Out Before Reaching Home: Carlos Beltrán, Ex-Mets Manager by Jay Jaffe January 16, 2020 Carlos Beltrán won’t set foot in a Citi Field dugout anytime soon. In my conclusion to Thursday’s article on Beltrán’s place in the Astros’ 2017-18 sign-stealing mess — he was the only position player mentioned in commissioner Rob Manfred’s report, which positioned him as central to the improvements that resulted in “the banging scheme” — I noted that his status as Mets manager wasn’t “likely to remain in limbo much longer; he could be out of a job by sundown.” While admittedly not a stretch, that prognostication turned out to be correct. As with the Red Sox and Alex Cora, Beltrán and the Mets “agreed to mutually part ways” on Thursday. With that, all three sitting managers implicated by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich in their November 13 report (a day after they broke the initial story) — three who previously were well-respected throughout the industry and understood to represent part of a shifting paradigm with regards to the input of front offices and an emphasis on the interpersonal aspects of managing a club rather than the X’s and O’s of tactics — are out of work, that within roughly 72 hours of the release of Manfred’s report. The Mets named Beltrán as their manager on November 1, 12 days before The Athletic implicated him. At the time, Beltrán denied any wrongdoing via text messages to The Athletic and the New York Post (and perhaps others). Manfred’s report showed that he had lied to them, and not with the kind of little white lies and half-truths — on topics such as player availability — that managers routinely get away with. When Rosenthal and Drellich wrote about Beltrán earlier this week, they questioned whether he had been truthful with the Mets with regards to his involvement. The team’s statement, issued on Thursday by chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, suggests that he was (emphasis added): “We met with Carlos last night and again this morning and agreed to mutually part ways. This was not an easy decision. Considering the circumstances, it became clear to all parties that it was not in anyone’s best interest for Carlos to move forward as manager of the New York Mets. We believe that Carlos was honest and forthcoming with us. We are confident that this will not be the final chapter in his baseball career. We remain excited about the talent on this team and are committed to reaching our goals of winning now and in the future.” The question, then, is why the Mets waited until roughly 72 hours after the Manfred report to say anything about Beltrán or his status, assuming he had previously told them about his central role. “[A]t this point, I don’t see any reason why this is a Mets situation,” Van Wagenen told reporters when Beltrán’s participation was first revealed. His — or the organization’s — failure to recognize or acknowledge that over the course of the ensuing two months, it most certainly had become “a Mets situation,” something that at the very least could be an ongoing distraction in his daily dealings with the media and at most could compromise his credibility within the clubhouse and make his continued employment untenable, displays either incredible naïveté or sheer denial. A senior executive in baseball’s largest media market ought to know better. During a conference call, Wilpon and Van Wagenen answered reporters’ questions and made statements, some of which pertained to that timeline: Brodie Van Wagenen is saying that he hadn’t heard of any suspicion regarding the Astros, therefore it was not asked of Beltran in the process. That’s incredible given that there had been reports out there about suspicions regarding the Astros. — Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) January 16, 2020 Between mid-November and Monday, the Mets and Beltran did not discuss the sign-stealing, beyond encouraging cooperation with MLB's investigation. Wilpon: "We wanted to steer clear and allow the commissioner to do his investigation without any interference from us." — Tim Britton (@TimBritton) January 16, 2020 The Mets spoke with Carlos Beltrán after The Athletic's report dropped. They did not ask Beltrán about his role because, per Brodie, "we deferred to MLB's investigation." — Justin Toscano (@JustinCToscano) January 16, 2020 To me, the first summary reads as a failure of due diligence by the Mets, and the other two as the team’s attempts to maintain plausible deniability. Your mileage may vary. As for Beltrán, he issued two statements. The first, through the team, was basically boilerplate: “At a meeting this morning with Jeff and Brodie we mutually agreed to part ways. I’m grateful to them for giving me the opportunity, but we agreed this decision is in the best interest of the team. I couldn’t let myself be a distraction for the team. I wish the entire organization success in the future.” The second, initially sent to ESPN’s Marly Rivera, was more personal and contrite: “Over my 20 years in the game, I’ve always taken pride in being a leader and doing things the right way, and in this situation, I failed. As a veteran player on the team, I should’ve recognized the severity of the issue and truly regret the actions that were taken. I am a man of faith and integrity and what took place did not demonstrate those characteristics that are so very important to me and my family. I’m very sorry. It’s not who I am as a father, a husband, a teammate and as an educator. The Mets organization and I mutually agreed to part ways, moving forward for the greater good with no further distractions. I hope that at some point in time, I’ll have the opportunity to return to this game that I love so much.” Beltrán joins former Mets infielder Wally Backman as managers who were hired and then let go before even managing a game; for Backman it came within a matter of days after his November 2004 hiring by the Diamondbacks because they failed to do a necessary background check, which in his case showed multiple arrests and financial issues. As to how the Mets will address their managerial vacancy, to my speculated short list of Eduardo Perez (the runner-up to Beltrán in last fall’s hiring process) and Hensley Meulens (the team’s new bench coach, and a frequent interviewee for managerial openings in recent years, including that of the Yankees in 2017), Rosenthal reported the addition of Luis Rojas, the team’s quality control coach, the son of longtime manager Felipe Alou, and a surprise candidate for the Mets’ managerial opening last fall. None has major league managerial experience; Rojas has eight years of minor league managerial experience, while the other two have managed in winter leagues, and Meulens additionally piloted the Netherlands team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Finally, as to why the “mutual parting of the ways” language is in vogue, it’s worth reading what Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann wrote about the wording of Cora’s departure, because it almost certainly applies here as well: This language was likely influenced by Cora’s representatives and probably approved only upon assurances from the Sox that Cora would be paid well and treated fairly in his exit. Cora likely would not have said that he willingly parted ways if he had in fact been fired “with cause” or “for cause.” Such a firing would have signaled a conclusion by the Sox that Cora had violated the terms of his employment contract. In that scenario, the club would have been relieved of the obligation to pay him going forward or been able to pay him only a portion of that obligation. Obviously, it’s too soon to know how the industry will receive Beltrán once the dust settles, but on Thursday, he took the first step towards the future by publicly acknowledging his role and apologizing for his actions.