For­mer Met, Yan­kee Bel­tran calls it a ca­reer

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kristie Rieken

Car­los Bel­tran is re­tir­ing at age 40 af­ter win­ning his first World Se­ries ti­tle in his 20th ma­jor league sea­son.

HOUS­TON » It took quite some time, but Car­los Bel­tran fi­nally got there, win­ning a World Se­ries ti­tle af­ter 20 sea­sons in the ma­jors.

Now he is leav­ing the Hous­ton Astros and leav­ing baseball, re­tir­ing af­ter a ca­reer in which he was a nine-time All-Star and was Rookie of the Year. The 40-year-old des­ig­nated hit­ter and out­fielder made the an­nounce­ment Mon­day, 12 days af­ter the Astros beat the Los An­ge­les Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Se­ries.

He an­nounced his re­tire­ment in an es­say writ­ten for The Play­ers’ Tri­bune web­site. His story touched on what fi­nally win­ning a cham­pi­onship meant to him.

“I re­al­ized early on that my pur­pose in this game was to share knowl­edge with younger play­ers and to give back to the game of baseball,” he wrote. “I al­ways wanted to do that — that, and be the best team­mate I could pos­si­bly be. Over 20 years, I feel like I ac­com­plished that.

“So whether we won or lost Game 7, I would have still been happy with my ca­reer. But it still feels nice to have a ring,” he con­tin­ued.

Be­sides be­ing named an All-Star nine times, most re­cently in 2016, and the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year, he won three Gold Glove and two Silver Slug­ger awards.

His pro­duc­tion dropped dra­mat­i­cally this year. He hit .295 with 29 homers and 93 RBIs for the New York Yan­kees and Texas in 2016. He then bat­ted .231 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs for Hous­ton. De­spite that, Bel­tran’s vet­eran pres­ence and his work with Hous­ton’s younger play­ers in­clud­ing Jose Al­tuve, Car­los Cor­rea and Mar­win Gon­za­lez proved in­valu­able for the Astros.

“He was worth ev­ery penny for us ... he helped us win in

a lot of ways, even though his num­bers were not what they were last year, he con­trib­uted in a lot of way that were not re­ally seen by our fans,” Hous­ton gen­eral man­ager Jeff Luh­now said. “They were talked about a lot by our play­ers. Also I think peo­ple know what I’m talk­ing about. He re­ally was a player-coach for us this year and he con­trib­uted in ways that lead me to be­lieve there’s no way we win the cham­pi­onship with­out him this year.”

He fin­ishes with a .279 av­er­age, 435 homers, 1,587 RBIs and 312 stolen bases. He also has played for Kansas City, the New York Mets, San Fran­cisco and St. Louis.

This sea­son was Bel­tran’s sec­ond stint with the Astros, af­ter he was traded to Hous­ton in June 2004. His work that postseason re­mains one of the best play­off per­for­mances in his­tory. He hit .455 with four homers and nine RBIs in an NLDS win over At­lanta, then bat­ted .417 with four more homers and five RBIs be­fore Hous­ton was elim­i­nated by the Car­di­nals in the NLCS.

Bel­tran ap­peared in 10 games this postseason, in­clud­ing three in the World Se­ries. He fin­ished with three hits, in­clud­ing two dou­bles, and an RBI in help­ing the Astros to their first ti­tle.

Many of his cur­rent and for­mer team­mates ex­pressed their grat­i­tude and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Bel­tran on so­cial me­dia af­ter his an­nounce­ment on Mon­day.

Cor­rea posted a pic­ture of the two of them on In­sta­gram with a cap­tion that read in part: “I will al­ways look up to you brother! Thanks for mak­ing me a bet­ter player and a bet­ter per­son! I’m go­ing to miss you so much!”

Hous­ton right-han­der Justin Ver­lan­der tweeted about Bel­tran’s re­tire­ment, writ­ing: “We only played to­gether for a short time but what a ride we had! I learned a lot about what be­ing a vet­eran means and the im­pact we can have. You’re an amaz­ing team­mate and leader. What a way to bow out ... a World Cham­pion!”

Yan­kees gen­eral man­ager Brian Cash­man wouldn’t say whether Bel­tran was a can­di­date to re­place Joe Gi­rardi as his team’s man­ager. But he did rave about his ca­reer and the re­spect he has for him.

“He had lead­er­ship qual­i­ties, no ques­tion about that,” Cash­man said. “He was some­one that peo­ple grav­i­tated to in the club­house. I think man­agers or coaches could rely, or front of­fices could rely on (him), kind of di­rect­ing things in a pos­i­tive way or keep­ing the ship steered in the right di­rec­tion.”

Af­ter what Luh­now saw from Bel­tran in Hous­ton this sea­son, he could en­vi­sion him be­com­ing a man­ager one day.

“Cer­tainly. He’s one of the bright­est minds I’ve come across in the game,” he said. “Now whether or not, I haven’t (spo­ken) to him about what is in­ten­tions are af­ter this, but I think he cer­tainly would be a tremen­dous as­set to any or­ga­ni­za­tion in what­ever ca­pac­ity he chooses to con­trib­ute.”

CHARLES KRUPA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Astros’ Car­los Bel­tran re­tired on Mon­day af­ter win­ning his first World Se­ries ti­tle in his 20th ma­jor league sea­son.

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