David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City
Unfinished business. For Carlos Beltran, who reached the World Series in October for the first time in his 16-year career, a championship ring would seem to be the most obvious motivation in signing with the Yankees.
But his return to New York, and switch from Flushing to the Bronx, also could have long-term implications for his former team -- such as being immortalized wearing a Mets cap in Cooperstown.
Beltran, 36, may be putting the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame resume, and it was revealing Friday to hear him bring up Cooperstown as one of the reasons he chose to push for a three-year deal with the Yankees.
"To me, it's important,'' Beltran said. "In my career, I never thought about the Hall of Fame. And not only that, last year I got a lot of guys coming to me and asking me questions about the Hall of Fame -- the chances I could have with all of that. So I felt that having the third year, it allowed me to play longer, and it allowed me to put up better numbers. In my consideration, it would be more realistic.''
There's an argument to be made, however, that Beltran would be inducted into the Hall of Fame even if he never played another game.
According to JAWS, a statistic developed by sabremetrician Jay Jaffe to measure a player's Hall of Fame worthiness based on overall WAR averaged with its seven-year peak, Beltran's score of 55.8 is a touch below the average (57.2) of the 18 HOF centerfielders.
But a closer examination also shows that only six of those centerfielders rank higher in this category than Beltran -- Willie Mays (114.8), Ty Cobb (110.1), Tris Speaker (98.1), Mickey Mantle (87.2), Joe DiMaggio (64.7) and Duke Snider (58.2).
Under more standard measures, Beltran's 358 home runs rank 10th all-time at the position, better than 13 Hall of Famers.
His .496 career slugging percentage ranks 15th -- higher than 10 -- and Beltran has 1,327 RBIs, good for 10th on the list and behind only seven HOFers. He'll pass Snider (1,333) and can catch up to Mantle (1,509) with a few more good years.
Among active players, Beltran is fourth in runs scored -- trailing Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols -- and is the only player in history with four consecutive seasons of 100 runs scored, 20 homers, 100 RBIs and 30 stolen bases, a feat that he accomplished from 2001-04.
All of that doesn't even include Beltran's impressive numbers in the postseason. He has batted .333 (60-for-180) with 45 runs, 13 doubles, 16 homers and 40 RBIs in 51 games. But he has only one trip to the World Series, and still is waiting on a ring.
Which brings us back to the Mets. Beltran's seven-year stint in Queens often is looked upon as a failure because of those teams' inability to win a championship, and he's become the enduring symbol for taking the third strike from Adam Wainwright that ended Game 7 of the NLCS.
But that's too simplistic an overview of Beltran's time with the Mets, and doesn't take into account some incredible offensive production -- the best of his career. Or the very real possibility that if Beltran does eventually make it to Cooperstown, he could wind up wearing a Mets cap for eternity.
After Beltran's rant against his former club during Friday's news conference in the Bronx, and saying how much he was "hurt in a personal way'' by the Mets' treatment of him, it would be a strange twist for Beltran to join Tom Seaver and represent them in the Hall of Fame.
The Yankees will be Beltran's sixth team, but none employed him for longer than the Mets. The only other club that might be able to make a claim on him would be the Royals, who drafted him in 1995. Ultimately, the decision on the cap logo rests with the Hall of Fame, and it is picked based on where the player made the most "indelible'' mark of his career, or greatest impact. If that impact is determined to be spread out among multiple teams, the Hall can decide to not use a logo, so that every team shares in it equally. The candidate does have a voice in the process, but the Hall has final say, and that won't be revealed until the player is elected.
One other thing to consider with Beltran: What if he continues to shine during his three years in the Bronx, helps the Yankees win a World Series or two and then, after reaching the crowning achievement of his career, chooses to play past the age of 40?
Would that convince the Hall to allow Beltran -- who says he is a lifelong Yankees fan -- to wear the same cap as Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle?
Maybe that's why Beltran, who will have earned more than $200 million for his career, isn't saying that this contract definitely will be his last.
"Sometimes I say yes,'' Beltran said, "Sometimes I say no.''
Either way, he's working on removing any doubt when it comes to getting into Cooperstown. The cap is another story.