On Monday, less than two weeks after the Astros’ World Series victory over the Dodgers, Carlos Beltran retired after he claimed the first championship of his career.
— Houston Astros (@astros) November 13, 2017
Beltran’s career was incredible. He debuted in the majors at 21, won the AL Rookie of the Year at 22, and won a World Series as a regular (though he came off the bench throughout the Fall Classic) at 40. In between, the career was fantastic – he made nine All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards, and received MVP votes in seven seasons.
He finished his career with a .279/.350./486 line, 435 homers, and 312 stolen bases. Adding to the stolen base number, he was only caught 49 times, leading to an 86.4% success rate that is the best in baseball history over at least 200 attempts.
Beltran retires with the highest SB success rate (86.4%) of any player with at least 200 attempts in his career (312 out of 361). He belongs in the Hall of Fame. https://t.co/3ppwBVC2Iu
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) November 13, 2017
With all that being said, Beltran should be a slam dunk Hall of Famer. Of course, he isn’t, despite the fact that his 57.1 JAWS is eighth all-time among center fielders – and the seven players ahead of him are all Hall of Famers. His overall career lacked that big statistic that jumps out at you – he didn’t hit 500 homers. He didn’t have a career .300 average, let alone a .300/.400/.500 career line. He didn’t get to 3,000 hits. He didn’t win an MVP award, or even finish in the top three of voting.
He had a number of “iconic” Postseason moments, but they all came in 2004, 2006, and 2012, years that his teams lost in the NLCS.
Overall in the Postseason during his career, Beltran slashed .307/.412/.609 with 16 homers in 65 games, which really renders a lot of that “can’t get it done in October” talk meaningless.
The Hall of Fame has not been kind to center fielders in recent years (unless your name is Griffey). Kenny Lofton, who ranks ninth among center fielders in JAWS (right behind Beltran), received just 18 votes in 2013 and was bounced from the ballot in his first year. Andre Dawson, who played more games in right than center over his career and ranks 13th in JAWS among center fielders, didn’t get in until his ninth ballot. Jim Edmonds, 16th in JAWS, was one and done in 2016 after receiving 11 votes. Dale Murphy, a slightly better hitter than Beltran with a pair of MVP awards, ranks 25th in center field JAWS and never could crack 25% of the votes on a ballot. Fred Lynn, ranking 24th on the JAWS leaderboard, was eliminated after two ballots.
The exception to this rule regarding center fielders is Kirby Puckett, elected on his first ballot in 2001 following a 12 season career that was cut short after he was diagnosed with glaucoma. Puckett won a pair of World Championships with the Twins, slashed .318/.360/.477, made ten All-Star Games, won six Gold Gloves, and six Silver Sluggers.
The litmus test regarding Beltran’s candidacy will not come from Lofton, Edmonds, Puckett, or Murphy, but instead will come with a player that will be appearing on the ballot this year for the first time – Andruw Jones. The long-time Brave slashed .254/.337/.486 over his career, winning ten Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger while making five NL All-Star teams and finishing as the 2005 MVP runner-up. Beltran and Jones aren’t all that similar players – Beltran was the better, more consistent hitter over his longer career, while Jones was the better fielder (in fact, arguably the best defensive outfielder ever) with more power.
If Jones doesn’t get any support during his first (and potentially, his subsequent years) year on the ballot), Beltran supporters will likely need to work harder to inform the electorate about his candidacy. If Jones *does* get support, perhaps even earning induction, it’s a good sign for Beltran’s prospects about being elected to the Hall of Fame.
For the record, not that my opinion matters, I think that Beltran *and* Jones are easy Hall of Famers. But hey, I don’t have a vote, and it took these voters a decade to induct Tim Raines.