Is Carlos Beltran a Hall of Famer? Most agree: Maybe

05/25/2013 4:37 PM

05/26/2013 9:42 AM

Carlos Beltran will be back patrolling the Kauffman Stadium outfield Monday for the start of the Royals’ four-game, two-city series with St. Louis.

Beltran, who is in his second year with the Cardinals, began his successful career with the Royals, winning Rookie of the Year honors while playing here from 1998-2003. But is he a Hall of Fame candidate?

A quick survey of national baseball writers found unanimity: Maybe.

“Beltran is an interesting case in that he has been aging well through what for most people are the decline years,” Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci wrote in an email. “His OPS in his 30s is better than what it was in his 20s, so he still is improving his candidacy.

“Right now he’s probably in the territory of guys like Bernie Williams, Jim Edmonds, Bobby Abreu and Moises Alou — really good candidates but not Hall of Famers — but because he still has a lot of good baseball left, let’s wait to see what happens before we start making final judgments.”

Beltran, 36, has impressive career numbers: 2,114 hits, 344 home runs, 1,272 RBIs and 306 stolen bases. Only four other players in major-league history had as many as 344 homers, 306 steals: Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez and Andre Dawson. That’s great company.

However, among that quartet, Dawson’s home run total is the lowest at 438, well more than Beltran. And if you lower the bar a bit, the 300-300 club also includes Bobby Bonds (good) and Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley (good, but not great company).

Jeff Passan, a former Star scribe who is now a Yahoo baseball columnist wrote: “I get my first vote for the Hall of Fame this year, and I’ve resolved to approach my ballot like this: Do an initial, gut-feeling, yes-or-no test before diving deep into the numbers, comparisons and everything else necessary to fully vet a player’s worthiness.

“My gut says Carlos Beltran is not a Hall of Famer.

“A look at the numbers comes close to changing my mind. Just not yet. One can make a strong case, statistically, that Beltran does deserve to go to Cooperstown, an argument he can continue to strengthen with another two or three seasons to add to the counting stats that already look quite good. There are plenty of nuggets that justify the Beltran-for-the-Hall crowd.

That includes the homer/steal numbers I listed. Passan also noted that among active players, only A-Rod, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter and Adrian Beltre have more Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference.com edition) than Beltran.

Additionally: he is the most efficient base stealer in history with at least 150 stolen-base attempts (86.4 percent success rate). Beltran also played a premium position (center field) for more than a decade in spectacular fashion.

“All of these should — should — add up to a Hall of Famer,” Passan wrote. “And they may. His WAR is right up there with the average center fielder in the Hall. If he hits the 400-homer mark, that may swing others onto his side.

“Problem is, Beltran does have his detriments. He has one top-5 MVP finish and just two in the top 10. Beltran, absent the 2004 postseason, always had the air of a great player ... and never the best. And while that is an entirely subjective measure, one that MVP voting bears out, it is necessary to consider it when trying to separate the truly greatest players in history.

“There are two bellwethers for Beltran: Fred Lynn and Jim Edmonds. Lynn and Beltran’s career numbers are eerily similar — Lynn: .283/.360/.483 with an OPS+ of 129, Beltran: .283/.359/.497 with an OPS+ of 122. Beltran was the better baserunner and while defensive metrics may argue the better fielder, too, they are notoriously unreliable and perhaps it’s fairest to call it a wash.

“Lynn peaked at 5.5 percent of votes and dropped off the ballot after two years.

“Edmonds is an even better test. Each of his triple-slash numbers bests Beltran’s, as do his home runs. He is regarded as one of the most spectacular center fielders of all time. Like Beltran, he didn't get a whole lot of MVP love. Their careers are very similar.

“Now, I’d like to think I skew more toward a small-hall guy than a vote-anybody-in sort. And I’m not entirely convinced Edmonds is a Hall of Famer, either. Maybe my viewpoint will evolve with time. And perhaps Beltran will finish his career with the sort of flourish Edmonds didn’t, as he petered out at 40.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney said that Beltran is a borderline case right now, but added that he could aid his cause by eventually transitioning into a designated hitter.

“Given the type of hitter that he is, I could see him playing another 3-4 seasons and being a productive player,” Olney wrote. “If he finishes his career with 2,600-2,700 hits and 450 home runs...”

The Hall of Fame could beckon. But at this point, it’s not a guarantee.

Three up

• Justin Masterson (7-2) is the first Indians pitcher to win seven starts through Cleveland’s first 42 games since Charles Nagy in 1996.
• Padres rookie infielder Jedd Gyorko is hitting .315 with five doubles, five homers, 15 runs and eight RBIs in May.
• Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera may just have a permanent place in this category. With 57 RBIs in the Tigers’ first 46 games, he is on pace for an absurd 201. The record is 191 by the Cubs’ Hack Wilson in 1930.

Three down

• Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, just starting a $144 million contract he signed late last year, is 1-7 with a 4.45 ERA. Philadelphia is 1-10 in his starts.
• The Twins have lost 10 straight heading into Saturday’s game.
• The Rays’ bullpen already has four blown leads in the ninth inning after having just two last year. Their record after seven innings is 19-4. Last year it was 75-3

Statistically speaking

• The Padres hit 22 homers in their first 25 games at Petco Park, where the fences were moved in this season. Last year, they didn’t get No. 22 until the 53rd home game on Aug. 4.
• Since the start of 2012, the Orioles are 2-4 in extra-inning games against the Yankees and 19-2 against every other team.
• Cubs pitchers have 15 RBIs in May. For the season, the No. 9 spot in the order has produced five home runs and 20 RBIs; the No. 4 spot (mostly Alfonso Soriano) has just five home runs and 16 RBIs.
• Braves rookie Evan Gattis has three home runs in six pinch-hit at-bats, already tied for third in Braves franchise history for a season (Butch Nieman hit five in 1945). Seven of Gattis’ 10 homers have tied or given the Braves a lead, and four of those came in the eighth inning or later.

On deck

• If A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon refrains from uncorking a wild pitch in his start today, he will have gone 1,462 days (since May 26, 2009) without being charged with a wild pitch.
• Odd as it sounds now that we have interleague play all season, but it will be a full schedule starting Monday with games like Royals-Cardinals, Cubs-White Sox and Mets-Yankees.
• Miguel Cabrera and Raul Ibanez are both one double short of 400 for their career.

You need to know

• Bill Chuck of Billy-Ball.com has started a campaign to get Yankees closer Mariano Rivera named as the AL starter in this summer’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York.
• The White Sox’s Gordon Beckham, originally a shortstop at the University of Georgia, has played some shortstop during a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte. He hasn’t played there since being moved to third base when he arrived in the big leagues in 2009.
• The Indians are the first team to beat seven Cy Young winners before June 1: R.A. Dickey, David Price, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Bartolo Colon, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez.
• Everth Cabrera of the Padres, Shin-Soo Choo of the Reds, Lucas Duda of the Mets, Aaron Hicks of the Twins, Juan Pierre of the Marlins and Drew Stubbs of the Indians are the only big-leaguers with at least 130 ABs this season who had yet to ground into a double play through Wednesday.
• Sound familiar, Royals fans? Despite a starting rotation that ranks fourth in the majors with a 3.36 ERA, the Cubs are 18-27, losing 17 games by two runs or fewer. At 2-6, 3.25 ERA, Jeff Samardzija is Chicago’s James Shields.
• Atlanta leads in most developed players on the All-Star ballot. A total of 14 players on the All-Star ballot began their careers in the Atlanta organization. Minnesota is second with 13, followed by St. Louis with 12. Colorado, Milwaukee, Boston and the Los Angeles Angels have 11. Oakland and San Francisco are last with 5.

Words of wisdom

“If they don’t do (what they’re supposed to), it’s my responsibility. This is a ballclub that I put together.”

| Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., on who gets the blame if the team falters

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