Adrian Beltre Becomes 31st Member of the 3,000 Hit Club

by Rocco Constantino | Posted on Sunday, July 30th, 2017
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The whispers started sometime after the 2010 season.  Adrian Beltre was building an under-the-radar case for the Hall of Fame despite having just made his first All-Star team that season.  It’s fitting that Beltre stamped his ticket to Cooperstown with his 3,000th hit on a day when the Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2017.

Beltre reached the milestone with a double against the Baltimore Orioles Sunday to become the 31st member of the club.  He is the first player born in the Dominican Republic and third person who was primarily a third basemen.  He is also one of just ten players to reach 3,000 hits by the age of 38 or younger.

Although he spent the first half of his career posting solid numbers without too much fanfare, Beltre’s career really took off in his 30’s.  His career has the hallmarks of a Hall of Famer.  Multiple Gold Glove Awards, six top 10 MVP finishes and sustained production well into the late stages of his career.  Even before he reached 3,000 hits, he compared favorably to many players who were slam dunk Hall of Famers.  What makes Beltre’s case unique is that his most productive seasons came after the age of 30.

Beltre’s career numbers were helped by the fact that he was just 19 years old when he made his debut in 1998 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He played seven solid seasons in Los Angeles and by the time he signed as a free agent after his age 25 season, he had accumulated 949 career hits and 147 career home runs.  By comparison, Ichiro, the most recent player to reach the 3,000 hit plateau, didn’t even start his Major League career until the age of 27.

Even though Beltre was on a good pace and had a career batting average of .307 through his first seven seasons, he didn’t break out as a star until 2004 when he led the National League with 48 home runs, while batting .334 and driving in 121 runs.  He finished runner-up in the MVP voting to Barry Bonds that year, who put up an insane 1.422 OPS on the strength of his .362 batting average and 232 walks.  Even with his incredible season, Beltre would have to wait six more years before he could call himself an All-Star.

After signing a big free agent contract after the 2004 season, Beltre played five seasons with the Seattle Mariners that were seen mostly as a disappointment.  His batting average topped .270 only one time and his highest home run total was just 26.  He failed to drive in or score 100 runs in any season and was seen as a strong fielder with a slightly above average bat.  After the 2006 season, Beltre took a pay cut and gambled on himself, signing a $9 million dollar free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox, with multiple options and qualifiers that could have increased his earnings.  At the time, he turned down multi-year offers from the Oakland A’s and Philadelphia Phillies.  The $9 million dollar salary was $4 million less than he made the previous season.

The gamble paid off, as Beltre put together his first All-Star campaign by batting .321 with 28 home runs, 102 RBIs and a Major League leading 49 doubles.  The season allowed Beltre to enter the free agent market again, but this time coming off an All-Star season, not one in which he was limited to 111 games due to injuries, which was the case in 2009.

Beltre’s gamble on himself in 2010 paid off in more ways than one.  He not only signed a six-year, $96 million dollar contract, but in signing with the Texas Rangers, he found a home that was conducive to offense and a place where he would go on to become the face of a franchise that qualified for the playoffs in three of the first six seasons he was in Texas.  It also led him to his only World Series appearance, where Beltre batted .300 with two home runs in the seven game series.

In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Beltre has become one of the most popular players in the sport, largely due to his propensity for hitting home runs from his knee, his outgoing personality and his general disdain for people who touch his head.  Beltre plays the game with a refreshing enthusiasm is never takes himself too seriously. Yet, he has been a tremendous clubhouse guy and has mentored many of the young Rangers stars. He has been a perfect fit for the organization in every way possible.

As Beltre continued his consistent play. it became apparent that he was compiling a Hall of Fame career.  While most players’ stats wane as they approach their mid-30’s, Beltre actually improved his performance and visibility.  His age 33-37 seasons, Beltre averaged 27 home runs and 92 RBIs a year while batting .310.  Through the end of 2016, Beltre stood at 2,942 hits and 445 home runs.  The magic numbers of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs and a ticket to Cooperstown were within reach.

Despite battling injuries in the first part of the 2017 season, Beltre has rebounded and remains his usual productive self.  Through 50 games, he is batting .312 with nine home runs and his .925 OPS is the highest its been since 2012.

One of the hallmarks of Beltre’s career has been his ability to stay healthy and on the field for the majority of his career.  After being limited to 111 games due to injuries in 2009, Beltre has averaged 148 games a season over the past seven seasons.  It has allowed him to keep compiling the numbers necessary to land in the Hall of Fame.

It remains to be seen how long Beltre plays, but even if he remains productive for two more seasons, he could climb the all-time hits list considerably.  If Beltre is able to tack on 315 more hits to his total, it would boost him past Eddie Collins to 10th place all time.  He would need 515 more hits to jump into the top five.  In the three seasons between the 2014-2016 seasons, Beltre had 516 hits, so considering some drop off in play, Beltre would likely need four more seasons to reach the top five.  It may seem like a stretch for Beltre to remain productive into his age 43 season, but considering his durability and the idea that he could spend some time at designated hitter, it’s not entirely unlikely.

The fact that the possibility exists that Beltre could end up in the top five is astounding.  In addition, if he passes Derek Jeter’s total of 3,465 hits, Beltre would find himself with the second most hits of any right handed hitter all time, with only Hank Aaron surpassing his total.

Beltre’s career has truly been remarkable.  He spent the early part of his career as a strong defender with a capable, but somewhat disappointing bat.  His time in Seattle was seen largely as a free agent bust, as he never reached superstar status, despite being paid like one.  However, he found a home with the Rangers and will not only go down as perhaps the best position player to ever play for the franchise, but one of the most beloved figures as well.  He’ll become just the third member of the organization to be enshrined in Cooperstown wearing a Rangers hat, joining Nolan Ryan and Ivan Rodriguez.

3,000 Hit Club

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Rocco Constantino
About the Author

Rocco is the author of 50 Moments That Defined Major League Baseball (Available on Amazon now!) and former Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He is also a die hard Mets fan going back to the awful early 80's and ready for the revival. D2 NCAA softball coach and athletics administrator. Follow Rocco on Twitter @mlb100years.

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