Incredibly, the Astros’ inability to resign Carlos Beltran is still binge debated (and in some quarters, defended). Count the New York Times’ Murray Chass amongst those who question the wisdom of Houston meeting the demands of Lance Berkman but not those of Beltran.
What Carlos Beltran did in the Astros’ two postseason series made it difficult not to do what it took to retain him. He batted .435, slugged 8 home runs and drove in 14 runs in 12 games.
“There’s been some pretty good postseasons over the years,” Phil Garner, the Houston manager, said. “But in terms of hitting the ball as hard as you can possibly hit it and hitting it out of the ballpark, I haven’t seen anything like that.”
Yet in 90 regular-season games after the Astros acquired him from Kansas City, Beltran batted only .258.
“This is your free-agent year and you have a chance to make a lot of money,” Garner said, seeking a reason for Beltran’s mediocre performance. “That might have been a personal self-induced pressure. When he got in the playoffs, all things went out the window and he was playing to win. He wasn’t playing for himself; he was just playing to win and things started happening for him. He was in a zone that people die for.”
When the time came for the Astros to try to keep Beltran as their center fielder, they offered $105 million for seven years, but they didn’t offer the no-trade protection he wanted. When they recently signed Berkman, he asked for and received that provision.
“That has been misunderstood to a great extent,” General Manager Tim Purpura said of the Beltran negotiations. “If we could have gotten a deal done, that’s something we probably would have given him, but we never got a deal done. Berkman is a young man who grew up in Houston. He expressed an interest to stay with us the rest of his career.”
The Astros, Purpura said, have given no-trade clauses to players, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, for example. “With Beltran,” he said, “we never got to the end point where that could have been a deal maker or a deal breaker.”
Berkman is also a young man coming off a flag football injury, which curiously wasn’t held against him that much (perhaps because he didn’t claim to be washing his truck).