“I’ve had headaches for 20 years,” Beltran, 42, said with a smile on Monday, when the Mets formally introduced him as their new manager. “Let them continue.”
He was referring to his 20 seasons as a player, almost seven of them spent with the Mets. A nine-time All-Star, Beltran hit 435 home runs in his career and won three Gold Glove awards.
He has never been a manager or a coach at any level of the game. After ending his playing career in 2017, when he won a World Series ring with the Houston Astros, Beltran became a special adviser to the Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman. That same year, the Yankees interviewed Beltran for their open managing job, but chose Aaron Boone, a former player who moved directly from the broadcast booth without coaching or managing experience.
“When I first got the interview with the Yankees before this one, I wasn’t prepared,” Beltran said. “That caught me off guard because I was coming out of retirement to that. But this time, after understanding and seeing where baseball is going and the things that are important, an opportunity came, and I was like, ‘O.K., maybe I can be the guy for that opportunity.’”
The Mets took a similar risk last year when they hired Brodie Van Wagenen, a longtime player agent who had never run a team, as their general manager.
“When I made the switch a year ago, it wasn’t something I needed to do,” Van Wagenen said. “Carlos didn’t need a job. Carlos didn’t want a job. Carlos wanted this job. That was powerful in our process.”
The Mets were willing to gamble on Beltran, Van Wagenen said, because of the reputation he had built as a thoughtful teammate.
“I think not only did he listen, he mentored,” Van Wagenen said. “Sometimes with star players, it’s easy just to hang out with star players and that’s not something Carlos did. Carlos was there to serve.”
In his position with the Yankees, Beltran said he helped bridge the gap among the front office, the analytics department and the players. He said that he had also learned the best way to present information to a team and that he had mentored young teammates, especially Spanish-speaking players. Beltran, who was raised in Puerto Rico, is the Mets’ first Latino manager.
Before he decided to pursue the Mets’ job, Beltran said, he reached out to people he trusted, like Astros Manager A.J. Hinch, about what it’s like to lead a major league team. He also asked for advice from some of his former Mets teammates, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes and Pedro Martinez.
Beltran’s hiring was somewhat surprising given his contentious history with Mets ownership. In particular, he had a falling-out with Jeff Wilpon, who is the chief operating officer as well as part of the ownership family, in 2010 over a decision to have knee surgery.
Beltran said on Monday that he and the owners had moved past that trouble. His wife, Jessica Beltran, who attended the introductory news conference with the couple’s three children, added: “Sometimes we have miscommunications with our family that separate us. I think this is not anything different. I think we had our moments when we didn’t communicate well when Carlos was a player with the Mets organization, the ownership.”
Beltran will replace Mickey Callaway, who was fired last month after failing to make the playoffs in both of his seasons at the helm. At the news conference, Beltran was asked frequently how he expected to interact with Van Wagenen, who had never hired a manager before.
“You have to understand that when you’re a manager, literally your G.M. has to be your best friend,” Beltran said. “You have to communicate with him in a way where you have to be honest, have to be open, have to be able to have tough conversations.”
The team has not announced the coaching staff and has no timeline for completing that process. Beltran said that he wanted an experienced staff and that Terry Collins — who was the Mets’ manager from 2011 to ’17 and currently is a special assistant to Van Wagenen — had reached out to offer assistance.
Beltran will take over a team that surged late in the 2019 season, finishing at 86-76, and has an enviable core of stars. First baseman Pete Alonso is expected to be named the National League Rookie of the Year this month; pitcher Jacob deGrom has a chance to repeat as the winner of the N.L.’s Cy Young Award; and the utility player Jeff McNeil contended for the batting title.
Beltran said that he planned to reach out to every player in the coming weeks, and that he planned to build relationships with the players before they arrive in Florida for spring training.
“I understand what players like, what they don’t like,” he said. “I just hope I can create a culture that is positive and fun. Because at the end of the day, baseball should be fun.”