryan” post before commenting. I’ve submitted under “Different Ryan” once or twice before, and shall forevermore).

  2. This is such garbage. It’s all about Lupica’s irrational hatred of Boras. Because I’m sure Lupica tells his agent to accept less money when he’s churning out that youth sports tripe he foists upon us every year.

    How about Beltran’s monster 2-run homer in Game 162 in 2008? You know, the game where the bullpen imploded and where the Mets had such impressive roster depth that they had Nick Evans batting 5th and Ramon Martinez batting 6th. But why would Lupica ever criticize his buddy Omar when he can kill Beltran instead?

  3. Not even just the NLCS – in THAT GAME, he was one of the few guys getting on base, and he scored the only run.

    Oh, it’s horrid. The perception of Beltran in the wider New York sports world is one of life’s hard lessons. Things are not fair, they just are.

    But I will be grateful to the end of my days, whatever happens this year and next, that part of my baseball-watching life included seeing Beltran play his beautiful baseball every day. I joke about him being a god, but as far as seeing baseball in its essence, I don’t think you can do better than Beltran. And not just the playing, the competitiveness. His whole heart is in it. I don’t know how people can’t see that. It’s just inexplicable, the way perception diverges from reality in his case.

  4. The Beltran thing just drives me batty, absolutely batty. There was a guy on our tour of Citi Field on Saturday who yelled “BUM!” every time we walked by an image of Beltran or his name was mentioned (he was also a racist, but that’s another subject for another day).

    After Beltran made that catch on Tal’s Hill in Houston two years ago (I think) I remember reading an interview with him how that when he played for Houston, every single day he did drills practicing to catch balls on Tal’s Hill. That the balls wouldn’t go there every day, but when they did, he wanted to be ready. And that just struck me as saying everything you need to know about Carlos Beltran – he did those drills EVERY DAY. Just in case.

    the biggest problem, I believe, is that he’s such a phenomenal athlete that it doesn’t look like he’s “trying hard”. If he had a repertoire of Jeter-esque leaps and falls, he would be lauded for that. Instead, the morons forget how he played with a plastic mask covering his face after the collision with Cameron instead of *not* playing.

    • This.

      A story I didn’t share above because it’s not my own — two of my colleagues were in the locker room during Spring Training this year waiting to interview Angel Pagan. They were the only media left in the clubhouse, but Pagan was busy. Beltran, with his knee all wrapped up, was standing with him, looking into a mirror and demonstrating swing mechanics. After about 20 minutes, Beltran stepped away and they got their interview in. But as they were leaving, they saw Beltran come back and start talking to Pagan again.

      But, you know, he’s only in it for himself.

  5. “I think maybe Carlos Beltran really, really likes baseball. Or maybe it seizes him in some way I could never understand without being that good at something.”

    And neither can Lupica, because he’s clearly not that good at writing about sports.

  6. Beltran once struck out against a Cy Young Award caliber pitcher in the playoffs on a filthy curveball. Therefore, he is the worst player ever. The logic is there. I don’t know why you all can’t see it.

  7. Late last season my brother and I got in an argument with two other “Mets fans” at Citi Field during a game against the Rockies. He was going on and on for about how bad Beltran is and how he’d rather have Pagan play center field, instead. After about 15 minutes I asked him if he was serious. He said that he wished Beltran was never signed and whatever. BOOM; flood gates open. I politely explained to him that Beltran has been a premier player on both sides of the ball for the past 3-4 years on the Mets and that Pagan was a 3rd-4th outfielder on a championship calibur team.

    Long story short the guy and his buddy refused to listen, my brother had a few too many drinks and told them both off. Then we left. People are ridiculous. I mean if you watch baseball how can you not recognize how good Beltran is?

  8. Beltran will never get the credit he deserves. Baseball ‘experts’ such as Steve Phillips criticize him for a perceived lack of effort. His natural talent and awareness on the baseball field means that he is able to play the game at a high standard without having to resort to Jim Edmonds-type plays (misjudging a ball and then pulling off a seemingly great catch that should have been routine).

    He had an MVP-type season in 06. Whilst the collapse in 07 was unfolding, Beltran was our hottest hitter. In 08, he had a number of clutch hits down the stretch that kept us alive. In 09, he played on at a high standard despite being hampered by injuries which should put an end to accusations of being ‘soft.’

    Conclusion: Beltran has been worth the contract and doesn’t deserve the constant criticism.

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