Carlos Beltran has played in 62 postseason games. He has advanced to a League Championship Series five times, and this will be his second World Series, the first one ending in failure with the 2013 Cardinals.
So playoff pressure is nothing new to him, and in the hours leading up to Tuesday night’s Game 1, he probably won’t feel all that much different from the way he felt while chatting during Monday’s media session at Dodger Stadium.
The rest of the Astros? Beltran wasn’t so sure. “There might be a lot of people throwing up in the clubhouse,” he said, smiling. “We have a lot of young guys. I’ve seen it before. I’m not going to name names, but I’ve seen it.”
We’ll take Beltran’s word for it. He cracked himself up by spilling his pregame secret, as you would expect from a 40-year-old who’s experienced just about everything in baseball — everything but earning that elusive ring.
Now that the grieving period should be winding down for the Yankees, and now that 11 years have passed since that Adam Wainwright curveball locked him up to end the NLCS, we present Beltran as New York’s joint rooting interest for this World Series. East Coasters shouldn’t be pulling for L.A. teams anyway. And need we remind you that Dave Roberts is the Dodgers’ manager?
For the Flushing faithful still carrying a torch for Justin Turner, he’ll get another chance. You’re going to be seeing the Dodgers in October plenty of times during the next five years. Trust us. But this could be it for Beltran, his final shot — as a player. We’re positive he’ll be a big-league manager someday. For now, however, he deserves this ring.
“It will mean everything,” he said. “This is what you dream of as a ballplayer. The first dream is to get to the big leagues. The second dream is to win the World Series. It’s a blessing to be here, and it will be great if I win it. If I don’t win it, it wasn’t meant to be.”
Beltran laughed when we suggested that this time, after so many tries, had to be the one, then, right? But that’s not how his mind works.
He’s been preoccupied with the relief effort in his homeland of Puerto Rico, which is still struggling to restore electricity in parts of the island and provide clean drinking water. Astros bench coach Alex Cora, a fellow Puerto Rican, said Beltran spends hours each day on the phone trying to coordinate the delivery of supplies.
When the Series is over, Beltran will make that his full-time job. He’ll probably determine his baseball future as well.
His one-year, $16-million deal is up and his numbers this season (.231, 14 homers) weren’t close to his Coopers town-worthy standards. The hard part is that he still loves playing — not enjoys, loves — and it’s difficult to put down his bat for good.
When asked about retiring, and how a championship might affect that, he danced around the question. “My decision will be play one more year or stay home,” he said. “If we win the World Series, I don’t know. It’s something my wife and I will decide at the end of the year.”
If this is it, the Astros want to give Beltran a proper send-off. They’ve already talked about getting him a ring as part of their 2017 mission, which Beltran appreciates, but he points out that no one else on his team has won a World Series, either.
Of course, he’s the only Astro with two decades in the majors. “It’s unbelievable,” Dallas Keuchel said, “because a guy that talented, and for his career to expand that long, you would think he’d have at least one.”
A missing ring won’t prevent Beltran from getting a plaque in Cooperstown. That’s a virtual lock (sporting a Mets cap, perhaps?). But there are some players you’d like to see wearing that jewelry for the induction speech. Beltran belongs in that very small fraternity.
“Before, I had a lot of pressure,” he said. “Now I’m fine. I’m happy. Not too many people get to this point.”
He just needs to get four wins beyond it.