David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
BOSTON - In Adam Wainwright's dream, the Cardinals failed to get Carlos Beltran to the World Series. The strange thing was, before Wainwright woke up, the St. Louis ace saw Beltran holding court at a news conference, talking to reporters before the start of next year's Fall Classic.
Beltran was there with the Yankees.
"The gist of the dream," Wainwright said during Tuesday's workout at Fenway Park, "was him sitting on a podium like this saying, 'I'm so happy to be a Yankee and in the World Series.' And I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' It was a nightmare."
Beltran, a free agent, could wind up with the Yankees this winter, so that part isn't beyond the realm of possibility. But Wainwright, the man personally responsible for denying Beltran a World Series trip with the Mets in 2006, can finally let go of any lingering guilt that may have triggered last week's dream.
It's OK, Adam. Beltran is still a Cardinal, at least until the end of this month. And we'll give you a pass on the whole Yankee thing. Wainwright surely is not the first player to freak out about a teammate potentially defecting to the Bronx, and it was funny to hear him sort of apologize for it.
"Not that that's not a great team," Wainwright said. "But I woke up and had sweats, and said we've got to be the team to get him here. No disrespect to the Yankees in the world. I think the New York Yankees are an amazing franchise."
For Beltran, the Bronx can wait. He has business to take care of now, and all that's left, after 16 seasons, is to get a ring. This would make for a tidy end to this particular story line, too. Or maybe closure is a better word.
When the Cardinals secured the National League pennant with Friday's Game 6 win over the Dodgers, it was Beltran's wife, Jessica, who asked Wainwright to pose for a photo with her husband. The two have been tied together -- handcuffed really -- ever since that Wainwright curveball in Game 7 of the NLCS froze Beltran for an eternity in the minds of Mets fans. But Jessica's heartfelt request touched Wainwright and allowed the whole Beltran saga to come full circle.
"Back then it wasn't in the Lord's plan, and now it is," Wainwright recalled Jessica telling him that night. Then he added, "I'm getting chill bumps sharing that with you. It was such a special thing to share right there at the end of that game. It's really satisfying to get him there."
Consider how Beltran must feel. The Cardinals sent him home an NLCS Game 7 loser twice, with the Astros in 2004 and the Mets in '06, and he came up short again last season when St. Louis blew a 3-1 lead against the Giants. Now it's only fitting that he finishes the job with the Cardinals. With Wainwright. Does Beltran dare believe this was supposed to happen this way?
"I do think about that," Beltran said. "I think God has the master plan of our lives, so it was destined for me to be here. I had no doubt about that."
Does that include winning the World Series as well? Beltran smiled.
"Well, you know what?" he said. "Right now, He already knows who's going to be the winner. We're wondering what's going to happen."
Obviously, Beltran is a man of great faith, and that can help a player process the more disappointing moments of a career, ones just like his October night at Shea Stadium. But Beltran also relies on preparation, and a way of thinking about the game that borders on obsession at times.
After the NLCS was over, his wife talked about Beltran getting up at 4 in the morning, bat in hand, visualizing his upcoming Game 6 showdown with Clayton Kershaw. Just because he's in the World Series now, that's not going to stop.
"I have a bat next to my bed," Beltran said. "This is what we do for a living. I can't go home and say, let me leave everything at the ballpark and not think about baseball. It doesn't work like that. I go to bed thinking about my job."
If Beltran also dreams about the Yankees, we'll have to wait to find out.