A.J. Hinch, who managed the 2017 Astros that treated baseball ethics like a dog treats yard grass, and who managed the 2019 Astros whom came five outs away from another title that may or may not have been tainted, has gotten another job, leading the Detroit Tigers.
Alex Cora, who helped mastermind the shenanigans of the ’17 Astros, who then went on to bring those shenanigans east to lead the Red Sox to 108 regular-season wins and 11 more in the playoffs — and whose affinity for dark arts is still not completely known — was given his old job back in Boston on Friday, the Sox executing one of the all-time news dumps in the history of news dumps.
Almost all of the key Astros players, who first did the cheating and later explained it all away under the cover of anonymity and immunity, are still earning million of dollars playing the game, a core of them came nine innings from a third World Series appearance in four years, and one by one they’re about to win the free-agent lottery across the next few years.
Yet Carlos Beltran remains in baseball exile.
Beltran was no innocent in the Astros’ plot against fair play, but it is he who now bears almost all of the burden and is serving most of the punishment. Yes, Jeff Luhnow, the GM who insists he had no idea what was going on — even though he was, by acclimation, one of the most heavy-handed control-freak GMs in baseball history — remains sidelined and has lost out on millions of dollars of salary since he was fired for cause. Find someone in baseball who dealt with Luhnow who feels sadness about that, win valuable prizes.
It is Beltran, the only player whose name emerged from the scandal since he’d retired and no longer fell under the umbrella of MLBPA protection, who remains the active symbol of Houston’s disgrace. It was Beltran who, in the flurry of punishment last winter, wound up getting fired as Mets manager before he ever even supervised a workout, let alone managed a game. There is something intensely wrong about that.
Beltran needs to be brought in from the cold.
And it should be the Steve Cohen Mets who offer the life raft.
Not as manager, that job is presently occupied by Luis Rojas, who survived the Friday afternoon massacre at Citi Field and would seem to have a puncher’s chance of keeping his job since Sandy Alderson is familiar with him, and since Cohen has clearly authorized Alderson to be a consigliere with complete control of the baseball operations.
But Beltran — certainly a top-five all-time everyday player in Mets history, arguably a candidate for the No. 1 spot on that list — should be back in baseball. If there is indeed a widespread spirit of redemption and reconciliation for the Astros scandal, then that should extend to Beltran, too. It doesn’t have to be the Mets. But it should be the Mets.
I was adamant back in January that the Mets shouldn’t have caved to public pressure — and, more specifically, to the clear pressure coming from the commissioner’s office — and should never have fired him. Beltran’s sins were the culmination of a lifetime of trying to out-think the game legally — Beltran was long a master at interpreting signals and seeing when a pitcher was tipping, both skills well within the boundaries of baseball justice.
It was only at the end, when video became an option, when Beltran crossed the line. It was the wrong thing to do. Beltran himself admitted as much on the day the Mets let him go. And though the Mets insisted Beltran had been forthcoming when they interviewed him, he’d been less so in earlier public statements.
The Mets shouldn’t have caved then but they caved then, mostly because of weak ownership that was beholden to Rob Manfred and clearly wanted to appease the commissioner’s whims. A stronger owner could have made their own choice and not succumbed to this.
But Cohen — who himself has emerged stronger from charges of his own ethical tap-dancing in the hedge-fund world — may be the strongest owner in pro sports right now, this instant. He should take advantage of the moment, bring Beltran back into baseball, back into the organization, and figure out as he goes what the best role is for him. Beltran has too high a baseball IQ not to be a strong asset, even after staining his reputation.
Beltran has served his penance, but there shouldn’t be a permanence about it, not with everyone else in the scheme being welcomed back with open arms. It’s time.
A fond farewell to the great Joe Benigno, who never lost the fan inside him that made him such a fun listen on the radio — first as Joe from Saddle River — these past 25 years as a FAN staple. May retirement bring nothing but fairways and greens hit in regulation.
Willie Randolph had his managerial quirks, but 16 years ago this week the Mets hired him, and it’s hard to name a better hire they’ve made (besides Bobby Valentine) in all the years going back to Davey Johnson. Harder still to understand how someone else in baseball hasn’t given him another shot.
When election season ends — if election season ever ends — I wonder if John King and Steve Kornacki will meet each other at midfield, or in front of a giant electoral map, and exchange handshakes and jerseys.
John King and Steve Kornacki when — if — this is all over. pic.twitter.com/RhtsAueZTl
— Mike Vaccaro (@MikeVacc) November 5, 2020
If the Jets could have stopped the count every time they’ve taken a lead this year … they would still only be 2-6. Think about that for a second.
Whack Back at Vac
Jerry Manza: I totally agree with your comments on Joe Judge. I’ve been a Giants fan for 65 years, and always optimistic. I like this coaching staff, and believe that is why with limited talent we are always competitive! Have to finish games, which I believe will happen the second half of the season.
Vac: Rare is the time a fan base around here is generally happy with a coach’s job performance despite a bad record. I think that tells you something about Judge.
Peter Drago: My first reaction to the new Met ownership are the obvious visions of top free agents. But the greatest gift Steve Cohen has given us fans is HOPE, a feeling that has been in very short supply for many people during this horrible year. I look forward, with great hope, not only to the building of a new baseball team, but also the healing of our country. Better days are ahead for all of us!
Vac: I’m not sure Uncle Steve was looking to be this kind of transformative force … but I also know that Peter isn’t alone in feeling like this.
@MXTracy66: Who ordered the Kelenic trade? And DON’T TELL ME YOU’RE INNOCENT!
@MikeVacc: The sheer number and brilliant quality of Michael Corleone-themed responses to Steve Cohen’s Friday-afternoon “settling of all family business” at Citi makes me have hope for redemptive qualities of social media yet.
Tony Sansone: I know Daniel Jones came from Duke. Was his major Bonehead Plays?
Vac: With a minor in Occasional Flashes of Brilliance.