Bel­trán out as Mets man­ager

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By MIKE FITZPATRIC­K

Car­los Bel­trán is out as man­ager of the New York Mets be­fore man­ag­ing even a sin­gle game, the lat­est fall­out from the Hous­ton Astros’ sign-steal­ing scan­dal that has rocked Ma­jor League Base­ball. The Mets an­nounced the de­ci­sion Thurs­day in a news re­lease, say­ing Bel­trán and the team “agreed to mu­tu­ally part ways.” The move came two days af­ter Bos­ton cut ties with man­ager Alex Cora, who was Hous­ton’s bench coach in 2017 when Bel­trán played for the Astros.

NEW YORK — Car­los Bel­trán, called out on a curve­ball again.

So for the sec­ond time since they last threw a pitch, the New York Mets are in the mar­ket for a new man­ager.

Sign of the times. Bel­trán’s 2 1/2-month ten­ure as Mets man­ager ended Thurs­day be­fore he spent a sin­gle game on the bench, the lat­est fall­out from the Hous­ton Astros’ sign-steal­ing scan­dal that has rocked Ma­jor League Base­ball.

The Mets an­nounced the de­ci­sion in a news re­lease, say­ing Bel­trán and the team “agreed to mu­tu­ally part ways.” The move came two days af­ter Bos­ton cut ties with man­ager Alex Cora, who was Hous­ton’s bench coach in 2017 when Bel­trán played for the Astros.

A day be­fore that, man­ager AJ Hinch and gen­eral man­ager Jeff Luh­now were fired by Hous­ton soon af­ter they were sus­pended for the 2020 sea­son by Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred for their roles in the cheat­ing scheme.

Next to fall was Bel­trán, the only Astros player men­tioned by name Mon­day when MLB is­sued its find­ings from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the club’s con­duct. No play­ers were dis­ci­plined, but the nine-page report said Bel­trán was among the group in­volved in the team’s il­licit use of elec­tron­ics to pil­fer signs dur­ing Hous­ton’s run to the 2017 World Se­ries cham­pi­onship.

“Over my 20 years in the game, I’ve al­ways taken pride in be­ing a leader and do­ing things the right way, and in this sit­u­a­tion, I failed,” Bel­tran said in a state­ment is­sued through agent Dan Lozano.

“As a vet­eran player on the team, I should’ve rec­og­nized the sever­ity of the is­sue and truly re­gret the ac­tions that were taken. I am a man of faith and in­tegrity and what took place did not demon­strate those char­ac­ter­is­tics that are so very im­por­tant to me and my fam­ily. I’m very sorry. It’s not who I am as a fa­ther, a hus­band, a team­mate and as an ed­u­ca­tor . ... I hope that at some point in time, I’ll have the op­por­tu­nity to re­turn to this game that I love so much.”

Mets gen­eral man­ager Brodie Van Wa­ge­nen and Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Jeff Wilpon met with MLB deputy com­mis­sioner Dan Halem and Bryan See­ley, who headed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, on Wed­nes­day morn­ing in New York, then with Bel­trán at the team’s spring train­ing com­plex in Florida on Wed­nes­day night and Thurs­day morn­ing.

“Con­sid­er­ing the cir­cum­stances, it be­came clear to all par­ties that it was not in any­one’s best in­ter­est for Car­los to move for­ward as man­ager of the New York Mets,” Van Wa­ge­nen and Wilpon said in a state­ment.

“We be­lieve that Car­los was hon­est and forth­com­ing with us. We are con­fi­dent that this will not be the fi­nal chap­ter in his base­ball ca­reer.”

On a later con­fer­ence call, Wilpon said the team had heard in ad­vance “from sources” that Bel­trán wasn’t go­ing to be sus­pended by MLB.

“I think the change was when the report did come out, how prom­i­nent he was in it,” Wilpon said.

The com­mis­sioner’s of­fice did not pres­sure the Mets to fire Bel­trán, Wilpon said, telling ex­ec­u­tives it was the club’s de­ci­sion.

“This has been a dif­fi­cult week. Make no mis­take, it’s been dif­fi­cult for every­one in­volved,” Van Wa­ge­nen said.

“When we met with Car­los, we had to make an as­sess­ment of, where do we go from here? And in Car­los’ thought process as well as ours, we both agreed that it was go­ing to be in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing and in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to do the job in a way in which he in­tended and the way in which he could uti­lize the best of his abil­i­ties.”

The Mets said they will con­sider a num­ber of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal can­di­dates to be their next man­ager, and they hope to choose one soon.

With spring train­ing less than a month away, there isn’t much time to pick a suc­ces­sor. Op­tions could in­clude new bench coach Hens­ley Meu­lens and ESPN an­a­lyst Ed­uardo Pérez, who in­ter­viewed for the job last fall.

The 42-year-old Bel­trán, with no man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence, was hired to re­place Mickey Call­away as Mets skip­per on Nov. 1. The former New York slug­ger was given a three-year con­tract with a club op­tion for 2023 and in­tro­duced three days later dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at Citi Field.

“I’m grate­ful to them for giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity, but we agreed this de­ci­sion is in the best in­ter­est of the team,” Bel­trán said in the Mets’ state­ment. “I couldn’t let my­self be a dis­trac­tion for the team.”

Bel­trán be­comes the first man­ager to be let go with­out man­ag­ing a game since Wally Back­man, who was hired by Ari­zona in Novem­ber 2004 and fired four days later af­ter le­gal and fi­nan­cial prob­lems were re­vealed.

The Mets are one of 10 teams to change man­agers since open­ing day last year — and now they are do­ing it twice.

“Yes: there’s a lot of crazi­ness in the base­ball world right now,” tweeted Mets first base­man Pete Alonso, who led the ma­jors with 53 home runs and was the NL Rookie of the Year.

When they hired Bel­trán last fall, Van Wa­ge­nen said: “We can trust Car­los, and that goes a long way.”

A nine-time All-Star dur­ing his play­ing days, Bel­trán signed a $119 mil­lion, seven-year con­tract with the Mets in Jan­uary 2005 and helped them win the NL East in 2006. But the switch-hit­ting out­fielder took a curve­ball for strike three with the bases loaded against Adam Wain­wright that Oc­to­ber, end­ing New York’s 3-1 loss to St. Louis in Game 7 of the NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

Associated Press

OUT — In this Nov. 4, 2019 photo, new New York Mets man­ager, Car­los Bel­tran, cen­ter, poses for a pic­ture with gen­eral man­ager Brodie Van Wa­ge­nen, left, and Mets COO Jeff Wilpon dur­ing a base­ball news con­fer­ence at Citi Field in New York.

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