After 21 seasons full of hits, homers, web gems, and eccentric antics, Texas Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre announced his retirement from Major League Baseball last week.
Beltre, a four-time All-Star and model of consistency, played for four teams (Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Rangers) in parts of three decades bringing his powerful bat and defensive superiority to the park every day.
“After careful consideration and many sleepless nights, I have made the decision to retire from what I’ve been doing my whole life, which is playing baseball, the game I love,” Beltre said in a statement Nov. 20. “I have thought about it a lot, and although I appreciate all the opportunities and everything that baseball has given me, it’s time to call it a career. It’s been one hell of a ride.”
After being signed by the Dodgers as a 15-year-old, Beltre broke into the majors at 19 and never looked back. Though he only played in 77 games during his rookie campaign, Beltre proved extremely durable by playing in more than 140 games in a season 14 times during his career.
Beltre finished second in the 2004 MVP balloting behind Barry Bonds, and parlayed his great years as a Dodger into a lucrative long-term deal with the Seattle Mariners after that season.
Beltre’s power numbers took a hit during his five years in Seattle due to playing half of his games at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. However, he was able to discover the fountain of youth during the 2010 season as a member of the Boston Red Sox. That bounce-back year led to him signing with Texas prior to the 2011 season, at which time Ranger fans and all of MLB got to see the more fun-loving side of the future Hall of Famer.
Between him not wanting teammates touching his head, his ever-evolving game of “I got it” with diamond mate Elvis Andrus, and him getting tossed from a game for moving the on-deck circle to his area of preference, Beltre has become one of the more entertaining and beloved players in the game over the past few years.
Hall of Fame credentials
Since Beltre’s announcement, and even before that, writers, fans, and fellow players have deemed him a future Hall of Famer…and it’s hard to argue that sentiment.
With 3,166 career hits, 477 HRs, and 1,707 RBIs, Beltre has certainly been one of the best at his position during his time in the bigs. He also has a career slashline of .286/.339/.480 in 2,933 career games with 636 doubles and 1,524 runs scored, and an OPS of .819.
Fellow third baseman Chipper Jones, who entered the Hall of Fame earlier this year on the first ballot, tweeted out after the announcement that he plans to keep a seat warm for Beltre.
“Congrats on an unbelievable career,” Jones tweeted. “The total package at the hot corner. I will save a seat for u at the third baseman’s table of the member’s dinner in Cooperstown my man! Enjoy retirement, buddy.”
As good as Beltre’s offensive numbers were (which includes four Silver Slugger Awards), his defense at third base was second to few during his career, as his five Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves confirm.
Of all his accolades though, his longevity may be the most admirable part of his game. To play at that high of a level for 21 seasons is amazing, especially when you consider that he won his fifth Gold Glove and finished seventh in the AL MVP balloting in 2016 during his age 37 season; a season that included him hitting 32 homers, 31 doubles, driving in 104 runs, and slashing .300/.358/.532 with a .915 OPS, the fourth highest of his illustrious career.
While we all know the sun inevitably has to set on every player’s career, MLB will be a little less entertaining without the intense laser stare and wry smiles that Beltre shared with us over the years.
While he won’t get the same kind of fanfare as the guys who spent their entire careers with one team, like Jones or Derek Jeter, Beltre deserves to be mentioned with the best players in the game over the past 20-plus years.
Beltre was one of the most consistent players during the latest era of baseball, and his personality and antics during the later stages of his career made him as fun to watch as anyone in the game.