Sunday, April 20, 2008

Beltran The Leader... Who Knew?

Mets fans have been knocking Carlos Beltran's leadership abilities (or lack thereof) ever since he first arrived at Shea 3 years ago. Soft, unemotional, lazy... fairly or unfairly, these are adjectives that are frequently thrown around when discussing Beltran. And who can ever forget Carlos frozen at the plate like a stale TV dinner after a nasty hook from Adam Wainwright sent the underdog Cards to the World Series over the favored Mets? That's not what you want to see from a leader.

What you do want to see, however, is this:

Beltran's biggest assist might have happened before the 6-0 Mets' win in Tuesday's series opener. Beltran noticed a moping, more quiet Reyes. And that, to Beltran, needed to be fixed.

"I had a conversation with Reyes. I said, 'Don't change.' When he's doing that, jumping around, we like it. We're happy," Beltran said at his locker last night. "He's a fun guy."

Maybe it wasn't a coincidence that after Reyes celebrated his homer to start the fifth, Beltran followed with a three-run shot to left off losing pitcher Matt Chico (0-3). Beltran knocked in Ryan Church and David Wright, who hit consecutive singles after the Reyes blast. Beltran finished 1-for-3 with a walk and three RBI. As soon as Beltran's drive cleared the left field fence, Reyes was sprinting across the dugout to be the first to meet Beltran at the railing.

"Carlos Beltran, he's the guy, kind of quiet in the dugout," Reyes said. "He needs that, he needs the thing I do in the dugout. That's why he come to me and talk to me." Asked if he would help Beltran learn how to be more of an extrovert, Reyes smiled.

"He's not going to jump at all. He's not like that," said Reyes.

There are two things that stand out about this exchange. One is that Beltran, a noted intravert, took it upon himself to tell Reyes to loosen up and be true to himself. Beltran recognizes that when Jose "The Most Electrifying Player In Baseball" Reyes is doing his thing, it lifts up the entire club. Jose is the $3.43 per gallon unleaded gasolina for the carro better known as Los Mets. As long as the tank stays closer to full than empty the Mets will be fine. Don't believe me? Since Beltran's pep talk, Reyes has been absolutely insane at the plate.

The second thing that stands out is a noticable change in Carlos Beltran himself. I don't know what happened over the summer, but Bel-Train has come into the season looking to be more vocal and looking to take some responsibility on his $18,622,809 shoulders. The most obvious example of this is his channeling of Jimmy Rollins and proclaiming that the Mets are the team to beat this year. This is simply something the old Carlos would not have said and if you ask me, it's a welcomed sign that Beltran is focused this year and that last year really really bothered the guy... which is good since Beltran's demeanor would sometimes make it seem as if he didn't care.

I know, I know... hitting .241 with only 7 RBI isn't anything to write home about. But right now, I'm not worried about the stats with Beltran. I like his attitude and approach to the season. Now if he could just change his approach at the plate...

Holla back.