HOUSTON — The best measure of Carlos Beltran’s heart and mind is that he arguably had a huge impact on Game 5 of the Yankees-Indians American League Division Series on Wednesday night, and he was nowhere near the ballpark. He was at his home here, watching the young Yankees whom he influenced.
His eyes could not help but focus on one pupil in particular: Didi Gregorius, who had the largest role in lifting the Yankees to a 5-2 victory that sent them to the American League Championship Series against Beltran’s Astros beginning Friday night.
On the Fox postgame show, as the analysts raved about Gregorius’ two home runs, Alex Rodriguez said Beltran was the single greatest mentor to the shortstop when they (and Rodriguez) were Yankees teammates. Beltran, now a 40-year-old designated hitter, would not affirm that opinion after his club’s workout Thursday, but he acknowledged that he did try to help a struggling shortstop.
“He came in replacing Derek Jeter. That’s a hard job to do. But you know what? He was able to handle the situation, to make some adjustments,” Beltran said. “I’m a guy that, if I see something, I’m not afraid to approach people and let them know what I think or what I see on the video. There were times when I talked about things he was doing, I showed it to him. But at the end of the day, he was the one making the adjustments.
“I was the guy providing a little bit of information to him, but I don’t take credit for that. He’s the one who did it.”
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he will “double down a little bit” on insight from Beltran and catcher Brian McCann, another 2016 Yankee. But the whole Houston organization realizes that these Yankees are different, largely because of the way young players have blossomed. “I saw it coming, I really did,” McCann said.
It is no surprise that young Yankees flourished after having been around Beltran, who was traded to the Rangers last year as part of a make-room-for-the-kids movement. Hinch said Beltran’s heart and head have bolstered Astros young and old: “When things come up during the year, most everyone to a man will go in there and say, ‘What does Carlos think?’ That kind of respect shows you where his place in our hierarchy is.”
Lately, Beltran’s mind has been distracted and his heart broken by the devastation that Hurricane Maria left on Puerto Rico. “Man, the first week and a half, I couldn’t sleep. I was going crazy. I didn’t hear from my family for a week. My brother called me five days after the storm,” he said. “It’s not getting better, so, as a player, I’m using the platform that God gave me to bring help to the people.”
He and his wife, Jessica, made a $1-million donation, started a fund drive and sent five planes filled with supplies. “It’s not enough, but I’m doing the best I can,” he said, adding that Jessica exhorted him to put his focus squarely on shooting for his first World Series ring.
As an elder statesman, he still benefits from the advice he received from future Hall of Famers during his first run with the Astros 13 years ago. He passed the experience along last year. Those lessons could come back to bite him this week. Still, he said, “I’m happy for them. I swear to God, I’m happy for them.”