Hey, I remember that Carlos Beltran guy
The Astros had missed the playoffs for a couple of years and appeared to be going nowhere when GM Gerry Hunsicker began trying to pry Carlos Beltran away from the Kansas City Royals in the summer of 2004. Those Astros appeared to be loaded. They had Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent all playing at a high level. They had a terrific defensive presence at short (Adam Everett) and catcher (Brad Ausmus) and a gifted young third baseman (Morgan Ensberg). Roy Oswalt won 20 games that summer and Roger Clemens took home his seventh Cy Young Award. Brad Lidge was virtually unhittable at the back of the bullpen.
When Hunsicker would sit down and look at his club, he had a tough time coming up with a reason it was languishing near the bottom of the National League Central. So he did three things: On June 24, he acquired Beltran for catcher John Buck and reliever Octavio Dotel. When that didn’t immediately turn the club around, he fired manager Jimy Williams and hired Phil Garner.
And then he made a move no one thought much about, and it goes to show you how these things sometimes work out. On August 29, reliever Dan Wheeler was summoned from the bullpen in his first appearance since being acquired from the New York Mets. He promptly hit Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee.
Benches emptied, and a slumbering club took off. Looking back on it, every single player said the fight in Chicago was the catalyst got the Astros going. They’re not sure why it happened, or how. The Astros were 66-63 when the day began. They went 25-7 the rest of the way and nailed down a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season.
And then came the playoffs.
In beating Atlanta in the first round and losing to the Cardinals in a seven-game NLCS, Carlos Beltran played about the best two weeks of baseball you’ve ever seen.
Garner shifted him to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, between Biggio and Bagwell. In 12 games, he went 20 for 46 (.435) with three doubles, eight home runs, nine walks and 14 RBIs. He had plenty of talent around him, so it wouldn’t be fair to say he carried the Astros, but his performance was stunningly good.
It was the first time a lot of baseball fans had heard of Carlos Beltran. He was a mere 27 years old, and it looked like he was on his way to becoming baseball’s next great player. He signed a $119-million contract with the Mets that winter, but was never as good as he’d been that October in Houston.
Still, when the Cardinals lost Albert Pujols last winter, GM John Mozeliak quickly signed Beltran, believing that if could stay healthy he’d be a very productive player. That he has been, and with the Cardinals back in the playoffs, Beltran is showing some of his old October magic.
He’s 35 now, but appears to have been reenergized by the opportunity to play for the Cardinals and with guys like Matt Holliday, David Freese, etc. The Cardinals surprised a lot of people by getting past the Nationals in the NLDS and surprised some more by beating the Giants in Game 1 of the NLCS. Maybe the Cardinals are a surprise, but to those of us who’ve seen Carlos Beltran at his best, that part of the story is no surprise.