A few more thoughts about the end of the Carlos Beltran era:
It's a shame that sometimes things work out in a practical sense like we'd like them to end up from a sentimental stance.
If all other factors were equal, Beltran is the sort of guy who ought to be a Cardinal for life. It's not tough to argue that if he wasn't the best St. Louis player during his stay here that he was at least in the top two or three. Thats quite a lot of bang the Redbirds got for their buck.
When St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak signed him a couple of years ago, it was tough to imagine how significant a player he would be during his time in St. Louis. He was coming off a couple of injury-scarred years. He was aging and, frankly, it just didn't look like he had much at all left in the tank.
I heard from a longtime Major League Baseball scout who said Beltran was a wonderful fellow anybody would love to have as a brother. But that his knees were completely shot and that he just couldn't admit his career as a starting outfielder was probably over. Couple that stark assessment with the fact that Cardinals fans were wounded by the fact that Beltran was signed to replace legendary St. Louis slugger and it didn't seem like there was much of a chance he wasn't going to be a disappointment.
Instead, Beltran hit .282 with 56 homers and 181 RBIs and helped propel the Cardinals offense to the seventh game of the National League Championship Series in 2012 and the World Series in 2013. In the same stretch, Pujols hit .275 with 47 homers and 169 RBIs.
But a couple of the most significant reasons Redbirds fans embraced Beltran were that he was such a good guy and he seemed like he really loved to be here and have a relationship with the fans.
Pujols famously left for more more money when the Cardinals were prepared to give him in excess of $200 million just to play baseball -- on top of the $116 million they had already paid him early in his career when they didn't have to commit to a long-term contract. Beltran turned down a three-year deal with Cleveland for more money because he said he always wanted to play for the Redbirds.
Beltran is also a guy you can feel good about representing your team. He gives his time and his money to charity. And he plays baseball the way it should be played. He's not nearly as fast as he once was, but he pushed his body as hard as he could at the plate, in the outfield and on the bases. And he played with brains.
By all accounts, Jhonny Peralta is well thought of by his former teammates in Cleveland in Detroit. But where Beltran is squeaky clean, Peralta is tainted by his performance enhancing drug suspension. And, because of that, St. Louis fans will always hold a little something back when it comes to emotionally investing in him as a player.
Now bloggers and tweeters who sit in their mother's basement across the United States as they tap out venom about the Cardinals fans being hypocrites because they're not happy about Peralta's past.
First, I would say, Redbirds rooters weren't the ones taking the steroids. Second, it's up to MLB -- not the fans to police PEDs. And, finally, I don't care to hear people who attend Cardinals games less frequently than I change my motor oil pontificate about what the merits of a good fan or a poor fan are.
Anyone who pays for the price of a ticket is entitled to their own opinion.
That's not to say that I haven't warmed to the Peralta deal after the initial shock. I think the seemingly too high financial price of the signing is justified by the tremendous savings the Cardinals realized when they didn't have to trade Shelby Miller, Oscar Taveras, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal or Carlos Martinez.
But this will always be the team of Stan Musial. Maybe the most decent, kind and honest guy in the history of professional sports. Even though it made sense to let Beltran walk for the sake of finance, development of prospect and the future construction of the team, it still makes me sad to see such a good guy and a great player hang up his Cardinals uniform for good.
And it will always mean something to Redbirds fans that our players are good people, not just great players.