I have written about the Rangers a bit recently, and in doing my research I went to the Rangers franchise history page at Baseball Reference. I am sure that I would find lots of surprises in all the franchise history pages, but there are a couple of things that stood out to me with the Rangers.
First, I was surprised that the Rangers only have two numbers retired besides Jackie Robinson. They have been around since 1961 as the Washington Senators and have had their fair share of notable players, so you would think that there would be more retired numbers. Right now the only retired numbers belong to Nolan Ryan and manager Johnny Oates. On August 12th, newly elected Hall of Famer Iván Rodríguez will join that club.
I am not familiar enough with the Rangers to know why there are not more players’ numbers retired. They have twenty players in their own Hall of Fame, including Pudge, who was inducted in 2013. My standard for number retirement is at least Hall-of-Very-Good level play for several years or more. Some teams have higher standards. The Red Sox only retire the number of Hall of Famers, though David Ortiz will break that tradition in June.
Perhaps the Rangers have the same standard? One could make an argument for at least few other former Rangers to have their number retired. There are Rafael Palmeiro and Yadier-Molina-clone Jim Sundberg, just to name a couple.
One player who absolutely, positively, without a doubt should have his number retired by the Rangers some day is Adrián Beltré. I knew that Beltré has done remarkably well for the Rangers, but that franchise history page surprised me with exactly how well he has done. Each of those franchise history pages ranks the top 24 players by bWAR accumulated on that team, and it lists the players with their Baseball Reference picture.
Beltré has only played for the Rangers for six seasons, and he was third on the list with 38 WAR. Pudge was first (50 bWAR) and Palmeiro was second (44 bWAR). Beltré’s 885 games played for the Rangers ranks 17th all-time. Pudge and Palmeiro rank near the top of the list but with six to seven hundred more games played.
Let’s take a look at just how good Beltré has been for the Rangers.
Better With Age
Even though Beltré is injured at the moment and just turned 38, he has shown no signs of slowing down. He is signed through 2018 at $18 million a year, which is a fantastic price for a player who has averaged over 6 bWAR the previous three seasons on a competitive team. Unless he becomes plagued by injury or non-performance — which is hard to believe, because I am fairly certain that he is a cyborg or an alien or something not affected by human aging — I would not be surprised if the Rangers extended him further sometime next season, especially if Joey Gallo does not take off this season.
All of this is to say that Beltré could easily go down as the greatest Ranger of all time. Who on earth could have predicted that when he signed in 2011? At the time, he had come off an outstanding 2010 with the Red Sox, where he hit .321/.365/.553 with his usual excellent defense, and was worth 7.8 bWAR overall. However, that came with a .331 BABIP, and it was nowhere close to how he hit during his five seasons with the Mariners. He was only a league-average hitter in Seattle. It was hard to predict anything but a major regression for Beltré in 2011.
Had I been writing in the 2011 offseason, I probably would have written something along the lines of how risky it would be for the Red Sox to bring back Beltré at his age and on the deal he would command. After all, Kevin Youkilis could play third base through 2011, and in 2012, he could continue to fill in at third base until prospect Will Middlebrooks was ready, who Baseball America had ranked 51st in baseball and the top prospect in the Red Sox’s system. Sadly for Red Sox fans, third base has been a significant problem ever since Beltré left. Hopefully Pablo Sandoval will bounce back this season.
Of the stadiums where he played for more than one year, Globe Life Park is the most hitter-friendly stadium that Beltré has enjoyed. It should not be that surprising that he has had his best offensive seasons in Arlington. What is surprising is that it is not even close, even when adjusting for park factors.
Beltré by team
Beltré’s time with the Rangers has put him over the top as an obvious Hall of Famer. He ranks fifth all time among third basemen by JAWS, below Hall of Famer George Brett and above Chipper Jones, who will undoubtedly get into Cooperstown on his first try next year. His offense does not compare to the company he keeps at the top of that leaderboard, but he is one of the greatest defensive third basemen of all time. His 224 fielding runs are second among third basemen only to the Human Vacuum Cleaner himself, Brooks Robinson. Among all position players, his fielding runs rank fifth.
It’s the time he’s spent in Arlington that has put Beltré over the top. When he enters the Hall of Fame, the Rangers should retire his number and induct him into their own Hall of Fame. And the logo that should be on Beltré’s Hall of Fame plaque? The Rangers’.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.