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Carlos Beltran, Mets part ways amid Astros' sign-stealing scandal

Newsday baseball columnist David Lennon discusses the parting of ways between the Mets and new manager Carlos Beltran on Jan. 16, 2020, in the wake of his implication in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal that has rocked baseball. (Credit: Newsday / David Lennon)

Carlos Beltran is done as Mets manager, and he never got the proverbial bat off his shoulder.

The 2017 Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scandal, which Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said in November included no “reason why this is a Mets situation,” cost Beltran his job Thursday because of his involvement and his being named in Major League Baseball’s report.

Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said Beltran and the Mets “mutually decided to part ways.” A source close to Beltran said he wanted to stay but that the Mets insisted on a breakup, wanting to avoid the distraction of what they saw as an untenable situation. Beltran was manager for 77 days and zero games.

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Less than four weeks before pitchers and catchers are due to report to Port St. Lucie, the Mets began their second manager search of the offseason. Van Wagenen said he will consider internal and external candidates, plans on keeping the same coaching staff that Beltran helped pick and hopes “to announce the new manager in the near future.”

The Mets offered minimal insight into their decision to dump Beltran.

“We’re not sharing all the details that led us to this point,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re not sharing the private conversations that happened that led us to this point. But ultimately, as we sit here today, with all of the information and considering all the events, both Carlos and the Mets came to the same conclusion.

We both agreed it was going to be incredibly challenging and incredibly difficult to do the job in the way in which he intended.”

Van Wagenen declined to specify what Beltran felt he could not do as manager as a result of these circumstances.

Asked if Beltran still will get paid for his three-year contract, Wilpon declined to say but stressed the “mutual” part of the parting.

Beltran, who did not respond to a request for comment, said in a statement issued by the team: “We agreed this decision is in the best interest of the team. I couldn’t let myself be a distraction for the team.”

Because Beltran was a player — outfielder, designated hitter, highly respected team leader — for the 2017 Astros, MLB did not suspend him for his role in the cheating. But the report did specifically name him, and no other players. “A group of players, including Carlos Beltran, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter,” the report read in part.

That surprised the Mets, Van Wagenen said.  According to Van Wagenen and Wilpon, neither discussed Beltran’s role in the scheme with him during the two months between The Athletic linking him to it and Monday, when MLB released its findings. The exception: telling him to cooperate with MLB’s investigation.

“We wanted to steer clear and allow the commissioner’s office to do their investigation without any interference from us,” Wilpon said. “The change [in the Mets’ understanding that they had a problem] was when the report did come out how prominent he was in it.”

Wilpon and Van Wagenen met with members of the commissioner’s office on Wednesday in an attempt “to understand more about Carlos’ role,” Van Wagenen said. The Mets declined to reveal what they learned during that meeting, and MLB has not said why Beltran is the only player named.

The Mets also claimed ignorance about this issue when they hired Beltran on Nov. 1. Despite a sense of public and private paranoia that has followed Houston in recent years and although Van Wagenen is very close with suspended/fired Astros manager AJ Hinch, his former Stanford teammate, Van Wagenen said Thursday that he did not hear any “rumblings” of sketchy Astros behavior during the team’s month-long search for a manager.

Since MLB issued its report on the Astros’ cheating on Monday — rocking the sport at a time of year that is typically the quietest for baseball — four people, including Beltran, have lost their jobs. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, like Hinch, was suspended for a season by MLB and fired by team owner Jim Crane. Red Sox manager Alex Cora — who was the Astros’ bench coach in 2017 and is under investigation for alleged illegal sign-stealing in 2018 with Boston — also was let go.

Beltran’s former Mets bosses hope he gets hired again somewhere.

“We wish Carlos and his family the best going forward and we hope that everyone can go on to future success,” Van Wagenen said. “We truly do believe that this will not be the final chapter in Carlos’ baseball career.

“This isn’t a fun day. It’s one we wish we didn’t have to be in. But the decision that both sides came to has one purpose. It’s to do what we think is best for the club going forward.”

Yankees Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, in an interview at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville, where the town board approved a zoning change for his proposed Port Jefferson auto dealership, weighed in on the Mets’ decision.

“That’s a shame,’’ he said. “That’s a shame. But I believe that’s the right thing to do. Baseball, man, is something beautiful that we have to respect when you love the game of baseball, and we have to respect the dignity of the game. You get involved in things like that, it’s a shame, because we all want to win, but we have to do it the right way. I was surprised. Carlos is a great player, a person that respected the integrity of the game. Sometimes you do things that you don’t think about, and you do it and you don’t realize you’re crossing the line. And definitely they crossed the line.”

  

With David Lennon and Carl MacGowan

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