Opening Day is over four months away and Carlos Beltran has been on the job for only two weeks, but the Mets’ new manager already has some tough questions to answer. In this case, though, they’re not about his current squad but about the 2017 Astros and his possible role in an illegal sign-stealing scheme.

According to reports, Beltran is a person of interest as Major League Baseball investigates allegations, recently brought to light by the Athletic, that those Astros employed a center field camera as part of their scheme. Beltran, who spent the final season of his 20-year playing career with that team and helped it win the World Series, has denied any knowledge of possible use of a camera.

Attempting to steal a catcher’s signs to his pitcher by using a player on second base to peek at them and then signal the batter isn’t illegal and is assumed to be a widespread practice. However, using electronic equipment to pick up signs during a game is a “violation,” as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred termed it in September 2017, and the Astros could be subject to sanctions.

In turn, Beltran might face a suspension if he is found to have participated in the Astros’ alleged scheme, and according to a report Thursday by the New York Post, he is set to be interviewed by MLB investigators.

The Athletic reported Wednesday that Beltran, per sources, “played a key role in devising the sign-stealing system the team used that season.” In a report the day before, the website published on-the-record confirmation from an Astros player from 2015 to 2017, pitcher Mike Fiers, that Houston linked the camera to a screen near their dugout and banged on a trash can to let their batters know to expect certain types of pitches.

“I’m not aware of that camera,” Beltran told the New York Post Wednesday via text message. “We were studying the opposite team every day.”

Beltran, 42, texted the New York Post on Thursday to say he was “not concerned” about the allegations from the Athletic.

“There’s nothing illegal about studying your opposite team,” he added. “We all have the same opportunity to look out for information and tendencies. I love and respect the game. I will be a student of it and apply all the lessons.”

Having to deny a central role in a scandal is an inauspicious way to begin his managerial tenure. The nine-time all-star, who replaced Mickey Callaway, was renowned for his baseball acumen as well as his talent as a player, and he starred for the Mets from 2005 until he was traded to the Giants in 2011. Beltran has no managerial or coaching experience.

Upon announcing his hiring at the start of November, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said in a statement that he and his team were “thrilled, as we know our passionate fans will be, to have him back in the family.”

On Thursday, Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said (via the New York Daily News) he did not “have nearly enough information” about the reports regarding Beltran and “would defer to MLB on any of those questions.”

“Anything that happened, happened for another organization with Houston,” Van Wagenen added. “I have no idea if anything did or did not. But at this point, I don’t see any reason this is a Mets situation.”

If Beltran does end up receiving punishment, particularly if that comes in the form of a lengthy suspension, it most certainly will be a Mets situation.

Fans of the Queens-based team are used to seeing their managers in uncomfortable spots, but it’s often because of losing seasons. Other ignominious moments included an episode last season in which Callaway expressed regret for having cursed out a beat reporter in the Mets’ locker room.

In this case, at least, it’s the Astros who are in an unwelcome spotlight. The organization has been the subject of sign-stealing accusations in the past, and it was at the center of another scandal during the World Series after a since-fired team executive acted in an offensive manner toward a group of female reporters.

Nevertheless, even if Beltran emerges unscathed from the investigation, his era as the Mets’ manager hasn’t gotten off on the right foot. Instead of discussing his plans to have the Mets steal bases, he’s getting questions about the Astros stealing signs, and MLB wants more than the answers he’s given thus far to local newspapers.

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