By Eric Neel
Page 2

Hola Señor Octubre,

How you feeling right now? Huge? You deserve it. Electric? That's all you. Clutch? You put da man in "You da man," Carlos.

Eight home runs in 10 games. Eight home runs in 10 games and the eighth, with the Astros' season on the line and the ball just an inch above your shoelaces, the best of them all.

That's 18 hits, 18 runs, 14 RBI, 3 stolen bases, a .462/.543/1.154 line, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Good god, man. What's it all about, Alfie?

You make an out about as often as Chris Mathews takes a pause.

You stand there, with that easy, layback stance, like you're kicking it on the stoop, spying a pretty girl across the street. Then you come through, with that sweet C of a swing, and finish high and hard, slapping the bat on your back, throwing bolts like Zeus, quick and unforgiving.

Carlos Beltran
You know you're in an other-wordly zone when you're hitting this pitch for a home run.

And it's not just the hits. Let's talk about running up that hill Monday night. Backwards. With the unhurried grace of Hines doing a soft-shoes. Let's talk about your death-to-flying-objects dive on Renteria's sure double. That was something. A play Texas kids will be talking about when they're aging Lone Star lions. It was a Tommy Agee play, a Kirby at the wall play, a play Willie might have made. And the thing about it was, there was never any doubt you were going to glove it. You're so dialed right now it was a gimmee.

We can only imagine the feeling. Are you tuned to sub-atomic waves? Do you smell the pheromones of the flies that once landed on the hide that became the ball that is hurtling toward you in slow motion? Is this a simple game for you, governed by the most basic principles of physics? Are you so deep in it now that you can't for the life of you understand how others might find it difficult to play?

We ask because, like Jordan that night in Portland, like Mastrantonio down in the abyss, you're in uncharted waters. Tell us what it's like. Bring home stories from your adventures.

And man, what a time to do it. Two weeks in October. With the whole world watching. Two scorching pennant-fever weeks in October. And you a free agent when it's over.

That must taste sweet.

How many times a day does Scottie B call you right now? Six? Seven? Does he actually talk or does he just shout "Cha-ching!" and giggle hysterically?

Carlos Beltran
Life is sweet right now for Houston's Mr. October.

They don't have charts for the climb in your stock; the little green arrow just keeps shooting up past the edge of the screen.

The phone won't stop ringing now, you know. The big boys are about to come calling, and they're bringing their checkbooks with them. You've got five tools and a long line of zeroes laid out in front of you. It's your world, Carlos. The rest of us are just visiting.

And you know who the first visitor will be, don't you? That's right, The Shipbuilder. He's going to tell you Bernie, god love him, is on his way out. He's going to wax poetic about Joe D and Mickey, talk to you about a legacy and a lineage, about your spot in the history books. He's going to bring a pinstriped jersey and a mountain of cash to your door.

And all the while, Scottie B's going to be rubbing your shoulders the way Angelo rubbed Ali, giving you the full Jesus Shuttleworth treatment, saying, "You're beautiful Baby, you're beautiful."

And he'll be right. And you'll deserve everything they throw at you. And you should swoop on this chance like a gull going for a toddler's lunch at the beach. You've earned this. Fate and your talent have conspired to bring you fortune. Congrats.

Except -- and we know we have no right to ask this -- we want you take a pass on the Yanks.

It's not a hater thing, it really isn't.

It's an A-Rod thing. Look at him. Richest man in sports and nobody cares. He stood where you stood now, in front of a big buffet full of greenback dollar bills. He had ungodly sums of money on the one side and the chance to be the greatest shortstop of all time on the other side of the line, and grabbed the dough. And the thing is, once you grab the dough, that's who you are. There's no undoing it.

Carlos Beltran
We can only hope that Beltran's future doesn't point to pinstripes.

You can wrap yourself in a cloak of "playing for a winner," like he's done now with the Yanks, but it doesn't change who you are to most baseball fans, not even a little. You're a money guy, a Me guy, you're nothing but a Boras robot, programmed for cash and incentives.

It ain't pretty. And what's worse, it ain't special. You take George's high bid and you're a cliché, a symbol of modern greed, and, maybe worst of all, you're just one of the pinstriped guys, lumped in when people love or hate the Empire. It doesn't have to be like that. You can go another way. You can do the one thing, the only thing, that could make you hotter than you are today. You can do what A-Rod didn't do. You can do what Schilling did. You can become an icon and a legend. You can keep your underdog stripes. You can sign, the way Sheed Wallace did in Detroit this summer, for less, because you're signing for more, because you're signing for comraderie, maybe, or the chance to maintain your identity, or the opportunity to stick it to fat cats.

We know we can't ask this of you. We know it's crazy.

But we've seen you play these last two weeks, and we know you're capable of some mad, mad things.

Best of luck tonight.

Sincerely,

Loyal Lovers of Baseball Everywhere

Eric Neel is a columnist for Page 2. His "On Baseball" column appears weekly.




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