Adrian Beltre became the 31st player in MLB history to reach 3,000 career hits Sunday, doubling in the fourth inning of a 10-6 home loss to Baltimore.
Beltre, 38, is a career .286 hitter with 454 home runs and 1,607 RBIs. A four-time All-Star, he led the NL in homers in 2004 and the AL in hits in 2013. Nevertheless, he has rarely been considered one of the best players in baseball.
Or has he?
“(People) may not have said it, but he (finished) top 10 (in) MVP (voting) six or seven times,” Fox Sports MLB analyst C.J. Nitkowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He was second in the MVP in ’04. Six times he was top seven or top nine. People may not have been saying it because he was playing in Los Angeles and Seattle until he was 30 years old. You know how that stuff goes. Unless you’re Ken Griffey Jr., Clayton Kershaw, or Mike Trout, they’re not talking about you that much. I think that’s part of the reason.”
Beltre broke into the bigs at 19. He played for the Dodgers from 1998-2004, the Mariners from 2005-09, the Red Sox in 2010, and he’s been a Texas Ranger since 2011.
“Maybe he was under-appreciated early on his career, whether it be by the media who was voting for the MVP or just the media in general who was trying to cover the game nationally,” Nitkowski said. “We don’t get the great coverage that you do now. He started in ’98 and in the early 2000s. The game is covered at a much deeper level now nationally by guys like yourself and for us who are doing shows on MLB Network.”
Either way, Beltre compares favorably to the best third basemen of his era, including Chipper Jones, who hit .303 with 2,726 hits, 468 homers, and 1,623 RBIs. Jones was an eight-time All-Star, but Beltre has five Gold Gloves.
“The only area in which Chipper Jones has Adrian Beltre is home runs,” Nitkowski said. “That’s it. He doesn’t have him in Gold Gloves. Chipper’s highest hit season was 189. Adrian’s got three higher than that. He won a batting title with 160 hits one year, Chipper did, (but) he barely qualified. He does have the one MVP, and Adrian only finished second, but he’s not going to give you the defense. They’re both giving you a really tough at-bat. You’re just going to get some more home runs.”
Beltre likely won’t be eligible for the Hall of Fame for another seven or eight years, depending on when he retires, but the Beltre-versus-Jones debate will be a fun one in the years ahead.
“It’ll be a first-ballot situation,” Nitkowski said. “They’re both first-ballot.”
In other Rangers news, Texas (50-54) traded Yu Darvish to the Dodgers (74-31) on Monday for three minor-league prospects: second baseman Willie Calhoun, right-hander A.J. Alexy, and shortstop Brendon Davis.
Darvish, 30, is 6-9 with 4.01 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and has 148 strikeouts to 45 walks in 137.0 innings this season.
“This is really a nice move for the Dodgers,” Nitkowski said. “The thing that (the Rangers) were probably most tentative about was that they want him back next year, and it doesn’t happen very often. We saw it with (Aroldis) Chapman. We don’t see it too often where you trade a guy at the deadline and then actually sign him back the next year. They’ve talked to him about and he said I love it here, and all that’s great, but if you go to L.A. for a few months – they have cash, too. I do worry about him falling in love with Los Angeles and them making a hard push for him next year. But it’s the smart move this year. A postseason berth is going to be pretty tough at this point.”