Carlos Beltran is winning me over.
I know I've taken him to task before. I've said that he's making superstar money and playing like a regular star. He's put up good numbers, and since I last wrote about him, he's put up great numbers. But I never exactly felt like he was putting up $17 million-a-year numbers.
Now I think he's worth every penny.
It's hard to tell that Beltran cares. He has a very calm demeanor. It's a poker face - it seems like he never gets too up or too down. But he has proven to me that he is a quiet leader on this team...and he's leading by example by coming through in the clutch.
The past week has taken some of the shine off of David Wright's record-setting year (he has 124 RBI on the season, tied with Mike Piazza for the team record). He's been hitting, but not late in games with lots on the line. Beltran has.
And every time Beltran comes up in one of those situations, Gary Cohen mentions the fact that Beltran's prime motivation is his strikeout in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006. And I love that he is so bothered by that strikeout.
The first time it came up was after Beltran's grand slam to beat the Marlins in Miami last month. Cohen told that Beltran wants to get back in the playoffs to make up for that at-bat against Adam Wainwright. Then Cohen mentioned it again in the ninth inning last night before Beltran ripped one off the first baseman's glove to beat the Cubs and keep the Mets one game behind Philadelphia and tied with Milwaukee. (Last year, by the way, the first baseman catches that ball...or Ryan Church gets tagged out at the plate in the 8th...this year is shaping up to be more promising.)
Carlos Beltran shocked a lot of people early this year by saying the Mets would win the division. He's finally starting to back that guarantee up with his play in the clutch. And if I'm the Marlins, I'd keep my mouth shut this weekend. Beltran is looking for motivation everywhere...and he's following through. He might just carry the Mets the next couple of weeks like he did with the Astros when he earned himself that huge payday.
WHETHER THE WEATHER: I haven't been this excited to watch baseball all season. I wake up and can't wait for the night's games. Unfortunately, I might have to wait 24 more hours. There's some nasty weather across the region, and it's going to wreak havoc on the weekend's schedule. The Phillies are hosting the Nationals, the Mets have the Marlins. There might be a doubleheader on Saturday instead of a night game tonight for the Mets. I can't stand the suspense.
I'm also ticked because the Mets have a 1 o'clock game on Saturday. They are totally within their rights to have a weekend game at a reasonable time like 1pm. I'm not mad at them - I'm mad at Major League Baseball. The 1pm start means it won't be on an Extra Innings package because of the FOX blackouts (only the 7pm Saturday starts get picked up by the package). The fact that I can see meaningless games on a weekday night in May but miss one of the most important games of the season on the final weekend shows there's something flawed with that system. I'll have to turn to the trusty old wireless scoreboard or the ESPN GameCast instead.
COUNTING MY CHICKENS: I hate to even mention this and run the risk of putting a jinx on the entire thing...but my dad got his post-season tickets the other day. (He's had a Tuesday & Friday ticket plan the past few years - which I took advantage of once in those two years.) But he has one Division Series game, two NLCS games, and one World Series game. One of the NLCS games falls on Columbus Day (depending on the Mets' seed)...the World Series game is a Saturday night (I think it's Game 3 - a guaranteed game...not 'if necessary', in other words). I could make it down to NYC for those games. I've never been to a World Series game - I'm getting butterflies just thinking about the possibilities...imagine if my final two trips to Shea Stadium were for a Billy Joel concert and a World Series game (and maybe add a third - the LCS game - I would not be able to make any Division Series games). If the Mets don't make it I might cry.