By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, DECEMBER 21- For the third time in the past three weeks, the New York Yankees officially introduced one of their free agent signees. These brief meetings with the press and media are wise ways for an organization to publicize its franchise in a positive manner and demonstrate to its fan base its efforts to improve the performance of the team in the coming season.
Catcher Brian McCann, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and on Friday, Carlos Beltran were the subjects of these public events. The player least needing an introduction to New York fans is Beltran.
The 36 year-old outfielder has been in the majors since 1998 and was a star on the New York Mets from 2005-2011. During that time, he has compiled very creditable on the field statistics and conducted himself humbly and gentlemanly off the field.
After playing 14 games for the Kansas City Royals in 1998, Beltran earned the American League Rookie-of-the Year Award in 1999. After a trade to Houston during the 2004 season, Beltran became a free agent and was hopeful of signing with the Yankees in 2005.
Beltran recalled this experience, “I grew up being a Yankee fan, a Bernie Williams fan. I used to look up to this organization. They always did what it takes to put good teams out there and win championships. Eight-nine years ago, they [Yankees] couldn’t commit to the years I wanted. They were having problems with the salary cap. They got Randy Johnson and I signed with the Mets.”
Although he still retains the hurtful memories of having been unfairly spoken of negatively by Mets brass, Beltran put the entire Mets experience in a positive light, “I have good memories of Queens. As a person, I met so many good people. In my career, my best numbers were with the Mets.”
Beltran responded with total honesty when asked how playing for the Yanks will be different than playing for the Mets, “I don’t know. I have to experience it.”
New York Yankees President Randy Levine explained one of the reasons the Yankees desired to sign Beltran, “We know he can play in New York. A lot of great players can’t.” Beltran later explained the meaning of Levine’s words from his own playing experience, “Playing here [New York] is different than playing anywhere else. The attention here is more; that’s pressure.”
Despite the pressure, he talked of his happiness of being in New York, a feeling that was not always realized by the public, “People misunderstood that I didn’t like New York. I really did enjoy it. My wife loves it here.”
As a Latino born in Puerto Rico, the veteran major leaguer expressed happiness of being in the Bronx, “I’m proud that on this side of town we have a lot of Puerto Ricans. I have a double responsibility, representing the Yankees and representing my country. We’re going to have some fun.”
The socially conscious individual also spoke of his responsibility of giving back to the community, “My opportunity as a player is to give back. We are going to do something positive.”
As a veteran player who at the end of his current three year contact will have played in the majors for 18 seasons, Beltran is thinking of the future. He said although he never gave thought to the Hall of Fame, people have told him it could be in his future. Because of this possibility, he felt a strong preference for a three year rather than two year contract, “The third year, to me, is important. It allows me to play longer and get better numbers.”
The statistics and honors earned by Beltran are already quite impressive. The eight time All-Star, three time Gold Glove winner and recipient of the Silver Slugger twice is worthy of being considered. His .333 batting average in 51 post-season games also adds to his high reputation.
He responded to a query of when he will retire, “It depends on how I feel. Right now, I consider it my last contract.”
Perhaps, the comment by Levine of why this contract between Beltran and the Yankees was signed was most appropriate, “The stars were aligned.”