Adrian Beltre’s Texas Rangers may have been eliminated from MLB postseason, but the veteran third baseman has not stopped making headlines. On Friday, it was announced that the 36-year-old played the second half of 2015 with a torn ligament in his thumb. The severity of the injury is unclear at this time, although he should be ready to play by Opening Day in 2016.
Had Beltre struggled towards the finish, this wouldn’t have been a surprise. But he was on fire during the second half. He hit .318 with 11 home runs and a 140 OPS+. Any other player putting up numbers like that in the midst of a torn ligament injury would have raised eyebrows, but it was business as usual for Beltre. Season after season, he amazes us with his skill, grit and longevity–so much so that he’ll be deserving of a bronze plaque in Cooperstown by the time he’s done.
Initially one might not consider Beltre a part of the all-time great third basemen, a lineup that includes Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, George Brett, Wade Boggs and Chipper Jones. However, after 18 years in the Major Leagues, he’s at their level. A longtime Dodger, the Dominican broke into the majors in 1999 and established himself as a glove-first infielder — until 2004. That season, his walk year, Beltre led the MLB with 48 home runs and made his first playoff appearance. In December, he signed a five-year, $64 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.
While Beltre’s Mariners years are often viewed as a dark period in his career, he still provided great value with his glove. His raw offensive numbers were depressed by the pitcher-friendly environment of Safeco Field. Even so, these seasons resulted in less prominence and earning power.
After re-establishing his value as a member of the Red Sox in 2010, Beltre signed with Texas and began what has been the most productive act of his career. In five seasons, he’s been well above average both at the plate (133 OPS+) and in the field (back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2011 and 2012). His total of 31.4 WAR over that stretch is more than guys like Paul Konerko, Tino Martinez and Don Baylor have compiled in their entire careers. Furthermore, Beltre’s veteran leadership has been instrumental in several playoffs, including one that led to the World Series in 2011.
Even by themselves, Beltre’s traditional numbers demand for his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. With 2,767 hits, 560 doubles and 413 home runs, he’s been one of the steadiest players in baseball history. His 66.3 JAWS is well above the established standard for Hall of Fame third baseman and should satisfy the sabermetrically inclined voter. Four Silver Sluggers and four Gold Gloves demonstrate greatness on both sides of the ball.
In the coming days, baseball fans will be treated to the best stretch of the year: the culmination of the League Championship Series, followed by the World Series. While watching, let’s remember to tip our caps to one of the eliminated, Adrian Beltre, who has once again proven why he deserves to be enshrined with baseball’s greats.