5:25 pm Oct. 11, 2012
Maybe, just maybe, it is time for people who consider Carlos Beltran anything less than the best postseason hitter of his generation to reassess.
Beltran hit two home runs for the Cardinals in Monday afternoon's 12-4 victory over the Washington Nationals, with both blasts traveling well over 400 feet.
Then on Wednesday, Beltran added another two hits and a walk in an 8-0 Cardinals' win. He's hitting .375 this postseason, with a 1.286 O.P.S.
This is nothing new for Beltran. The series so far helped push his overall postseason production, in 115 postseason plate appearances, to a batting line of .367/.483/.816. That O.P.S. of 1.300 is best in baseball history, ahead of a couple of somewhat renowned postseason hitters, Babe Ruth (1.211 in 167 plate appearances) and Lou Gehrig (1.208 plate appearances).
Despite this off-the-charts set of performances, Beltran is still, in some minds, defined by a single at-bat that didn't go his way: a called third strike, on a curveball from Adam Wainwright, that ended the 2006 National League Championship Series between Beltran's Mets and the Cardinals.
Fred Wilpon, in that famous New Yorker piece by Jeffrey Toobin, castigated himself as "some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series," referring to a 2004 postseason with the Houston Astros that included eight home runs.
Wilpon responded to Toobin's inquiries about whether the Mets were cursed not by blaming himself for entrusting the team's wealth with Bernie Madoff, or by referring to poor contracts like those of Jason Bay and Oliver Perez, but by pantomiming the checked swing of Beltran that ended the 2006 N.L.C.S.
But even that series only managed to reach a seventh game in large part due to Beltran himself. Beltran had as many home runs as strikeouts, three apiece, in 31 plate appearances during the 2006 N.L.C.S.; he'd have almost certainly been named the M.V.P. of the series had the Mets managed to win it. Much went wrong for the Mets that year, and vastly more in the years since. But Beltran wasn't one of those things.
In fact, Wainright's curveball, impressive itself at the time, is the part of that at-bat that deserves a proper legacy, not Beltran's one at-bat failure. Because year after year, Beltran's heroics have made something clear: Wainwright's curveball is about the only thing that has managed to get the better of Carlos Beltran in October.