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Mets fire manager Carlos Beltrán in wake of Astros sign-stealing scandal

In his final season as a player, Beltrán participated in a scheme to steal opponents' pitching signs during Houston's 2017 championship season.

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By David K. Li

The New York Mets fired manager Carlos Beltrán on Thursday, just days after Major League Baseball connected him to a sign-stealing scandal that has rocked the sport.

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina celebrates after Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets takes a called third strike to end Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at Shea Stadium in New York on Oct. 19, 2006.John Dunn / Sporting News via Getty Images file

Beltrán, 42, would have been the Mets' first Latino manager. His hiring was announced Nov. 1, but he was fired before the start of spring training. He said in a joint statement released by the team that he and management had "mutually agreed to part ways."

"I'm grateful to them for giving me the opportunity, but we agreed this decision is in the best interest of the team," Beltrán said. "I couldn't let myself be a distraction for the team. I wish the entire organization success in the future.”

Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon and General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said it wasn't an easy decision.

"Considering the circumstances, it became clear to all parties that it was not in anyone's best interest for Carlos to move forward as Manager of the New York Mets," the men said in the statement.

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Beltrán, a perennial All-Star and potential Hall of Fame outfielder, played his last season with the 2017 Houston Astros, whose legitimate claim to that year's world title has now been called into question.

MLB issued a damning report on Monday showing how the Astros set up an elaborate system of cameras, monitors and trash cans used as percussion instruments to steal the pitching signs of opponents playing at Houston's Minute Maid Park.

Major League Baseball suspended Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch just an hour before the Astros fired them.

MLB, which called the scheme "player-driven," named two members of the team in the report, Beltrán and Alex Cora, then the Astros' bench coach.

From left, Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora, Alex Cintron, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa in the clubhouse after the Astros defeated the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Oct. 21, 2017.Cooper Neill / MLB via Getty Images file

"Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams' signs and communicating the signs to the batter," according to the MLB report.

"Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros' dugout," it said. Signals were then relayed to the hitters by someone banging on a trash can.

By knowing the coming pitch, a batter could adjust his timing. For example, batters would know to swing earlier if a fastball was coming or to sit back and judge the location for a breaking ball or a change-up.

While using the human eye to steal an opponent's signs is a time-honored ⁠— even celebrated ⁠— art in baseball, using technology is forbidden.

Cora left Houston the following winter to become manager of the Boston Red Sox, who went on to win the World Series in 2018.

The Red Sox fired Cora on Tuesday night, saying "it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward" with the Astros scandal lingering over his head.

Baseball players and fans across America responded with equal measures of anger and mockery of the Astros.

The Staten Island Yankees, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees, trashed the Astros, announcing a garbage can giveaway on Sept. 3, when the New York-Penn League team plays the Tri-City ValleyCats. The ValleyCats' parent club is the Astros.

Beltrán was even mocked by a former teammate, former Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca.

Both players were members of the Mets in 2006, when their season came to an end with a crushing loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

With the Mets trailing, 3-1, Lo Duca drew a ninth-inning walk to load the bases with two outs before Beltrán took a called third strike to end the game.

"I wish Carlos Beltran had the signs after I walked in the 2006 playoffs," Lo Duca wisecracked Monday night.

Following Cora, Dave Martinez of the Washington Nationals and Charlie Montoyo of the Toronto Blue Jays, Beltrán had been the fourth Puerto Rican ever hired to manage an MLB team.

Doha Madani contributed.