With Carlos Beltran’s retirement now official, we’ve already moved quickly into discussing the next phase of his Cooperstown-worthy baseball career, and that soon may lead to an interview with Brian Cashman about the Yankees’ managerial opening.
Cashman didn’t dismiss the idea Monday at the GM meetings, and given that he’s apparently in no rush to fill the position, there’s only upside to including Beltran in the wide-ranging process. Despite zero managerial experience, he checks plenty of boxes, and Cashman — speaking generally, of course — saw no problem with a player going straight from being on the lineup card to actually filling one out.
“I kind of feel like Joe Girardi did that,” Cashman said. “Joe Torre did that as well with the Mets, so it’s not like it hasn’t been happening.”
After Girardi retired from playing in 2003, he spent a year in the broadcast booth and then was the bench coach for Torre before getting the manager’s job with the Marlins in ’06. That’s more the path we see here for Beltran, rather than jumping directly into the big chair left vacant by Girardi’s exit. Maybe skipping the TV gig, if Cashman could get Beltran to take a coaching position first.
After two decades building a Hall of Fame-caliber resume and experiencing the emotional overdrive of winning his first World Series with the Astros, immediately taking over as Yankees manager seems like a lot, even for someone as accomplished as Beltran. Others, however, might disagree.
When Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was asked Monday if he could see Beltran being a manager, he didn’t hesitate to give his endorsement. “Sure,” he said. “He’s one of the brightest minds I’ve come across in the game. He’d be a tremendous asset.”
He also described Beltran as a “player-manager” in his only season with the world champs. Although Beltran had a down year offensively — a .231 batting average and .666 OPS in 129 games — Luhnow added that he “was worth every penny” of his $16-million contract. “There’s no way we win a championship without him,” he added.
It’s Beltran’s behind-the-scenes guidance, the product of his baseball intelligence and two decades in the majors, that pushes rosters to perform beyond their talent level. Former teammates often talk about his help with many aspects of the game, even after they wound up on competing clubs.
One example that comes to mind for us was in 2015 at Yankee Stadium, when Beltran and Mike Pelfrey — who played together on the Mets — were chatting in the hallway between the two clubhouses before a June game with the Tigers.
Pelfrey had started the previous night in Detroit’s loss, and he wanted to ask Beltran if he was tipping his pitches. Beltran is considered an expert in that area, and Pelfrey was relieved to learn that his delivery appeared fine. In Pelfrey’s mind, there was no higher authority.
Stories like that involving Beltran are not unusual. It takes a special player to instill that sort of confidence in someone else, be it a struggling veteran or 20-year-old rookie. Every managerial candidate claims to have the ability to connect with players on that level, to obtain the best from them in a sport dominated by failure, but Beltran already has proved himself in that area. He’s got that part down. And Cashman witnessed that firsthand during Beltran’s 2 1⁄2 seasons with the Yankees.
“He had leadership qualities, no question about that,” Cashman said. “He was someone that people gravitated to in the clubhouse. He knows the game inside-out. He’s obviously got the respect of his peers, and bilingual. He brings a lot to the table.”
Cashman acknowledged on Monday that he’s aware of Beltran’s “aspirations” to be a manager and said the two have a “professional and friendly” relationship. Apparently, they’ve spoken quite a bit in the past few weeks. It’s probably not a stretch to say the Yankees’ job has come up in those conversations, even as the GM insists on being coy about the candidates.
Making Beltran the Yankees’ manager might be easier than you think. After all, the Phillies hired Gabe Kapler. Beltran’s family already is established in New York, he knows his way around the Yankees and Cashman clearly likes him.
As for the pressure of high expectations, Beltran has dealt with those his whole life. He’ll be the right choice someday, even if it’s not right now.