Adrian Beltre - Headed for the Hall of Fame
Adrian Beltre - the best defensive 3rd baseman in Major League Baseball
I jumped up and down the day I read the Texas Rangers had got Adrian Beltre to come to the team. Quite literally, the team's history will record my excited jumping up and down to be in accord with the results. It isn't something that comes off the lips as odd to say it, but at the time it wasn't a given, but here goes: Adrian Beltre is a future major league baseball hall of famer.
People are calling Adrian names these days, they call him a freak of nature very often now. Outside the context of major league baseball, if someone calls you or anyone a 'freak of nature,' then it is usually an insult. Inside the context of Major League Baseball? Well, Nolan Ryan was the other guy we in Texas call by that phrase. Adrian is a hall of fame player, no doubts over here. He's a freak of nature.
So Adrian Beltre is one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball history. Everyone knows this. He's also a power hitter who can hit for high average, and comes through in the clutch situations as if he lives for them. He does live for those situations, of course. Adrian Beltre isn't playing baseball to make big money, he's playing baseball because he absolutely loves the game of baseball. You can't fake love. Everyone can see Beltre's love of the game when he's on the field. That love is returned to him in kind by the adoration of the fans, the respect of the team from the front office to the bat boy; and of course, through those big paychecks.
A young Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre was a sure pick prospect from a very young age
Adrian Beltre started his professional baseball career at a very very young age. In fact, it wasn't legal at all to draft a fifteen year old boy into professional sports, but it happened. You can't blame young Adrian, he was pursuing his dreams, and we are all very pleased with this in the end, it just wasn't legal at the time, or at this time either. The illegal act didn't go unnoticed or unpunished; and of course, Beltre wasn't punished, he was a child. The Los Angeles Dodgers scouting program was banned from scouting in the Dominican Republic for one year over the situation. It was still likely worth it to them.
Adrian was very very thin when he was signed by the Dodgers. He only weighed one hundred and thirty pounds, but again, he was fifteen years old. What abilities did the scouts from Los Angeles see in young Adrian? Well, despite his size, he already had a very very quick bat swing, and a very strong and accurate throwing arm. Just four years after an illegal signing of a 15 year old boy, Adrian Beltre would be a 19 year old man and debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a major league third baseman.
Adrian Beltre -Master of defense for the Los Angeles Dodgers
At the time, Adrian Beltre was the single youngest player in the MLB
During Adrian Beltre's major league debut, and he debuted as the youngest player in the National League, he hit a two run double to tie the game in his first at bat. It would only be a few weeks later that he'd hit his first Major League home run.
Adrian got to play a little less than half a season that year, his first, with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He showed some power due to his bat speed, he was yet a skinny and very young guy. Oh his batting average wasn't terrific, but nobody expects a 19 year old playing professional sports in a foreign land to do too much. The Dodgers, and other scouts from other teams, however, they saw the potential that was there, and they watched, they waited.
Adrian Beltre takes a big cut with the Los Angeles Dodgers
Adrian Beltre and the Los Angeles Dodgers
Still just 20 years old and not with the full size of his manhood grown into as of yet, the 1999 season would see Adrian Beltre getting most of the playing time at third base, and he'd proved by then to everyone what he and his cat-like reflexes, shotgun like arm, and quick bat were capable of. It was only going to be a matter of time until the Los Angeles Dodgers were known to have the best young third baseman in the ever increasingly diverse population of Major League Baseball players in America. His quick bat allowed him to hit for a much higher average than he had shown the previous season where he'd only played a half a season. His power was impressive for what was still such a very slightly built man.
The year 2000 saw Adrian Beltre improving still. He missed some games, only appearing in one hundred and thirty eight of the possible one hundred and sixty two, but his home runs increased to 20, and his batting average rose to .290. He also drove in 85 runs.
Adrian Beltre's Big Swing
Was Adrian Beltre a steroid user?
Now the next three seasons Adrian Beltre spent with the Los Angeles Dodgers were solid seasons. He was nearly always superlative on defense. He's just much quicker with the reflexes than most humans, even most humans able to play third base in the Major Leagues. He can move to his left side and his right side further and faster than most, and he has a rocket launcher for a right handed throwing arm. He often throws off balance and still laser beams a baseball to first or second base accurately. He'd been hitting from .250 to .290, and averaging about twenty home runs, and then came the season of 2004, and following the 2004 season Beltre would be up for free agency.
Did Adrian Beltre use steroids in 2004? The answer to the question is most likely a very affirmative. In 2004 Beltre suddenly led the not just the National League in home runs, but the entire Major Leagues in home runs. He hit 48 home runs in 2004, and that was more than twice his previous best in a season. He also knocked in 121 runs, and batted for a terrific .334.
There is a very clear motivation for using steroids the season prior to becoming a free agent, and then the facts of his statistics almost certainly prove that he did use steroids that year. He's never got close to repeating those home run totals since that season, though he has managed some very good power numbers since then for other teams, and he's also hit for high batting averages since the 2004 season. Who can blame a guy for doing what a huge lot of others were doing? Everyone wants a big payout, and Adrian Beltre succeeded in getting one. He signed a five year deal with the Seattle Mariners for sixty four million dollars.
Adrian Beltre in a Seattle Mariners photo op
Adrian Beltre with the Seattle Mariners
Now Adrian Beltre has been asked point blank about whether or not he used steroids in the 2004 season, and Beltre maintains that he's never once cheated in baseball. It is possible he simply increased his performance to the level he showed in 2004 without steroids, but it is possible he cheated. In the end, nothing is ever going to be proven one way or the other, and life goes on.
Now the people in the Mariners' organization and the fans in Seattle have a right to the way they feel about things, and a lot of them were disappointed in Beltre's performance there. He didn't come close to hitting the number of home runs they thought he'd hit, but he hit a lot of doubles, drove in a fair amount of runs, and he proved that he was a legitimate three hundred hitter, as his batting average was often among the leaders of the American League during his stay there.
Adrian played four solid seasons for Seattle. His last year with the Mariners, however, wasn't so great. He'd only make it to play in one hundred and eleven games the 2009 season. Baseball is a tough sport, and involves a lot of physical work, and Adrian was injured. He'd soon leave Seattle for the Boston Red Sox.
This is the signature Adrian Beltre(With the Boston Red Sox) slugging a ball from down on one knee swing
Adrian Beltre's year with the Boston Red Sox
Theo Epstein plainly stated he'd not acquired Adrian Beltre for his offensive abilities, but rather, for his amazing defensive abilities. Who wouldn't want a human vacuum cleaner over on the hot corner? Oh Adrian has led whatever league he was playing in in errors before, but this is mostly deceptive, as Adrian is forever able to put a glove on a ball that lesser third basemen wouldn't have been able to touch. So in essence, sometimes Beltre gets an error simply for being better than the rest, i.e., getting his glove into a play other men wouldn't have been able to.
Adrian had a terrific year with the Red Sox, he led the team with a nice and high .321 batting average. He tied David Ortiz for the team lead in runs batted in, and he led the entire Major Leagues in doubles. Adrian is built like a horse, he's only five feet eleven inches tall, but he weighs two hundred and twenty very very solid pounds. He broke ribs of two different Red Sox outfielders that season in collisions while chasing a ball.
Another of Adrian Beltre's famous 'knee shots' with our Texas Rangers
Adrian Beltre, Captain of the Texas Rangers
Now I'm a North Texan, and I'm a lifelong Texas Rangers fan. To me, Adrian Beltre will always be a Texas Ranger, and there's no doubt the front office of the team wants Adrian to play in Texas with the Rangers until he retires. He's our team captain, and as is so often said, the beating heart of our team. Adrian Beltre has been such a staple at third base for our Texas Rangers I literally had to look up who'd been playing the position before him. It was a forgettable person, I assure you. Beltre's presence is unforgettable, and how can anyone replace a guy like Beltre?
He's the most loved and respected member of our team. That's saying a lot, we've got people like Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, and Cole 'Hollywood' Hamels, just to name a few. Beltre is the team captain, and he's now being called a freak of nature because he can seemingly perform even better when he's playing with a painful injury. How does he do that? Beltre, I think, just likes to show people how much of a man he really is.
Beltre has hit 30 or more home runs in three different seasons with the Rangers. He has hit for an average of over .300 three different years with the Rangers, and twice he's knocked in more than a hundred runs. His dazzling defense brings back, to us, memories of the great Buddy Bell. Adrian lives for the highlight reels, and Beltre has been our most clutch player in the field and at bat since Rusty Greer.
Adrian Beltre seems to live to play baseball. You can easily see this isn't some job to him, he's not playing for the money, he's being paid very very well, but you can't really fake the sort of joy you see from Adrian on the field in most every game, even when he's playing hurt, as he so very often does. Adrian is a guy who could make the Baseball Hall Of Fame for his defense alone, but he's got over 400 home runs now, and some years left to play. He wins golden gloves and other fielding awards regularly, and makes it all seem so damned easy that it can be either inspiring or discouraging to anyone wanting to become a third baseman at any level of play. He's so inspiring that it doesn't seem possible the Texas Rangers would have made it close to that world series they went to without Beltre, much less any of the other playoff spots they earned. The man will literally risk an injury to his testicles by not wearing a cup just so he can be more flexible on the field - that's dedication, and talent can never be faked. Going into 2016 we've got Adrian at full health, and the Texas Rangers are set to race to the playoffs, Adrian Beltre will be smiling most of the way, and remember, if you think you're going to touch his head, you'd better be Elvis Andrus. Thanks for reading.