When It Comes To Connecting With Players, There May Be No Better Candidate Than Just-Retired 9-Time All-Star

By Sweeny Murti
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Carlos Beltran told Brian Cashman during the AL Championship Series that he was leaning towards retirement when the season ended, and he wanted the general manager to keep him in mind if any opportunity within the Yankees organization came up.

Little did he know it might be a chance to manage them.

On Wednesday, Beltran became the sixth official candidate to interview for Joe Girardi’s old job.

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Beltran — the fifth candidate with no big-league managing experience and the second (along with Aaron Boone) with no previous coaching experience — brings Cashman a unique perspective to the Yankee situation. There has been all this talk about connecting to players and communicating with the guys in the clubhouse, yet no one has done it like Beltran, who resided in the same clubhouse from 2014-16.

Carlos Beltran

The Astros’ Carlos Beltran hits a double off the Yankees’ Sonny Gray during the second inning of Game 4 of the AL Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 17, 2017. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

“I personally feel that if I get the opportunity to be a manager I will impact (the team) the same way that I did as a player,” Beltran told reporters after his interview. “My philosophy is communication. I believe that communication is a big factor. There are a lot of ideas I have to encourage the guys in the clubhouse and try to make a good environment.”

These are ideas Cashman needs to hear, even if he doesn’t hire Beltran. Few people have come into that clubhouse in recent years that commanded as much respect as Beltran, who just retired from a 20-year major league career that began with a Rookie of The Year honors in Kansas City, ended with a World Series title in Houston, and featured nine All-Star appearances in between.

“Being able to play this game for such a long time I’ve seen a lot and I have seen the importance of what players need in the clubhouse, especially this (Yankees) clubhouse, where you see a lot of young guys,” Beltran said. “If I get the opportunity I want to create a positive environment, where these guys go out there and have fun and enjoy themselves and play the game to the level that I know they can.”

Joe Espada, the former Yankees third base coach and new Astros bench coach, marveled at the charisma that drew teammates to Beltran.

“He brings a presence,” Espada told me. “Respect and accountability — those are things that are important and he checks those boxes. Young players really respect him. He brings a lot to the table. We’re talking about a Hall of Famer here. In that clubhouse that plays huge.”

And with communication being the buzzword of Manager Search 2017, there are few people that cut across the diverse clubhouse landscape the way Beltran does.

“Carlos’s timing is impeccable,” Espada said. “When you’re a manager or a coach, when you deliver a message is important. If you get a guy that is upset and you approach him at that moment he might not be as receptive as he would be 20 minutes later or after the game. I thought Carlos was really, really good with his timing of when to talk to guys. That’s one of his strengths.”

While other candidates can talk about what they might do in situations with certain players, Beltran has already impacted these players. When Didi Gregorius struggled his first year in pinstripes, Beltran counseled him on adjusting to the New York spotlight. He could also talk to veterans like CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, or Mark Teixeira. He tutored Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez in the batting cage, and he had Aaron Judge’s locker moved next to his in spring training of 2016 so he could begin to impart some wisdom on the guy who would take his job in right field.

And I’m sure many of the Astros have stories like that to share when they talk about what helped them win the World Series in 2017.

Old-school baseball savvy is one thing. New age metrics are another. And that’s something Beltran, a man with a résumé built for Cooperstown, says could have made him a better player. So employing front office analytics to make a team better doesn’t feel like a stretch to Beltran.

“I look at my career and I look at my 20 years in the big leagues, I personally feel that out of those 20 years I played naked a lot of them because I didn’t have all this information,” Beltran said. “The fact that teams are investing a lot in analytics and these people are working extremely hard to provide this information for the players I think is a positive thing for baseball and a positive thing for the players.”

Beltran knows the experience factor works against him. It’s rare for a player to move from the field to the manager’s seat with no bridge in between. But Beltran can sell himself as the guy who builds bridges between players, coaches, and the front office.

“This type of interview doesn’t come very often,” Beltran acknowledged. “So the fact that the Yankees consider me to be one of the candidates, for me it’s a great honor and a great accomplishment. The decision will be based on what the Yankees want to have and which guy checks all the boxes for the organization.”

Please follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN

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