There are many unwritten rules in sports. For example, in baseball, a team's pitcher is never supposed to walk the opposing pitcher (though someone should that to the New York Mets pitching staff), or if a batter showboats after hitting a homerun, he should get hit by a pitch in his next at bat.
Another rule that is less known is that teams should not trade players within their own division. The New York Mets are considering breaking this almost unforgivable rule.
Earlier this week the Mets were rumored to be in talks with several teams for the services of outfielder Carlos Beltran. Among those teams were the San Francisco Giants, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves.
The Giants were highly interested after their manager Bruce Bochy saw Beltran up close in San Francisco just before the All Star break last week. Giants closer Brian Wilson then publicly stated that he wanted Beltran with him in the "City by the Bay".
Reports over the past few days have revealed that the two teams have reached a stalemate in their discussions. The main problem is that the Giants don't want to give up high prospects so they are willing to pay the remainder of Beltran's contract for the season (roughly over $6 M). The Mets, on the other hand, want and need the prospects, so they are not only willing to eat the rest of his contract, they are making it a requirement.
That means that whoever wants to trade with them will have to trade major talent. This is making the Giants gun shy, but other teams seem to be more than willing to agree to those terms. One team, for example, is the Mets main division rival, the Phillies that I previously mentioned. This according to Andy Martino of the NY Daily News.
"One of many other Beltran suitors, the Phillies, are in the opposite position. Close to the luxury tax threshold, Philadelphia cannot add significant payroll, and therefore must be open to dealing a prospect to acquire Beltran. Phillies scouts have followed the Mets intermittently for at least a month."
This will create a dilemma for the Mets and their fans should the Phillies be the team that wins the Beltran sweepstakes. First, how painful would it be to see Beltran, a player that has struggled with injury and the spotlight for the past seven years in Queens despite his enormous contract and topsy-turby relationship with the fans and the local media, excel with a hated rival? It would be excruciating.
Secondly, the Mets still have six more games against the Phillies (three at home and three in Philadelphia). How terrible would it be to see a player like Beltran, who despite his injuries and struggles still arguably could be one of the top outfielders in Mets team history, hurt them head to head in the uniform of a rival that has been so hated for so long?
Imagine Beltran hitting an upper deck, moon shot in Philly off of R.A. Dickey or Dillon Gee to break a scoreless tie late in a game and circling the bases wearing Phillies gear with a sea of red t-shirts as a backdrop. It would be enough to give some long-term fans heart attacks. Seriously. It's giving me a numbing sensation just typing it.
The other main option the Mets are pursuing currently is the other contending team in their own division, the Atlanta Braves. This according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York who writes,
"According to a source familiar with the pursuit of Beltran, the Mets may try to pry Randall Delgado or Arodys Vizcaino from the Braves, although obtaining either prospect appears overly ambitious."
How dreadful would it be for Mets fans to see Carlos Beltran driving in Chipper Jones while being subjected to that stupid chop the fans do down there? It makes me physically sick to even consider this as an option. For any Mets fan who lived through the Braves' domination of the 1990's, such a sight would most certainly rattle their cage. There is one other option, however.
A recent rumor has come across the wire that could suggest something entirely different is afoot in Queens. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Mets GM Sandy Alderson and Carlos Beltran have both stated they will be open to negotiating a free agent signing and thus a Beltran return to Queens next year.
This raises a question. Is Beltran simply a two month rental/Mets spy? Is his sole purpose to weaken the divisional opposition and confess their secrets to the Mets in the offseason? Is this just one gigantic practical joke on the NL East or is it clearly an assignment in espionage?
Probably not. Most likely I am the only one who sees this as anything other than a team trying to get what they can for a red hot player before he hits the free agent market and then said team recognizes his talents and their glaring weakness at the position he leaves behind and pursues him in the winter.
I, however, am convinced that there are under-the-table, behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing in sports, and sometimes, teams try to get one over on a major rival when they can. Take the New England Patriots for example. They were caught a few times taping opponents practices so that they could perform better against that opponent in their next meeting.
It is the nature of sports. Players press each other for information. If a pitcher is tipping his pitches, everyone on the opposing team will know about it and eventually everyone on the league will too. That is a fact. So, why then, is it so hard to believe that there may be some small form of secret agent mischief going on behind the scenes?
Wouldn't it be fantastic if the Mets broke this "no in division" trade rule this year and ended up having Beltran back next year with one or more of their rival's former top prospects? After all, if the rule isn't written, it doesn't always have to be followed. Unwritten rules were made to be broken sometimes.