Best Mets Of All Time: No. 15 Carlos Beltran
Not only was Carlos Beltran the best Mets player to ever wear the number 15, he is easily the best center fielder in team history. There is an argument to be made he was the best outfielder to ever play for the Mets.
Things did not start off that way. In fact, his 2005 season with the Mets was extremely disappointing, and to some, it invoked memories of the Bobby Bonilla deal. In fact, Beltran was the first real major venture into free agency the Mets made after that Bonilla signing.
It was an eventful year for him. In Spring Training, he took David Wright and Jose Reyes under his wing to show them how to prepare. He helped avoid the Mets going 0-6 to start the year by hitting a two run homer against John Smoltz. From there, it was mostly consternation from fans about his propensity to bunt and rolling over on pitches. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, he and Mike Cameron had one of the more horrific outfield collisions you would ever see.
Things would go much better for him in 2006.
To put it simply, Beltran was robbed of the MVP award that year. During that season, he was the best overall player in the National League, and he was the best player on the best team in baseball. He really did it all that year. He was an All-Star, and he won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. There was game saving defensive plays and walk-off homers.
That season, Beltran set a team record for highest single-season WAR, and he would tie Todd Hundley‘s record for homers in a season and Howard Johnson‘s record for extra base hits. He would also get the single season record for runs scored, a record which still stands.
For all the talk from some people who only want to focus on the strikeout which ended that season, the Mets come nowhere close to that Game 7 without Beltran. In addition to his great year, Beltran would homer three times in that series. The first was a two run shot in the sixth inning of Game 1 which paced the Mets 2-0 victory. He then had a two run home run game in a must win Game 4.
The next two years for Beltran and the Mets were known for their collapses. That’s unfortunate because Beltran was great for those Mets teams. In 2007, while not as good as he was the prior year, he was still great making another All-Star team and winning another Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. With respect to the Gold Glove, in Houston, Beltran had just about the greatest catch a Mets player has ever made (in the regular season):
While the Mets did collapse that year, Beltran did what he could do to stop it. Over the final two months of the season, Beltran was at his best hitting .304/.378/.613 with 14 homers and 50 RBI. His eight homers over the final month of the season was more than anyone on the Mets. Over those brutal last five games of the season, he was 6-for-22 with three homers.
In 2007, he did all he could to to stop another collapse. By WAR, that season was the seventh best in team history. Looking at Mets team history, only Beltran and Wright appear multiple times on that top 10 list.
Again, Beltran was great to finish that year doing all he could do to help stop a second collapse. Over the final two months, he hit .322/.400/.589 with 12 homers and 40 RBI. Over the final five games of the season, he hit .412/.545/.588, and he would hit the last homer a Mets player ever hit in Shea Stadium. That homer would tie the game, but unfortunately, the Mets would lose that game.
During the Carlos Beltran era, the Mets would not get that close again. Beltran was one of the few Mets who had played well in the new ballpark, but he had an injury shortened season. It would eventually lead to a fracturing of the relationship with the Mets as he would have career saving surgery on the eve of the 2010 season, a surgery the Mets originally protested.
In 2011, Beltran returned for his last year with the Mets. He was once again an All-Star, but this time, he did it as a right fielder. When he was asked to move to right to allow Angel Pagan to play center, Beltran made no issue about it, and he made the switch willingly. That year, Beltran re-established himself as one of the best players in the game, and he had another huge moment hitting three two run homers in Colorado:
With his resurgence, the Mets were able to get Zack Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants. When that trade was completed, it put an end to the Mets career of one of the greatest players to ever wear the uniform. It also put an end to the Mets career of the most under-appreciated Mets player of all-time.
His 2006-2008 stretch was arguably the best three year stretch any Mets player has ever had. He was a Gold Glover and a Silver Slugger. Mostly, he played like a Hall of Famer, and he may just be that one day.
There was a chance for Beltran to get that appreciation he always deserved when the Mets initially hired him to be their manager. With the Houston Astros fallout, Beltran was the only player to pay the price being effectively fired by the Mets as they kept two players who had also cheated in Houston. With that, Beltran’s Hall of Fame chances may have taken a hit, and the chances he wears a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque may have also taken a hit.
Still, there is no denying how great Beltran was as a Met. He was a five tool player who played to his full potential with the Mets. He set team records, established himself as the best center fielder in team history, and ultimately, he is easily the best Mets player to ever wear the number 15.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Beltran was the 15th best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 15.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges