Why Carlos Beltran is out before his first game as Mets manager

Carlos Beltran’s time as New York Mets manager is over before it really began, with the former outfielder stepping down Thursday afternoon.

The only player named in MLB’s investigation of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, Beltran becomes the third manager to lose his job this week on the heels of AJ Hinch’s exit in Houston and Alex Cora’s departure in Boston.

Given the unusual nature of Beltran’s short-lived time as a skipper in New York coming to an end, here are the answers to some key questions about Thursday’s news and the expected fallout.

Wait, Beltran wasn’t disciplined by MLB, so why are the Mets firing him?

The statement by the Mets made it clear that they believe Beltran had been truthful in his dealings with them, so it wasn’t about him misleading the club during the interview process. However, it’s not like Beltran is a seasoned big league skipper with years of credibility built up in that role. He’s never managed a day in his life. So what were the Mets after when they hired him? Someone with a reputation for integrity and leadership, and a positive image to sell to fans as the face of the franchise. Fair or not, Beltran’s role in the Astros scandal, which was explicitly spelled out in Rob Manfred’s report, undermines all of that. A clean start for both sides makes sense, even if the timing stinks.

Are the Mets part of MLB’s investigation or is this just about Beltran?

As far as what’s been reported thus far, the Mets’ only role in these emerging scandals was in hiring Beltran. They of course did so before these stories began to break. For them, once they hire Beltran’s replacement, this should be the end of their part of the story, barring further allegations.

Is this the first time a manager has lost his job before managing a game with his new team?

Believe it or not, this has happened before.

In 2004, the Diamondbacks hired Wally Backman to replace Bob Brenly shortly after the World Series ended. Just four days after Backman was introduced, and long before he managed a game, the club discovered that Backman had been arrested a couple of times and had battled some severe financial problems. Though the club was at least partially responsible for the snafu by not completing a background check before announcing the hire, Arizona fired Backman and replaced him with Bob Melvin. Backman still has never managed in the majors, though he reportedly was close to getting the Mets job when they hired Terry Collins in 2011. He’s managed in both the affiliated and non-affiliated minor leagues for years, including the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League last season.

Another comparably short reign was the one-game tenure of Eddie Stanky for the Texas Rangers in 1977. He was not hired as an interim skipper but as the permanent replacement for Frank Lucchesi. Stanky led the Rangers to a 10-8 win in Minnesota on June 22 in his first — and last — game for Texas. After the win, Stanky talked excitedly about his new team and even discussed some plans with his coaching staff for how he’d run spring training the following season. The next morning, a homesick Stanky was on a plane back to Alabama, telling the Rangers’ brass that he never should have left his family in the first place. Connie Ryan was named interim manager.

So where do the Mets go from here?

Luckily for GM Brodie Van Wagenen and Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, they had already gone through the interview process this winter, which isn’t the case for the Astros or Red Sox. New York should be able to move fast to fill the void. At least a couple of the interviewees — Joe Girardi and Derek Shelton — are off the market, having been hired by Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, respectively. But others, like ESPN’s Eduardo Perez and Nationals coach Tim Bogar, presumably are still available. As are veteran skippers Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker and John Gibbons — all rumored to be in the running for the Astros job. The Athletic reported that Mets coach Luis Rojas will also be considered.

The other thing to consider is that while it’s always tempting to paint this as an “LOL Mets” story, the speed with which this scandal has emerged and Beltran’s role in it would have been tough to suss out ahead of time. Perhaps we can give New York a pass … this time.

Will Beltran work in baseball again?

That’s an open question because there has been disagreement about whether Hinch, deposed Astros GM Jeff Luhnow or Cora will work in baseball again, and each of them had a lot more success in their roles than Beltran, who hasn’t managed a game in his life. To know whether Beltran gets another shot, you’d really have to have insight into the relationships he’s built across baseball. Reportedly, there were a couple of teams interested in him for managing gigs whom he declined to interview with because he’d zeroed in on New York. Those teams probably aren’t inclined to ring him up any time soon. For others, let’s give it time. A public-facing job such as what the modern managing gig has become seems unlikely for quite a while. But perhaps if he wants to, Beltran can work in a developmental or junior executive role as he seeks to rebuild credibility. Or maybe he’ll just sail off into retirement. After all, he earned around $222 million as a player.

How much does this impact Beltran’s legacy as a player … and his Hall of Fame chances?

Leaving aside the question of whether it should affect Beltran’s Hall chances, it would be naive to think that this scandal won’t hurt him. The Astros’ 2017 title was a bold-face item on his resume because his veteran leadership had been viewed as a crucial component in Houston getting over the hump, even as his on-field skills were waning. Now many are going to look at that role and think, sure, he was providing leadership, but it wasn’t the right kind. And there are a lot of voters who love to get indignant about things, so unquestionably some will leave Beltran off their ballot because of this. His Hall case wasn’t a clear-cut one in the first place. Objectively, his resume is strong enough to merit selection to Cooperstown but it’s not a slam-dunk case. This is certainly not going to help Beltran with voters on the fence about him.

Are there any other names that could come up like Beltran did here?

One would think that we’ve exhausted our list of villains from the Astros scandal, especially since the scope of baseball’s investigations seems to be fixed on late in 2017 and beyond. However, we still don’t know who beyond Cora might be implicated in the Red Sox investigation. We still don’t know whether other teams are going to emerge as offenders in separate allegations. Beltran’s parting of ways with the Mets won’t be the last word on this issue. Baseball and its fans have to hope the rabbit hole only goes so deep.

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