Adrian Beltre Is Already a Hall of Famer—His Chase for 3,000 Hits Only Pads His Plaque

November 27, 2017

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The 3,000 hit club is on the verge of expanding for the third year in a row. Thanks to a torrid performance in July culminating with a four-hit game against the Twins on July 24, is just seven hits way from becoming the 31st?person to reach that plateau, following in 2015 and last year. The milestone will likely seal the deal for the 38-year-old Rangers third baseman’s eventual induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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The turning point for Beltre was in 2010. Coming off a dismal season in Seattle (.265/.304/.379 for an 83 OPS+ with just eight homers) during which he was limited to 111 games by left shoulder surgery and (cringe) a fractured testicle, he signed a one-year, $10 million “pillow contract”—agent Scott Boras’ term—with the Red Sox. Playing his home games at hitter-friendly Fenway Park, Beltre?made his first All-Star team and put up a robust .321/.365/.553 line, with 28 homers and a 141 OPS+. In the off-season he snagged a five-year, $80 million deal with the Rangers, who, as it happens, also play in a hitter-friendly park.

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In 2011, Beltre made his second All-Star team and helped Texas reach the World Series for the second straight year. He bopped three homers in the Division Series against the Rays and two more in a losing cause in the World Series against the Cardinals; his seventh-inning homer off in Game 6 broke a 4–4 tie, kicking off a three-run inning that looked as though it might deliver the Rangers a championship, but it was not to be.

majestic baseball jersey sizes chart Even after adjusting for his more hitter-friendly surroundings, Beltre has become a far more productive hitter—and a more appreciated presence all around—during the second stage of his career. From 2010 to ’16, he averaged 28 homers, 177 hits and a 133 OPS+ with four All-Star appearances and some amount of MVP support in all of those seasons; he finished as high as third in the 2012 balloting. Beyond the numbers, he emerged as one of the game’s most beloved elder statesmen and a social media favorite for his home runs hit from one knee and his well-known distaste for teammates rubbing his head.

cheap jerseys Beltre’s second-stage surge pushed him past the 2,500 hit mark in 2014 and the 400 home run milestone in ’15, fleshing out a résumé that’s worthy of Cooperstown (more on which below). He finished last season with 2,942 hits and figured to have number 3,000 in the rearview mirror by this year’s All-Star break, but a strain in his right calf kept him from making his season debut until May 29, in the Rangers’ 52nd game. He’s added 23 hits this month already and could reach the milestone before the month is out.?

cheap baseball raglan shirts Fittingly, Beltre’s approach of the 3,000-hit plateau has occurred as Hall of Fame induction weekend approaches, because the odds are strong that sometime in the next decade, he’ll be getting a bronze plaque of his own. He’s the 10th player with at least 3,000 hits and 400 homers, joining (in chronological order) Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro and Rodriguez. All but the last two from that group are enshrined, with Palmeiro on the outside looking in due to his 2005 failed drug test and suspension and Rodriguez because he’s not yet eligible, though his own full-season suspension will likely postpone his enshrinement as well.

The irony is that Beltre’s presence in that already-select company almost obscures the value of his glovework at the hot corner. According to Total Zone and Defensive Runs Saved, his 227 fielding runs ranks second at the position behind only Brooks Robinson (292). He’s up to five Gold Gloves now, and beyond that has won the Rawlings Platinum Glove as the league’s best defensive player twice (2011 and ‘12, its first two years of being awarded) as well as the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award in the latter season. He’s also won four Fielding Bible awards—given to the best player at each position, regardless of league—in the last seven seasons.

Bolstered by the fielding runs, Beltre has ranked among the top five players in the league in Wins Above Replacement ( version) four times, with a high of 9.5 (second, in 2004). His career total of 92.0 ranks third among third basemen behind only Mike Schmidt (.1065.) and Eddie Mathews (96.4), while his seven-year peak score of 49.7 is sixth, behind Schmidt (585), Wade Boggs (56.2), Mathews (54.4), Ron Santo (53.8) and George Brett (53.2). Both totals are well above those of the average Hall of Fame third baseman; his 70.98 JAWS is more than 15 points better than the standard (55.2) and ranks fourth, trailing only Schmidt, Mathews and Boggs. That’s no-doubt territory.

Currently hitting .295/.375/.505 and under contract through 2018 with the Rangers, Beltre clearly isn’t done. If he could maintain this year’s pace, he would add another 10 homers and 61 hits this year, and, assuming he plays 150 games next year, another 25 homers and 156 hits next year, pushing his totals to 488 homers and 3,210 hits. Paul Molitor?is 10th all-time at 3,319, an attainable number for Beltre if he stays healthy into his age-40 season.

As I outlined in a chapter called “How the Voters Put Third Base in the Corner” in my just-released book, The Cooperstown Casebook, both the BBWAA voters and the small-committee ones have been particularly stingy when it comes to recognizing the game’s greatest third basemen. It took 42 years for the writers to elect the first two, namely Pie Traynor in 1948 and Mathews in ’78, his fifth try despite his 512 career homers; within that span, the Old Timers Committee elected Jimmy Collins in 1945 and Fred Lindstrom (a particularly dubious choice marred by cronyism) in 1976. To date there are just 13 major leaguers who are in the Hall as third basemen, including Molitor. Chipper Jones, a first-ballot lock who is eligible this December, will be the 14th, and Edgar Martinez, who played over 500 games at third base before taking up residence as a DH, could be the 15th.

Fortunately, by the time his career is over, Beltre’s case should be about as clear-cut as any candidate’s. The only question is whether the Hall of Fame will include him in a Rangers cap, or without one at all, so visitors can rub his likeness’ head.?

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