Long before Carlos Beltran set the baseball world on its proverbial ear during the 2004 postseason, the switch-hitter was regarded as one of the best all-around players.

But what Beltran did in a dozen games for the Houston Astros in the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series, caught the eye of everyone, including the New York Mets, who signed the former American League Rookie of the Year in 1999 to a seven-year, $119-million deal.

Playing on a grand stage, Beltran batted .455 with four homers and nine runs batted in against the Atlanta Braves, and followed that with four homers, five RBIs and a .417 average versus the St. Louis Cardinals.

This past weekend, Beltran, who inked a free-agent package with the Red Birds in the off-season, watched his club get swept by the Dodgers.

In a Dodgers’ 6-5 win on Friday, Beltran singled twice in four at-bats, during Saturday’s 6-0 blanking by ace Clayton Kershaw, he reached on an error in the first inning, lined a two-out double to left in the third, grounded out in the sixth and ninth, and in Sunday’s 6-5 setback went hitless in three at-bats, but drove in a run.

Playing right field, Beltran is leading the Senior Circuit in homers with 13, second in RBIs with 33, and the defending Series champs sit atop the NL Central by a half-game.

Beltran was drafted by Kansas City in the second round in 1995, and sprung into action with a stupendous first season in which he ripped 22 homers with 194 hits, 108 RBIs and a .293 batting average.

Then a center fielder, Beltran continued to produce for the Royals over the next four seasons with 86 homers and 350 RBIs, but few paid attention.

There were positives toiling for the Royals like not having much media pressure which translated into higher expectations.

When Beltran, a six-time All-Star with three Gold Gloves, was traded to the Astros on June 24, 2004, more light was directed his way and he responded.

Beltran’s numbers that season totaled 104 RBIs with 38 home runs, 36 doubles and nine triples.

When Beltran played for the Mets, it was hoped he would direct the team to a World Series title. The only time the Mets qualified for the playoffs was 2006, and after downing the Dodgers in the NLDS, lost to the Cards in the NLCS.

Part of the problem was Beltran spent a great deal of time on the disabled list. When healthy, Beltran, a two-time Silver Slugger winner, was able to crack a career-high 41 homers in 2006, followed by 33 and 27, and his RBI total was 116, 112 and 112.

The fans in the Big Apple expected more from the soft-spoken Beltran, who played in just 81 games in 2009, and 64 in 2010.

More than anything, Beltran has been a run-producer, having knocked in 100 runs eight times, and scored 100 runs seven times.

When Jim Edmonds, who played with the Angels and Chicago Cubs, joined the Cardinals, he said it was the most enjoyable time he spent in baseball because the fans appreciated his hard work and effort.

If St. Louis continues at the top, one would think Beltran will have the same opinion.

Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at richsports5@sbcglobal.net.

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