By Joe Rini
In naming Carlos Beltran as the new manager of the New York Mets, it has been much noted that he is the ninth former Mets player to be elevated from the clubhouse to the manager’s office. While the managerial tenures of the previous eight former player has varied between the immortality of Gil Hodges’ 1969 champs to the nearly forgotten seven game interim status of Mike Cubbage in 1991, Beltran brings a certain uniqueness from his predecessors.
Success varied for these Mets managers. Yogi Berra and Bobby Valentine won National League pennants with the Mets while Bud Harrelson fell short of a division title in 1990 and Wille Randolph endured the 2007 collapse following a loss in the NLCS in 2006. Dallas Green won a World Series with the Phillies in 1980 but wilted with Generation K with the Mets in the mid 1990s. Joe Torre’s Mets put them in the position to draft Darryl Strawberry at the top of the 1980 Draft.
However, aside from Harrelson, a Gold Glove winning shortstop in 1971 who played 1,322 games for the Mets between 1965 and 1977 and was an integral part of their World Series teams of 1969 and 1973 before managing the team in 1990 and 1991, the playing careers of the other seven were not notable for their time with the Mets. Managers like Hodges, Yogi Berra, Joe Torre, Willie Randolph, and Roy McMillan finished out their solid playing careers (and in the case of Hodges, Berra, and Torre, illustrious careers) modestly with the Mets while being more identified with their former teams. Cubbage, Valentine, and Green had modest well-traveled careers that included pit stops at Shea Stadium.
Like Harrelson, Beltran spent a significant part of career with the Mets from 2005 to 2011. While the most visual image of his Mets career is unfortunately his called strike three to end the 2006 NLCS with the bases loaded, one can’t really deny he was a standout player for seven years with the Mets. His five All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, and his .280/.369/.500 slash line as a Met are significant qualifications on his resume for possible Hall of Fame induction.
As noted by author Mort Zachter several years ago in his excellent biography “Gil Hodges; A Hall of Fame Life,” the former Mets manager hit more home runs (370) as a player than any other World Series winning manager. Interestingly, should Beltran helm the Mets to their third World Championship, he’ll not only hold aloft the World Series trophy, he and his 435 home runs would claim the top spot in this player/manager distinction. A successful managerial career could also be the factor that tips Beltran’s Hall of Fame credentials in his favor.
Will Beltran be a successful Mets manager? It’s hard to predict. Even the greatest managerial minds can be foiled if closers can’t hold ninth inning leads. However, for a player whose Mets playing career is often marred by the memory of one moment, perhaps a redemption is in the making.