Three days after he was implicated in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, Carlos Beltran and the Mets agreed he should step down as manager of the team on Thursday, leaving the job before he had held his first practice.
“We met with Carlos last night and again this morning and agreed to mutually part ways,” Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer, said in a statement released by the team. “This was not an easy decision. Considering the circumstances, it became clear to all parties that it was not in anyone’s best interest for Carlos to move forward as Manager of the New York Mets.”
Beltran, who was hired in November for his first managing job at any level, said in the same statement that he was grateful for the opportunity the Mets had given him but that he agreed the decision was in the team’s best interest. “I couldn’t let myself be a distraction for the team,” he said. “I wish the entire organization success in the future.”
After Major League Baseball published its scathing report on Houston’s sign-stealing scheme on Monday, the Astros fired General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch, and the Red Sox announced the next day that they were parting ways with Alex Cora, who had been an Astros bench coach in 2017 and was implicated in M.L.B.’s report.
Those decisive steps increased public pressure on the Mets. Unlike Hinch and Cora, Beltran was not punished by the league, because he was a player when the scheme was first implemented in 2017 and M.L.B. decided not to punish any players. But he was the only Astros player named in the report because he was a central figure in conceiving the scheme, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss details that had not been made public.
On Thursday, Beltran became the fourth person to lose his job over the sign-stealing scandal. And with a month to go before spring training, the Mets are one of three teams, along with the Astros and Red Sox, without a manager.
Wilpon and Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets’ general manager, met with the M.L.B. commissioner’s office Wednesday morning to be briefed further on Beltran’s role in the scheme, then flew to the team’s spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to meet with Beltran, Van Wagenen said on a conference call Thursday. The three met again Thursday morning and decided Beltran should step down.
“We both agreed that it was going to be incredibly challenging and difficult to do the job in the way in which he intended and the way in which he could utilize the best of his abilities,” Van Wagenen said of Beltran.
He added that the Mets had told Beltran to cooperate with M.L.B.’s investigation this winter, but that the team did not follow up with Beltran or ask him specifically about his role.
The scandal emerged less than two weeks after the Mets hired Beltran on Nov. 1. A report in The Athletic revealed that starting in 2017, when Beltran was an outfielder for the Astros, the team had coordinated a cheating operation to illicitly steal opposing teams’ signs using video feeds and then communicate them to their own batters.
M.L.B.’s subsequent investigation determined that the primary figures in designing the operation were Beltran and Cora. Since he had been a player, however, Beltran was not suspended. That left him a loophole: He had committed the infractions on another team and not been punished, so he was technically free to manage.
But it would have appeared awkward for him to do so while Cora and Hinch — who lost his job for doing far less than Beltran did — had both been suspended and fired.
While the Mets said in their statement on Thursday that they believed Beltran had been “honest and forthcoming” with them, Beltran told The New York Post in November that he had not been involved in the Astros’ scheme. That was contradicted by M.L.B.’s report, which said that Beltran was at least a consultant in the affair.
“Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltran, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter,” the report said.
Although M.L.B. did not punish any players, its report seemed to carve out a special status for Beltran as the only player named — even though many other Astros players were either involved in the scheme or aware of it.
And Beltran was more than just a typical player. He turned 40 in 2017, his final season of a 20-year career that was widely seen as worthy of Hall of Fame consideration when he becomes eligible in 2022.
Beltran, who spent the 2019 season as a special adviser with the Yankees, was also known as an expert at stealing signs through the more traditional, and legal, methods — without the assistance of electronics. Those include spying on catchers while on the basepaths and then relaying their signals to the batter with subtle gestures.
He was an influential and respected leader on the Astros, almost like a player-coach. When his name surfaced last autumn as a candidate to manage, many in baseball were intrigued by his potential as a manager. During the search process, he declared that the only team he was interested in managing was the Mets, the team for which he started from 2005 until 2011. He achieved that goal, but three months later he was forced to step away.
“We are confident that this will not be the final chapter in his baseball career,” the Mets said in their statement on Thursday. “We remain excited about the talent on this team and are committed to reaching our goals of winning now and in the future.”
Danielle Allentuck contributed reporting.