The matter of Carlos Beltran’s unexcused absence from a team trip to the Walter Reed Medical Center this past Tuesday has already been mentioned in this space, but the extent to which CF Carlos Beltran — who claimed the hospital visit conflicted with a previously planned meeting to discuss a school he’s building in Puerto Rico — has been vilified (here’s one particularly sloppy example) requires further context. In this case, it’s supplied with aplomb by Scratchbomb, who reminds us that once Beltran’s been run out of town, Mets fans will have lost “the greatest center fielder to play in New York since Willie, Mickey, and The Duke”.

When Beltran returned to the lineup after the All Star Break, it coincided with a team-wide slump and a hideous road trip. Obviously his mere presence in the clubhouse was to blame, these fans assumed–ignoring the presence of black holes like Henry Blanco and Jeff Francoeur and streaky rookies like Ike Davis in the everyday lineup.

Never mind that he came back to the field last September, in the textbook definition of a lost season, playing for nothing at all but pride on a knee that would eventually need surgery. Never mind that he did the same thing in 2005, after after his horrific head-on collision with Mike Cameron, when he had every right to sit out the rest of the season.

Never mind he put up big numbers at the end of 2007 and 2008 in a vain attempt to stave off The Collapses (OPS in September/October of 2008: 1.086). Never mind that he hit a two-run homer in the last game ever played at Shea to give the crowd hope that maybe, just maybe the unthinkable would not happen.

Never mind all the charity work the man does, in both New York and Puerto Rico, much of it unpublicized. Never mind that despite the idiotic hatred slung at him from the Joe Benignos of the world, he’s always conducted himself with class and dignity.

He doesn’t deserve a fraction of this abuse, and he certainly doesn’t deserve to have his own team lump him into the same category as the reprehensible Oliver Perez and the squeamish Luis Castillo. He doesn’t deserve to have the Mets publicly defame him for no good reason, just because they want to get rid of his suddenly expensive contract. (In which case, why are they making public statements that will only lower his value? Just more Mets idiocy.)

He also doesn’t deserve to have the Mets’ beat writers unblinkingly report this “story” exactly as the team told it, without asking the front office why they didn’t know (or didn’t mention) Beltran’s prior commitment. The team may have Machiavellian motives, but they need help from the press to truly enact them. Abetting character assassination: not your finest moment, fellas.

With all due respect to the author of the above excerpt, I’d like to leave the last word on this unseemly affair with Amazin’ Avenue’s Sam Page, a scribe savvy enough to note local media doing ownership’s bidding in a manner not witnessed since Dick Young was burying Tom Seaver.

The best part is how these journalists created the players’ insidious motives — by involving baseball. Because they’re not team players on the field and in the clubhouse, it’s no surprise they fund Hamas and hunt bald eagles in their spare time, all to get back at Fred Wilpon for paying them hundreds of millions of dollars. The press created a story to play on the universal sentiment that there are things greater than baseball and money, but in doing so, completely trivialized something important by unduly making it about baseball and money.