After 199 post-season plate appearances, he is finally there. Carlos Beltran will play in the World Series for the first time. The 36-year-old had been to the National League Championship Series three times before and three times played in a Game 7, only to go home unsatisfied. Had the Cardinals not finished the job tonight in Game 6 against the Dodgers, he might never have gotten the opportunity.
It’s a well-deserved opportunity for Beltran, whose post-season production is the stuff of legend. He entered tonight’s game hitting .327/.443/.717 in 194 trips to the dish in post-season play – numbers reminiscent of Barry Bonds. He went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI singles against the Dodgers tonight. He even added an inning-ending diving catch in the gap in right-center in the fifth to take a hit away from Juan Uribe, just for good measure.
Beltran is, in the eyes of many, already a Hall of Famer. He has accumulated over 67 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference, which puts him slightly below Reggie Jackson (74.0), as an example. Others believe him to be on the cusp, and some of them would have held his lack of World Series play against him. He will get the chance to pad his credentials next Wednesday, when the World Series starts in the city of the winner of the ALCS between the Red Sox and Tigers.
Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.
It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.
Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:
He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.
“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”
The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.