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Why Won't Beltran Slide?

A funny thing happened during the Nationals' win on Sunday afternoon: They stoked a brooding controversy for their opponent.

In the third inning, with the Mets down only by a manageable three runs, Beltran took off from first base with the team's most reliable hitter, David Wright, at the plate. Jesus Flores sent a strike to second base. Beltran was beaten by a good foot but, despite having a shot at being safe with a particularly well-placed slide, he ran into second base to be tagged out with ease. No one knows why he didn't slide.

If Sunday's episode was the first time, fans would have been surprised, but probably would have shrugged it off. Instead, the second base meltdown was Beltran's second "no-slide conspiracy" episode of the past week alone, the first coming when he was beaten at home plate last Tuesday in St. Louis. One time is hard to explain, hard to defend. Two times is impossible to justify for loyal fans.

That's why the Mets faithful booed, lustily, when the $18.5 million outfielder didn't slide. The odds are it'll happen again, though -- as he told Newsday's Anthony Rieber -- Mets Beltran has no idea why it's happening.

"I heard contact with the bat," he said. "I went to look at where the ball was. Basically, I got surprised at second base. It was a mistake. I should have slid right there, but basically that's the first time that's happened in my career."

Rieber tries to make the case that Beltran's failure to slide is a metaphor for his entire existence in New York. That may be harsh, but there's something to the idea that it's a metaphor for the Mets' season so far. A team with so much offensive firepower, the Mets are still struggling to find a way to win any time Johan Santana, the best regular season pitcher in baseball, isn't on the mound. The other games, or at least most of them, things just aren't working out.

Trying to figure out why they aren't is as counfounding as a search for the reason behind Beltran's refusal to slide. Now, the Mets seem to be considering a handful of rash moves -- Manager Jerry Manuel is under pressure, and reports last week had Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine all potentially on their final start, with a trip to the bullpen or AAA in waiting.

Nothing has come of the threats yet, but it's early. A few more games without slides, and the Nats might see a very different Mets team the next time they amble into Citi Field.

By Cameron Smith  |  April 27, 2009; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Mets  
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Comments

Perfect- Let's criticize Carlos Beltran, the most positive hitting and fielding force on the Mets to date. Having a great start at the plate, and hasn't misplayed balls in the outfield. His lack of sliding skills is not the cause of the team's "slide" into mediocrity. Find another metaphor, Mr. Rieber.

Posted by: AHoyaFan | April 27, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be a good thing for the Mets to finally not slide at the end of the season?

Posted by: adampschroeder | April 27, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

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