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January 14, 2005
Citing his close friendship with Mets GM Omar Minaya and the Mets commitment to putting together a winning team as his main reasons, Manati native Carlos Beltran signed a seven year, $119 million deal that makes Beltran the centerpiece centerfielder at Shea Stadium.
The 27-year-old, who put up monster numbers in the post-season for the Houston Astros last year, joins Dominican Pedro Martinez, a three-time Cy Young winner, on a franchise that Minaya is building and Beltran is billing as "the new Mets."
Later this week, Minaya will again cast his line in hopes of hooking first baseman Carlos Delgado, who has reportedly been offered a three-year, $30 million deal. Minaya and his assistant, Puerto Rican Tony Bernazard, were in Puerto Rico earlier this week to speak personally with Delgado and his agent, David Sloane, in the hopes that face-to-face conversation will cinch the deal the same way it did for Martinez and Beltran. Minaya, who is Dominican, made a trip to Santo Domingo last month to successfully woo Martinez and last week spent an evening with Beltran in San Juan in what many believe finalized the deal.
Indeed, Beltran admitted he liked the treatment he got from Minaya and team owner Fred Wilpon.
"I know that Omar and Tony were ballplayers and they know how to reach the Latin players. They made me feel really good and it made my decision that much easier," said Beltran. "Ive known Omar since I was 18 years old and believe in what hes trying to do in New York. Hes interested in bringing in Latin talent and putting together a winning team."
No one deserves a shot at putting together a championship club more than Minaya. After working magic with the Montreal Expos for three seasons, Minaya returns to the Mets, where he had been assistant GM before MLB expropriated him to run the Expos. A former player, Minaya got his front-office start with the Texas Rangers in 1985 as a scout, recruiting the likes of Sammy Sosa and Juan "Igor" Gonzalez. He has demonstrated an ability to do more with less over the years. He saved the Expos from contraction, led them to their first winning record in six years and stemmed the bleeding on a club that had only six employees when he took it over in 2002.
Although he doesnt take the credit, he (along with Bernazard and the Munoz family) successfully carried out the idea of bringing the Expos to Puerto Rico, a creative option for an ailing team that piqued interest and extended the clubs life while Selig shopped around for its new home.
Since returning to New York, Minaya has brought some key players on board, all of whom have been trusted allies and friends through his career, including Bernazard, former Latin American assistant to the Players Union for more than a decade, as well as Manny Acta and Sandy Alomar Sr., both of whom join the Mets coaching staff.
Delgado, meanwhile, is also being recruited by the Baltimore Orioles, the Florida Marlins and the Texas Rangers. Minaya told the New York media he felt Delgado would be not only a welcome addition on the field, but also a leader in the clubhouse.
Arroyo voices his frustration in Utah
While Omar Minaya tries to put two of Puerto Ricos best-loved Carloses on one baseball team, a third Carlos is struggling to remain in the lineup of one basketball team.
That third Carlos would be Arroyo and his basketball team, the Utah Jazz. Earlier this week, Arroyo gave anyone who was listening an earful of reasons why he and his four year, $16 million contract will have a new owner before the Feb. 24 trading deadline comes and goes.
Currently the fourth point guard on a roster that features four point guards (Kevin McLeod, Raul Lopez and Howard Eisley are all getting more playing time than Arroyo, although Eisley is spending more time at shooting guard), Arroyo was benched by Utah coach Jerry Sloan on Dec. 15 after the two exchanged words. Arroyo wont say exactly what those words were, but did admit in an interview this week that he apologized to Sloan for his behavior.
However, while Arroyo considered the apology good enough for a clean slate, Sloan apparently did not. Arroyo has not started a game since that fateful exchange, and again voiced his frustration to Puerto Ricos media during a conference call.
"This is like a dark cloud that is hanging over me and although Im trying to remain positive, its hard for me to understand why they would sign me for four years [and $16 million] to keep me on the bench," said Arroyo, who insisted he his not seeking a trade.
"I hope the situation resolves itself as soon as possible. But its been going on like this for a while and they havent shown interest in me and its been hard to play my game and enjoy being here."
Arroyo said he has tried to keep a positive attitude.
"If he has the right to go to the media and talk about us, then we do too," said Arroyo regarding comments Sloan has made to reporters about the situation. "Im not disrespecting him, Im a competitor and I just want to play. Just like he says whatever he wants, I can too."
Arroyo said he is greeted at practices and prior to games, but he is not included in conversations with Sloan to map out game strategy. He also said he has not sought a second meeting with Sloan.
"I dont see what good it would do. The way I see it, hes not going to change his mind. His decision is made," said Arroyo. "This has been a big disappointment for me, but Ive tried to remain positive. I cant communicate the way I want to communicate, but Im going to come out of this for the better, even if he [Sloan] doesnt have plans for me. Ive been blessed and things are going to get better, that keeps me motivated."
Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.