Giants beat 'em to the punch

When the White Sox traded for Freddy Garcia in 2004, Ken Williams had the perfect explanation for the midseason move.

"1917," the general manage said, referring to the last time the White Sox had won the World Series.

As the general manager of the defending World Series champion Giants, Brian Sabean would not figure to feel the same sense of urgency.

Yet it was the team at the top that struck quickly last week, snatching switch-hitting outfielder Carlos Beltran out of the hands of his two primary National League rivals, the Phillies and Braves.

With 2010 hero Buster Posey gone for the season, the Giants focused on the Mets' Jose Reyes and Beltran as potential impact replacements.

Once it became clear Reyes was staying in New York — at least until he files for free agency after the season — they shifted to Beltran.

Manager Bruce Bochy wooed him by picking him to the National League All-Star team over the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen and the Marlins' Mike Stanton.

The Giants then offered Beltran and Reyes a ride to the game in Phoenix on the team's charter flight, allowing Bochy to tell Beltran that he would be in the starting lineup as the designated hitter.

None of this would have meant anything, of course, if they had not paid a high price to get him.

But once the Braves' Brian McCann was injured Tuesday, Sabean knew the price of poker was about to go up.

He previously had refused to include his top pitching prospect, 21-year-old Zack Wheeler, in a deal but called Mets GM Sandy Alderson to say Wheeler was in play.

The deal came together quickly from there.

"We owed it to the city," Sabean said in announcing the deal.

"We owed it to the players on the field. When you're defending world champions, you do have to try to defend that title any way you can. As a result, we made this move. … Carlos was the player we coveted all along."

Beltran, like a textbook Scott Boras client, used his no-trade rights to handpick where he would play before going onto the free-agent market after the season (unless the Giants extend his contract, which is possible).

He wasn't interested in changing leagues, which knocked the Indians out of the picture.

The Pirates say they tried to get involved, but he had no interest in being Cinderella's big sister.

Bochy was so happy to get Beltran that he parted with his uniform number, switching from 15 to 16 so the new player wouldn't have to change.

Now comes the hard part: Backing up the advance billing.

Beltran, healthy for the first time in three years, was hitting .289 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs for the Mets.

He dealt as well with the hopeless nature of the rebuilding Mets as with his arthritic knees, putting himself in position for another classic stretch-run performance.

His 2004 postseason for the Astros may have been the best-timed stretch of great play in the history of long-term contracts, positioning him for a free-agent sweepstakes that ended with the Mets signing him to a seven-year, $119 million deal.

He averaged 105 RBIs in the first four years of the contract but didn't seem to have much left entering 2011.

Give him credit for seeking a brightly lit stage. And give Sabean credit for swinging for the fence.

But only one team already has won in this transaction. That's the Mets, who moved a big salary and added one of the best pitching prospects in the minors.

Life after the 19th inning: While the Pirates' front office filed a formal complaint about umpire Jerry Meals, manager Clint Hurdle tried to set a tone of tolerance after the blown call that handed the Braves their Tuesday victory after 6 hours, 39 minutes of captivating baseball.

Hurdle told reporters he wouldn't have minded Meals taking the Jim Joyce approach and apologizing to the entire team, as Joyce did after his call cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game last year, but he took the high road after Meals spoke only through an MLB press release.

Hurdle shook hands with Meals and patted him on the back when the teams exchanged lineup cards Wednesday.

"I've been taught since I was 6 that when you make a mistake you admit it, you correct it and you do the best you can to move forward," Hurdle said. "So that's my hope, because I know we are all forgiving and we are all capable of forgiving and forgetting. I'm going to, regardless of how Jerry goes about it."

Don't blame me: Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson could learn a lesson or two from how knuckleballer Charlie Hough handled a bad game. Before reporters even could ask what happened, Hough would say, "I stunk," and the interview would proceed from there.

Wilson is getting a reputation as an excuse-maker and didn't gain any respect after he was knocked out in the fifth inning in Minnesota last week.

He said he was "100 percent unlucky" because five of the seven hits he gave up were ground-ball singles, overlooking the role his four walks played in the game.

"You can't defend against the slap bloop," Wilson said.

Ron Gardenhire wasn't amused.

"If you throw (crappy) pitches, you give up hits," the Twins manager said. "It doesn't matter how you get hits. Hits are hits. The game is full of bloops and blunders. If he thinks we're a bunch of bloops and blunders, that's OK. He didn't get the win, so hang with 'em."

The last word: "You have to go back to Jackie Robinson to find anybody who goes through this much scrutiny. It wasn't like this for (Stephen) Strasburg. Wasn't like this for Alex Rodriguez."Nationals minor league hitting coach Tony Tarasco on the scrutiny the Nationals' Bryce Harper has faced.

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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