HOUSTON — “In the shuffle,” Alex Cora pointed out to The Post on Friday, “people forget that he wasn’t suspended.”
We were talking about Carlos Beltran, and why shouldn’t we? Here, at the scene of The Crime, Cora is back managing the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, against the Astros, who still employ vital members of their 2017 championship club, such as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. A.J. Hinch, the manager of the ’17 club, did good 2021 work in his first year leading the Tigers.
Hence no reason exists why Beltran, dismissed by the Mets as their manager before he ever made it to spring training while the sign-stealing scandal raged across Major League Baseball, can’t get his second chance. All the more so since, as Cora pointed out, MLB never formally punished Beltran, who received immunity in return for honest testimony (although commissioner Rob Manfred sealed the former outfielder’s Mets fate by naming only him as a player involved in the scheme).
Nevertheless, I think it would be awfully difficult for Beltran, who has not spoken publicly since he and the Mets parted ways on January 16, 2020, to move forward without following the leads established by Cora, the ’17 Astros’ bench coach, and Hinch: The public mea culpa.
“Honestly, Carlos right now is in a good place,” Cora said prior to ALCS Game 1. “I’ve been talking with him for a while. He’s been watching. You guys know how I feel about him.
“It’s just a matter of [getting] somebody to talk to him [about a managerial opening], go through the process and see what happens. But if somebody gave him a chance [previously] to become a big league manager, there’s a reason, right? Hopefully that happens to him.”
I asked Cora if he thought Beltran still wanted to be a major league manager, and his fellow Puerto Rico native (and 2009-10 Mets teammate) replied, “I can’t answer that.”
On the day he agreed to forfeit his Mets contract in return for a six-figure donation to his eponymous foundation, Beltran released a statement that said, in part, “As a veteran player on the (’17 Astros) I should have recognized the severity of the issue and truly regret the actions that were taken.”
So he did not emulate, say, Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens defiantly denying that they utilized illegal performance-enhancing drugs, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. He acknowledged some wrongdoing.
Bonds works as a special adviser to the Giants — he also spent the 2016 season as the Marlins’ hitting coach — while Clemens served many years as an Astros adviser. The transparency bar didn’t rise as high for them as it does for a manager. And the 2017 Astros’ shenanigans sure seemed to shake the sport’s foundation in a way that even illegal PEDs couldn’t touch. Hence Beltran, if he indeed wants to manage again, probably would have to face specific questions about the severity and intensity of his involvement. Time heals some wounds, definitely not all, in this instance.
On Nov. 10 last year, Cora, having been rehired by the Red Sox following the end of his suspension, held his mea culpa moment, proclaiming in a Zoom news conference: “I want to make sure everybody knows that this situation is part of who I am for the rest of my career. As a man, I have to deal with it.” He also answered a number of queries pertaining to details of both the 2017 mess as well as the 2018 Bosox mini-sign-stealing scandal, which cost the franchise a draft pick and a replay operator.
When I asked Cora whether he considered that day an important step in his climb back, he replied: “At that point, I already had the job. I can’t answer that.” What the heck, I’ll be arrogant for a change and posit that such a day, such an experience, was essential.
Is Beltran ready to take that step forward? If so, as Cora said, he should be an attractive managing or coaching candidate, one deserving of serious consideration, for the same reason he was two years ago: Even without technical assistance, the man really knows his baseball and played it extraordinarily well.