Are the Mets Looking for a Reason to Dump Carlos Beltran?

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When is a controversy not a controversy? Offhand, we'd say when it hasn't stirred up any controversy.

Carlos Beltran's sacrifice fly Wednesday gave the Mets a 3-2 win over the Nationals, and you'd think that in a season of such unrelenting disappointment that might be a high note. But for some reason, someone - we suspect someone connected with the Mets - is trying to spin it in another direction.

Thomas Kaplan summed up the situation in yesterday's New York Times: "Beltran, Oliver Perez, and Luis Castillo all chose not to take part on Tuesday when the Mets made their annual trip to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington to visit wounded soldiers ... The decision by the three players seemed to underline their current alienation from the Mets, angered the team's ownership and various teammates and again raised the issue that continues to hang over the franchise: what to do with these three players who have worn out their welcome in Queens but who are owed more than $36 million in 2011, the final year of their contracts?"

Neither Perez or Castillo are much worth fussing over, and it's doubtful they'll be missed no matter what the Mets decide to do with them. But how did Beltran get on everyone's shit list? Granted, he's been dead in the water since returning from knee surgery -- in 50 games and 166 at-bats he's hit just .235 with two home runs. But as we've had occasion to note, for the last several seasons Beltran can lay legitimate claim to being one of, if not the, best all-around players in baseball (and his .342 on-base average certainly indicates that he has some life left in him).

Are the Mets simply looking for a reason to dump Beltran and his salary?

Regarding his no-show at Walter Reed, Carlos was quoted yesterday as saying, "I don't know who is creating this issue. I had my own things to do and I couldn't make it." If anyone connected to the Mets, ESPN, or the New York Times wants a more detailed explanation, why don't they just ask him? Is it at least possible that he had something important on his agenda and intends to make it up to the veterans with some autographed baseballs or something?

It certainly seems as if everything that could be done to distance Beltran from the team is being done in this matter. R.A. Dickey, who apparently is making a bid to be the clubhouse spokesman, was quoted as saying, "It's a big deal" -- meaning Beltran's no-show -- "and I take it very personally." Mike Pelfrey even wrote on the Mets clubhouse message board that the visit was "mandatory." But the visit was NOT mandatory, it has always been voluntary. Last year six Mets did not make it to Walter Reed -- Beltran did attend -- and not a public word was said. Shouldn't the Mets players discuss these things among themselves before anyone "takes it personally"?

In this matter, as in so many over the past several months, the Mets' front office seems to be allowing bad feelings to pile on top of bad feelings -- in fact, they seem to be encouraging it. It's no secret that the front office has been angry with Beltran since January, when, as Kaplan wrote in the Times, "He opted for knee surgery without, in the Mets opinion, clearing it with them." As we wrote earlier this year, that notion needs to be deep-sixed. It's quite clear in the Basic Agreement between players and owners that the players do NOT need management's approval to have surgery.

It shouldn't even be necessary to address such issues in the BA: all players who can afford it should have their own high-priced sports doctors and always make their own decisions about surgery and other medical treatment. The teams have no say in such matters. That the Mets can't seem to understand this and keep allowing the sports media to misinterpret it as well smacks of a campaign to push Beltran and his big contract out of Queens.

Good luck replacing him next year. Our guess is that Beltran, like K-Rod, will be free agent over the winter. If either or both have anything left to offer, don't be surprised to see them playing ball on the other side of town next season.


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