Carlos Beltran smiles during his first trip back to Citi...

Carlos Beltran smiles during his first trip back to Citi Field since being traded last season. (June 1, 2012) Credit: David Pokress

The pregame video tribute lasted approximately 57 seconds, a montage of long home runs and sliding catches. When it was over, Carlos Beltran stood up from the visitor's bench, smiled and tipped his cap to the fans.

The still-gathering Citi Field crowd replied with scattered applause. Not a boo or jeer could be heard around the stadium. How strange that it took Beltran's return, in a Cardinals uniform of all things, to produce one of the best moments between the prodigal outfielder and Mets fans.

"Fans pick and choose whoever they want to cheer for," Beltran said before Friday's game. "I just can't be fake. This is who I am. When I came here, I came here with one mentality, and it was being able to make this team better. The years I was healthy, I felt personally that I did it.

"Maybe there were fans that just maybe didn't treat me like I was expecting. But there were other fans, they did treat me with love, and you have to remember those moments. You don't remember the negative; you remember the positive."

Beltran, who came to the Mets on a seven-year, $119-million contract, had plenty of good times -- but apparently not enough to overshadow watching that Adam Wainwright curveball to end the 2006 NLCS, or the series of collapses that followed in 2007 and 2008.

"If that's what they want to remember, honestly, that's them," Beltran said of the fans. "There's nothing I can do about it. I wish it could have been different. It didn't happen. No one wanted to do better in that opportunity right there than myself. It just didn't happen to be that way."

Last season, Beltran lifted his no-trade clause to approve the trade to the Giants, and the Mets received star pitching prospect Zack Wheeler in return. That turned out fine for both sides, and now Beltran is excelling in St. Louis. Friday night he went 0-for-4 in Johan Santana's no-hitter, but he still is batting .287 with 15 homers and 42 RBIs, dwarfing the production of Albert Pujols, the player he essentially replaced.

In retrospect, Beltran seems much happier now than during his rougher days in New York.

"Sometimes I do miss it, sometimes I don't," he said, laughing. "Just being honest.''

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