SAN FRANCISCO -- Perennial All Star Carlos Beltran has a unique perspective on the upcoming NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals after spending the second half of last year in San Francisco before signing as a free agent with St. Louis in the offseason.
You might think his familiarity with the Giants organization would give him the upper hand.
"C'mon, no," Beltran brushed away the notion. "You still have to out there and play the games."
The Giants gave up blue-chip pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to acquire Beltran less than three months before he entered free agency. (Wheeler was elevated from Double-A to Triple-A in the Mets organization this year, and went 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 25 combined starts.) But Beltran doesn't have any particular message for Giants fans who were upset that the front office didn't make a move to bring him back.
"I made it clear before the (2011) season was over that I was willing to come back," Beltran reiterated Saturday. "Yes, I had a good time (with the Giants), I really enjoyed the opportunity. I think this organization is always taking the right steps to try to put a good team out there and win. I stayed in the offseason and they never called. But as a player I have to make my move."
The move was to the defending world champions, where Beltran signed a two-year, 26 million contract.
If the Giants gave Beltran an extension, the chances that they acquire Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline are none.
Beltran avoided a direct comparison with Pence.
"It's hard for me to talk about myself, so I will talk about him," Beltran opted. "I believe he is a good ballplayer. He shows a lot of emotions, a lot of energy in the field. He does everything hard. And I believe since the time he was acquired from Philadelphia he did a good job for the organization. So they should be proud of him."
In reality, Giants fans are more proud of the source of inspiration Pence has provided, rather than his on-field production. Pence's 4-for-20 (.200) NLDS with no runs or RBIs pales in comparison to Beltran's monster series. The seven-time All Star, three-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger was 8-for-18 (.444) with two home runs, two doubles, four RBIs and five runs scored.
Not surprisingly, Beltran is picking himself over Pence in right field.
"I'm always going to believe in myself," Beltran explained diplomatically. "I believe we will (both) go out there and do well, but our production won't mean anything if the rest of the guys don't play well."
No matter how the rest of the guys play, their respect for Beltran is steadfast, especially that of his former New York teammate and Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan.
"He's my mentor," Pagan said. "Any time I had a question or anything I went to him. I always want to get better, even if it's the last day of my career. And he's such a good hitter and such a great guy."
Direct comparisons between Pence and Beltran will be made, but the only thing that really matters is the outcome of the games.
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Health shouldn't affect Beltran's impact on those games; the 35-year old missed time with the Giants last year with an injured right hand and will play the rest of his career on a right knee that has little cartilage after multiple surgeries. With his knee brace sitting idle in his locker, Beltran announced Saturday he feels completely healthy.
"It's going to be a fun one," Beltran said of the 2012 National League Championship Series. "That's no doubt. This place is going to be packed. Fans are crazy about baseball here."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny also has ties with the Giants after catching for San Francisco in 2005 and '06. The former Willie Mac Award winner also foresees a good series, though he's not ready to cast it as "fun" just yet.
"I see a knock-down, drag out."