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Beltran makes his case for the Hall

Last Thursday, Carlos Beltran stepped to the plate against the Colorado Rockies. The Yankees trailed 8-4 with two men aboard, and appeared ready to be swept by the Rockies in the brief two-game series. One swing of the bat later, Beltran had cut the lead to 8-7 with a 3-run home run into Yankee Stadium’s right field seats. The Yankees would go on to a 9-8 victory. Last Saturday, the Yankees trailed the Twins 2-0 when Beltran came to bat in the 3rd inning. He delivered again, this time with an RBI double. The Yankees went on to a 5-3 win and would take two of three games in the weekend series. Both clutch hits added to the storybook season that the 39-year old Beltran has put together this year. And it’s added to a legacy that could mean eventual enshrinement into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Beltran has not spoken about retirement publicly, but many fans, media, and pundits figured this season was one last hurrah for a player with a distinguished career and bad knees. Though it’s the final year of his current contract, Beltran, perhaps buoyed by his renaissance season, recently stated that he would like to play next year. And, though he didn’t say it in so many words, he might want to play beyond 2017.

No matter when Beltran really does call it quits, there’s an excellent chance that he will head to Cooperstown when he is eligible to enter the Hall of Fame. The Beltran-to-the-Hall debate actually started well before this season, and there were valid points made on both sides.  Some of the anti-Hall talk is from Mets fan who remember one distinct at-bat in Beltran’s career while he was a member of their team. These naysayers are those same fans who had a love/hate relationship with their former center fielder, ever since he signed a seven-year, $119MM contract to join the Mets in 2005.

A year later, Beltran finished fourth in the NL MVP voting after he bashed 41 home runs, drove in 116 runs and scored 127. But, due to the outcome of the 2006 NLCS, most people would be hard-pressed to remember his MVP-like season. The Cardinals led the Mets 3-1 in the seventh and decisive game of the NLCS, when Beltran came to bat in the last half of the 9th inning with the bases loaded.

Behind in the count 0-2 to then-Cardinals’ closer Adam Wainwright, Beltran froze on a big, bending curveball for a called third strike. The air was sucked out of Shea Stadium and the Cardinals went on to win the World Series. Meanwhile, the Mets went home for the Winter, another year further away from their last title dating back to 1986. Sports, like life, aren’t fair, and to remember Beltran’s career for that one at-bat definitely isn’t fair.

This is why his magical 2016 season is a great reminder of all that Beltran has accomplished in his baseball career. When Beltran picked up that RBI on Saturday, it gave the native of Puerto Rico 1,496 RBI. It tied him with Vladimir Guerrero for 55th place on the all-time RBI list, and left him four RBI short of 1,500 RBI, a key plateau when it comes to considering a player’s Hall-worthiness. It also put Beltran 13 RBI behind the next man on the list, Hall of Fame member Mickey Mantle.  There are currently 49 retired players among the top-55 RBI leaders and 38 of them are in the Hall of Fame. Of the 11 remaining, six have failed PED tests or have been tied to PED usage.

Beltran headed into Father’s Day with a slash line of .288./.321/.576, and 18 home runs and 48 RBI. He’s also legged out 14 doubles and had scored 38 runs in the 65 games he played this season. Too much importance is placed on the number of World Series titles a player has, and you can’t blame a player for being on unsuccessful teams. Beltran’s teams have only made it to the League Championship Series three times (2004 Astros, 2006 Mets, and 2013 Cards), and the World Series once (2013).

It’s not like Beltran hasn’t done practically  everything he can to have his team hoist the World Series trophy. As a member of the 2004 Astros, when his legs were still spry, Beltran was a one-man wrecking crew. In the Astros’ first round playoff-win over the Atlanta Braves, Beltran had 4 HR, 9 RBI, two stolen bases, nine runs scored, and a 1.591 OPS in five games. In the Astros seven-game loss to the Cardinals in the NLCS, Beltran had nearly identical numbers to the first round series, a 1.521 OPS, 4 HR, 5 RBI, four stolen bases and 12 runs scored. But, the Astros fell four games to three.

Before his strikeout in the 2006 NLCS, Beltran had three home runs and seven RBI. Beltran joined the Cardinals in 2012 and continued his post-season prowess. He had 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3 steals, and 7 Runs in 12 playoff games, but the Cards fell to the Giants in the NLCS. A year later, the Cardinals lost to the Red Sox in the World Series. Beltran knocked in 15 runs in 17 post-season contests, but came away with without a ring once again.  Overall, Beltran has produced a .322/.441/.674 line with 16 HR, 40 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 11 attempts over 52 post-season games. You won’t find too many better career post-season numbers than that.

A closer look at Beltran’s career regular season numbers also shows his Hall-worthiness. As of this writing, Beltran had 410 home runs, 1,491 runs scored, 1,496 RBI, 2,531 hits, 311 stolen bases (86.3% success rate), 518 doubles, 78 triples, 1031 walks, and 4,438 total bases. Beltran, barring an unforeseen injury, will easily eclipse 1,500 runs scored and 1,500 RBI.  He could also reach 425 home runs this season, if he produces the long ball in the second half of the season, as he did in the first.

Of the current hitters in the Hall of Fame, only six of them have at least 400 home runs, 1,500 RBI, 1,500 runs scored, 500 doubles, 75 triples, and 100 stolen bases. They are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, and Dave Winfield. Of those six, only Willie Mays has more than 300 stolen bases. Beltran has surpassed all of these numbers, or in the case of RBI and runs scored, is on the precipice of doing so.

As far as hardware goes, Beltran won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1999, finished in the top-10 in MVP voting twice and placed in the top-20 another two times. He won three Gold Glove Awards, two Silver Slugger Awards and was named to the All-Star team eight times.

When you look at his resume, is there any doubt that Carlos Beltran should be in the Hall of Fame? There’s no doubt here.