For the Mets, the sign-stealing saga that has now brought upheaval to the Astros and Red Sox is the flood in the apartment above you. It is not your flood. But here it is seeping into your apartment.
It is a perfect storm of bad for an organization that has been tripped up over the years by so many of their own missteps:
1) The Astros have been the most hated organization in the majors. So all of their competitors have wanted as much negative fallout for Houston as possible.
2) Yet, I have not found an outside executive who thinks Houston was punished enough in the rulings announced Monday by Commissioner Rob Manfred. In some form I have heard that now former Houston manager A.J. Hinch and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow should have been permanently banned and/or that the Astros should have forfeited the ability to sign players internationally for a few years, not just lost draft picks, and/or their 2017 title should be vacated and/or that players should have been punished.
3) Beltran is the only player mentioned in MLB’s report. The implication is clear — he was not just a beneficiary of the sign-stealing knowledge; he was involved in establishing the mechanism to cheat. And he no longer is a player. He is now a manager. He is in an authority position.
4) Because of the sport-wide anger, it is possible more people will come forward and make revelations, particularly about Beltran’s involvement. That would be the worst case for the Mets — to stand by Beltran and/or have a press conference in which he addresses this for what they hope is the only time, and in drips and drabs more damning info flows out.
5) The Mets are a win-now team. They already were going to try to win now with a rookie manager. Which is difficult. It just got way more difficult — and not only because reporters will be asking questions. Will Mets players question the authority of someone involved in this scheme?
That might not be a problem for J.D. Davis/Jake Marisnick who played on the 2017 Astros (what did they know and when did they know it?). But what about those who played against the ’17 Astros like Marcus Stroman, Jed Lowrie and Wilson Ramos? I will keep out Dellin Betances and Robinson Cano, who have pre-existing strong relationships with Beltran.
This all leaves the Mets in a tough spot — this is not their flood and yet the water is seeping in. Beltran was with a different organization, in a different role and ultimately was not punished here by MLB. But he wasn’t punished because he was a player and MLB did not want that mess of trying to suspend players for a variety of reasons, including having a protracted fight with the union. But the report makes pretty clear by Beltran’s inclusion as the ONLY player mentioned that he was not just a bystander here.
The Mets want to avoid joining Houston and Boston in looking for a manager at this late date. It is possible that Beltran will navigate this at a press gathering and everyone will buy some form of an explanation (see: Alex Rodriguez’s 2009 PED excuse) that 2017 was a “loosey-goosey” era when it came to using the new tech to decode signs and Beltran didn’t know he was cheating, simply thinking he was using what was at his disposal to do what he has always done: to try to get an edge by knowing what was coming.
That will be nonsense because — like players with steroids — Houston was trying to hide what it was doing. The Astros knew this was illegal. Hinch broke two of the monitors used for cheating. He didn’t do this because it was loosey-goosey. Beltran knew what was being done was illegal. He and the Astros did it anyway. He cheated. He knew it. Period.
Brodie Van Wagenen made a big deal about “trust” in explaining why he was hiring Beltran in early November. How does that read today for the organization? Did Beltran tell the Mets the truth about his involvement with the Astros at the outset of these revelations? Or did they have to find out from the Commissioners Office what he told investigators? How is that trust today before pitchers and catchers have even reported?
At this moment, Beltran and the Mets have gone publicly silent. They can only play that four corners of avoidance for so long. The flood from the apartment upstairs is now in their house.
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