The bond between Beltran and Delgado has brought out the best in each player
and powered the Mets' smashing start
Already sharing a
first name, a homeland, an unassigned locker between their designated ones and
initial hesitation about becoming a Met, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado took
their act on the road last week for a series against the Nationals. Each day
the teammates shared a taxi from their hotel in Washington to RFK Stadium, and
on their one free evening they shared a table for dinner. The bills they split.
"I got the taxis," Delgado said last Friday. "He picked up the
dinner. He makes more than me."
Beltran is in the
second season of a seven-year, $119 million contract that he signed in January
2005 after first offering himself to the Yankees at a discount of about 20%.
Delgado, acquired last winter in a trade, is owed $48 million through 2008, the
remainder of a four-year deal he signed with the Marlins in January '05 after
turning down a better offer from the Mets. Both preferred teams they felt had a
better chance of winning immediately but are warming up to their new home.
Together the two
natives of Puerto Rico pounded the Nationals for 11 hits, including three
homers, and seven RBIs as New York swept three games. By taking two of three
from Milwaukee at home over the weekend ( Delgado had a homer and five RBIs in
the series, while Beltran was slowed by a tight right hamstring and missed
Sunday's game), the Mets rolled to the best record in the majors, 9-2, which is
also the best start in franchise history. At the heart of that early run and of
New York's batting order are Beltran and Delgado, the three-four hitters who
were batting a combined .321 and bringing out the best in each other.
"[ Delgado] is
someone who is always there for me, someone I talk to all the time, and I don't
mean just about baseball," says Beltran, a career .281 hitter who hit a
soft .266 last season and often drew jeers from the Shea Stadium crowds.
"In the lineup I know if I don't get the job done, if I don't get that
runner in from third base, he will. That's a great feeling."
his influence on Beltran, preferring to look at the big picture. "We're
like brothers," he says of his new teammates, "and all of us here help
That's a big
reason the Mets have played cohesively from the start of the season even though
they have a new closer ( Billy Wagner replaced Braden Looper) and have turned
over half their every-day positions: first base ( Delgado replaced Doug
Mientkiewicz), second base ( Anderson Hernandez replaced Kaz Matsui), rightfield
( Xavier Nady replaced Mike Cameron) and catcher ( Paul Lo Duca replaced Mike
Piazza). "It works because we are all equals," explains Beltran.
"Nobody thinks they are any bigger than anybody else."
plays a major role on the club because of his power--he has hit 30 or more home
runs for nine years running--and his professionalism. He provides a calming
influence that, in particular, makes life in the big city easier for Beltran.
Says righthander Pedro Martinez, "It's amazing that someone that big and
strong is so gentle and soft-spoken. Everybody respects him."
than his personality, Delgado helps give New York one of the league's deepest
lineups. After ranking 11th in the NL last year in batting average, at .258,
the Mets were second at week's end with a .298 mark. "As a pitcher on this
team," says ace Tom Glavine, who was 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA after beating
Milwaukee 4-3 last Friday, "you feel like you have a two- or three-run
cushion before the game starts."
The Mets haven't
finished higher than third since 2000, when they won the wild card and reached
the World Series (losing to the Yankees), and they haven't taken a division
title in a franchise-worst drought of 17 years. Particularly vexing, they have
not won a season series from division-rival Atlanta since 1997, losing almost
two thirds of their head-to-head matchups (49-83) in that span. Beginning April
17, New York was scheduled to play nine of its next 20 games against the
Braves, which should better define just how new and improved these Mets