LOS ANGELES — When it was all over, when Carlos Beltran could officially attach World Series champion to his name, he did what any elder statesman of the game might do. He stood outside the clubhouse while the younger Houston Astros players popped bottles of champagne and poured beer on each other’s head.
He held a glass of champagne in one hand, enjoying the sight that had eluded him throughout his 20-year career in the major leagues. After playing on seven different teams, making the postseason seven times and now playing in his second World Series, Beltran’s team had finally won one. On the field after, his eyes filled with tears.
So, did it feel as good as he imagined it would?
“Yes,” Beltran said, nodding his head. “Yes.”
Carlos Beltran, with tears running down his face, is finally a World Champion. pic.twitter.com/j1fuxvq1kh
— Rich MacLeod (@richmacleod) November 2, 2017
Beltran was in the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, but his team came up short. And he’s infamous for the game-ending Game 7 strikeout in the 2006 National League Championship Series as a member of the New York Mets. But now, at age 40, a postseason finally ended the way he dreamed.
Only three active players in MLB had played more than 2,500 games and not won a ring. Well, two now. The others, according to Jayson Stark? Adrian Beltre and Ichiro.
“It’s easier to say it than do it,” Beltran said. “But at the end of the day, we did it.”
Carlos Correa — who is 23, almost half Beltran’s age — came out the clubhouse, saw Beltran standing there and gave him a big hug. Even though Beltran wasn’t in the lineup every day, there was no question he was a big part of this Astros team. If he wasn’t playing, his role was offering guidance to the young players, like Correa, who haven’t seen nearly as much as Beltran has in his playing days.
“I can’t imagine,” said Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, “what it’s like to be in this game that long and finally win a championship. Even though he didn’t play a lot in this World Series, he was a big part of why we’re here. It was like having an extra player-coach this year.”
The next step for Beltran might actually just be coach. While he didn’t say directly that he would be retiring after this season, he didn’t definitely say he plans to play next season either. It’s, as they say, up in the air.
“I don’t have a lot of options,” said Beltran, who is a free agent now after signing a one-year deal with the Astros last winter.
It’s basically: Try to leg out one more year in the big leagues or retire.
“I don’t think it’s gonna be a hard one after winning a World Series,” he said.
“We don’t know,” he said.
He did make it clear that “retirement” would only be retirement from playing. He has every intention of staying around baseball, staying in a clubhouse and helping the next generation of players — much as he has with the Astros.
It might not be immediately, but Beltran says he wants to manage one day. It’s a “bucket-list” item, he says. Guess he needs a new one now that he’s crossed off the World Series ring.
“I love the game of baseball,” Beltran said. “I have learned this year so much about working with the guys. I want to be around. I don’t want to disappear.”
Carlos Beltran has a decision ahead of him. It’ll come in the next few months, once the party has died down and the euphoria has gone away. For now, he’s got a glass of champagne to finish.
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