TAMPA, Fla. — Over the winter, there was an unusual sight in the offices of Yankee Stadium. For a few days, amid the busy period as front-office employees reshaped rosters with trades and signings, Carlos Beltran was sitting among them, learning how to use the club’s internal networks to view video and file scouting reports.
In December, a year after considering him for their managerial vacancy, the Yankees hired Beltran, a nine-time All-Star who spent two and a half seasons with the Yankees, as a special adviser to General Manager Brian Cashman. While front-office positions like special adviser or special assistant can often be nebulous roles handed to former managers, coaches or players who assist at their leisure — Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera and David Wright, to name a few — Cashman said Beltran was approaching his job with a full-time student’s mind-set.
“Some parachute in and out, which is great,” Cashman said. “But some are heavily invested, and he is heavily invested.”
Beltran, 41, retired in 2017 after finally winning a World Series, with the Houston Astros. The title capped what some believe is a career with Hall of Fame credentials: 435 home runs (fourth most by a switch-hitter), 2,725 hits and three Gold Glove awards in addition to his All-Star selections.
And after earning more than $220 million over 20 years in the major leagues, Beltran could be doing anything now, such as sitting on the beach in his native Puerto Rico. But he has chosen to work in the Yankees’ front office, writing his version of scouting reports and counseling the younger players throughout the organization.
“I had a career in baseball, I played at a high level, and I made a lot of money in the big leagues, but man, I want these kids to accomplish their dreams,” he said in Spanish during spring training at the team’s facility in Tampa, Fla. “Those were my dreams, too.”
Before the Yankees settled on Aaron Boone as their replacement for Joe Girardi before the 2017 season, Cashman asked Beltran to interview for the manager opening. Beltran had just finished playing, and thus had no background in management, but Cashman admired Beltran for his experience, his commanding presence and his genuine personality.
“There’s passion and joy he brings every day,” Cashman said. “He’s capable of anything he wants to do.”
So Cashman contacted Beltran again, this time about a front-office position. Beltran, who lives in New York, told Cashman what he was interested in working on, and Cashman gave him the freedom to do so. For Beltran, the chance to learn the intricacies of the front office from Cashman, who has won four World Series during his two decades as the Yankees’ general manager, was enticing.
“Now it’s my turn to ask a lot of questions, see what interests me and knock on the needed doors to learn baseball from another point of view,” Beltran said.
For Beltran, that view is from the stands, where the scouts sit and analyze the Yankees’ minor league teams during the season. It’s a different perspective, but Beltran gave himself plenty of training for his new job during his playing days. On road trips, he often spent traveling time watching video of the opposing team’s pitchers and hitters on his iPad and then shared his written notes with teammates and coaches. If his team was trading for a new teammate, he would call friends on the player’s former team to get the lowdown on the new acquisition and his personality.
“I’m passionate about this,” he said. “Since I lived the game, I don’t just talk about the visual aspects, but the feelings of the player or what he might be thinking in difficult situations that sometimes analytics cannot see. The front office looks a lot at the numbers, but I’m talking about the mental side that has value. It’s a cool combination.”
Beltran spent the winter writing and filing notes on several dozen players, mostly on prospects in the Yankees’ system but also some major leaguers. It took him 90 minutes to watch video on a player and write up his thoughts, he said. He averaged two per day.
“He’s breaking swings down and he’s breaking down the pitching mechanics,” said Matt Daley, the Yankees’ assistant director of pro scouting. “He’s getting pretty detailed. It’s good information.”
Beltran has also given the Yankees his perspective on how prospects can be helped to develop, particularly those from Latin America. As a player, Beltran encouraged clubs to hire Spanish-language interpreters to prevent messages from getting lost in translation between players and the team or reporters. Language barriers still persist today, he said, and can be factors in players’ growth.
“He’s speaking from the perspective of a guy who’s just off the field and sees it through a player’s lens, which is a unique aspect,” said Tim Naehring, the Yankees’ vice president for baseball operations. “We don’t have many other guys writing reports or putting their opinions down coming from a teammate’s side of things.”
Beltran will also counsel players throughout the season, as he did during two trips to the Yankees’ spring training this year. He will juggle that plus time at home with his wife and three young children and his baseball academy in Puerto Rico.
“Now, it’s about how I can impact the younger players,” he said. “If they can get something out of one conversation or one bit of advice, then at the end of the day, that’s your legacy.”
Among the players Beltran has advised are infielder Gleyber Torres, 22, and outfielder Estevan Florial, 21, the team’s top prospect, who broke a wrist during spring training. Torres, who is from Venezuela, said he had sought out Beltran for tips on improving his focus and taking better care of his body.
“I’ll keep talking to him and, if anything is needed, I have the trust to ask and know he’ll have an answer,” Torres said.
Florial, who is from the Dominican Republic, said Beltran had advised him on how to better use his legs in his swing and how to sharpen aspects of his defense. “To take the time to help someone who isn’t even a big-leaguer is really great,” he said.
So how do all these responsibilities fit into Beltran’s future? Asked if he wanted to run a team one day, either as a manager or as an executive, Beltran would say only that he loved baseball and wanted to learn new skills.
“This will help me if in some future I want to manage, then I understand how an organization thinks, how to develop an organization, and how they evaluate players,” he said. “But in the future, if I say that managing isn’t for me, maybe I want to be more involved in a front office, I have more tools.”
Published at Fri, 05 Apr 2019 23:11:50 +0000