It’s a question nobody wants to ponder, particularly someone who didn’t spend so much as one day doing the job for which he was hired.
Yet Thursday, Carlos Beltran suddenly finds himself in the same mire that claimed A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora, and surely wondering one thing above all.
Am I canceled?
Baseball’s high crimes and misdemeanors have stained – enlivened? – the game for more than a century, mostly wink-and-a-nod stuff until it’s determined that no, this form of subterfuge is very bad and thus will be handled with only the heaviest of hands.
And yes, Beltran, who officially lost his chance to manage the New York Mets on Thursday, but whose fate was sealed Monday when commissioner Rob Manfred arbitrarily dropped his name – and no other 2017 Houston Astro player – in his nine-page report on their sign-stealing scandal, probably shouldn’t be put in a position of leadership this year.
He forfeited that right when he went along with, and presumably benefited from, the now-infamous electronic surveillance-and-trash can banging scheme that ended in a World Series victory.
Ridding the 2019 baseball landscape of any person in a leadership position for those Astros seemed a prudent course of action for Manfred. Yet, only minutes after Beltran’s dismissal, it became clear that Manfred’s decision not to punish any players will prove so very unsatisfactory.
And the biggest loser in all this may be Beltran.
In the wake of his firing, alleged relatives, would-be online sleuths, aggrieved fans and players themselves lit virtual torches and marched into the online square of grievances to tweet wild but highly unsubstantiated claims of further cheating by the Astros.
Did Manfred’s investigators ask the questions that might have substantiated these claims, which arise from enduring whispers around the game?
Does MLB have further specific details – corroborated or not – of the Astros’ cheating, yet lacked either a preponderance of evidence or the stomach for an ugly, protracted fight against some of the game’s biggest superstars?
Can the Astros’ on-field rivals and fans across the world put this behind them without a pound of flesh –- belonging to a blue-chip name like Bregman, Altuve, Springer?
It’s quite possible that there are so many pissed-off parties around the game that further details – or at least some degree of specificity regarding which players did what – emerge. And that might provide relief to the Astros themselves; without it, they all might as well go up to the plate with a Waste Management receptacle around their waist, as that’s how millions of people will remember them.
Yet, this eventually will simmer. If they haven’t already, players will move on to other teams – George Springer after this upcoming season, most likely – and presumably to positions of power or influence in the game.
That brings us back to Beltran.
It’s worthwhile to note that, other than earning a championship ring as a DH, he benefited very little personally from the sign-stealing scheme. Beltran, then 40, batted just .231 in his final major league season. He received just three at-bats in the World Series and 21 overall in those playoffs.
And it remains unclear the extent to which he dabbled in illegalities of the Astros’ scheme.
“Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter,” it reads.
The report then details Cora’s extensive involvement, leaving the reader to ponder if Beltran was dropped in there merely to sully his future with the Mets, or if he had a much greater role left unsaid because, as a player in 2017, he was not Manfred’s specific target.
Thursday, however, Beltran became collateral damage, paying a steep price for accepting a highly-public position at the worst possible time.
Had Beltran remained merely a Yankees special assistant, would he be fired? Will the recently-retired Brian McCann, a 2017 Astro who many believe will make an excellent front office or dugout figure someday, be forced to serve some sort of penance before launching his career in the executive wing?
Will the inspirational Jose Altuve continue his run as an unofficial ambassador, appearing on behalf of Chevy or T-Mobile and other blue-chip MLB sponsors, and remain an adored figure well into a lucrative post-playing career?
Perhaps a comeuppance will come to whichever Astros deserve it. For now, however, it is just Beltran taking the fall, his dream of managing a big league team dashed at least for the moment.
Will another chance emerge in the years ahead? It would seem terribly unfair if it doesn’t.