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.
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