On Sunday afternoon, Adrián Beltré became the 31st player in Major League history to amass 3,000 hits. Over the course of his 20-year career, Beltré has cemented his reputation as a fun-loving slugger who can flash the leather at the hot corner.
Since his career reset as a member of the Red Sox in 2010 (a year in which he was coming off a modest 3.3 bWAR season in his last year with the Mariners), Beltré has posted an impressive 56 wins (per Baseball Reference WAR). To date, Beltré sits as the fourth-most valuable Ranger, behind recent Hall of Fame inductee Ivan Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro, and he’s shown few signs of slowing down recently. Of his 3,000 hits and 454 home runs, 1,111 of the hits and 176 of the homers have come in a Texas uniform.
The amazing thing about Beltré is that he had been viewed as a glove-first third baseman throughout the earlier part of his career. His 227 fielding runs (per Total Zone and Defensive Runs Saved) is second-best in the game behind only the great Brooks Robinson. He has won four “Fielding Bible” awards and multiple other defensive accolades, including five Gold Gloves (for whatever that’s worth: see 1999 Rafael Palmeiro).
Put into a historical context for his position, Beltré is truly a generational talent. Per Jay Jaffe, the foremost thought-leader in the cases for players making the Hall of Fame, Beltré ranks as the fourth-best third baseman (per Jaffe’s JAWS system) of all time. You may already know that there are fewer third baseman in Cooperstown than any other position, but looking at Beltré’s accomplishments compared to his third base predecessors is an illuminating exercise.
Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews are the only third basemen who have posted more bWAR than Beltré, and he has a very good shot to pass Mathews over the next 15 months. He ranks fourth in both hits and home runs by a third baseman, though he is likely to continue to ascend the list. He is only 10 hits shy of overtaking Wade Boggs, which he’ll certainly do by the end of the season, and 154 behind George Brett. Another 14 dingers and he’ll eclipse (soon-to-be Hall of Famer) Chipper Jones.
Be it the GIFs of him getting irritated with Elvis Andrus, the down-on-one-knee home runs, or the amazing defense at third base, Beltré is one of the smoothest and most entertaining players in the game. He also happens to be outstandingly good at both offense and defense. There are times when we don’t fully appreciate watching a player of this caliber, but Adrian Beltré is a baseball treasure.