The numbers keep piling up for Adrian Beltre.
A significant one was reached Tuesday, when the Texas Rangers’ third baseman singled in the first inning for the 2,500th hit of his career.
Only five others since 1900 to play third base as their primary position have reached that plateau, and 3,000 doesn’t sound like an unreasonable target.
Beltre is 16 homers shy of 400. The 500-homer mark doesn’t seem all that far away.
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But the only number that matters to Beltre at this stage of his career is one. He’ll gladly take just one World Series title before his body tells him that it has no more baseball left in it.
That moment is coming sooner than later, and Beltre knows it. He is only 35, but his legs, at times, are 65. He’s in his 17th big-league season.
Beltre still believes, though next to no one really believes him, that the Rangers aren’t out of the hunt this season. He also believes that the 2015 Rangers, healthy and retooled, will be the kind of contender many thought they would be this season.
But teams that realistically can win this season are calling general manager Jon Daniels about the availability of the Rangers’ best players. So a discussion Wednesday afternoon with Beltre turned into a game of what-if.
It was more entertaining than what happened on the field a few hours later as the Rangers lost their seventh straight game. (No, Ian Kinsler was not plunked.)
“It’s definitely hard to comprehend a seven-game losing streak,” manager Ron Washington said. “We know why. We just have to score more runs and pitch better.”
Now, back to Beltre. What if the Rangers asked him to waive his limited no-trade clause and accept a trade to a team with a legitimate shot at the World Series?
Beltre insisted that’s not something he is thinking about or wants to have happen, but he provided an answer nonetheless.
“If he came to me and they wanted to trade me, you want to be in a place where you’re wanted,” Beltre said. “I would look at it and see if it made sense for me and is a better chance for me to win a World Series.”
Beltre has been one of the two hitters in the Rangers’ lineup to produce consistently this season, even when the team isn’t scoring enough. That’s the case now, though Joe Saunders didn’t give the bats a chance in an 8-6 loss to Detroit.
Beltre had three hits and two RBIs, and Carlos Pena hit his first homer of the season. But the Tigers had put the Rangers in a 5-0 hole against Saunders before Beltre got the Rangers going.
Saunders allowed six runs in four-plus innings. The final run he yielded came on a solo shot by Victor Martinez to start the fifth after the Rangers had rallied for three runs an inning earlier.
“He just hasn’t been throwing strikes,” Washington said. “When he has been throwing strikes, they’ve been over the middle of the plate.”
Despite all the woes at the plate, on the mound and on the injury front, Beltre continues to point fingers at himself, saying he needs to do more. But he can only occupy one spot in the batting order.
As Daniels and his front-office deputies consider their options going forward, they continue to operate in the mode of protecting the core for next season. Like Beltre, the Rangers believe that they will contend in 2015 and that Beltre will be a cornerstone to their title chances.
An offer for Beltre would have to be staggering to the point that the Rangers would have to acquire pieces that would boost the big-league club next season. That won’t happen.
And forget about Joey Gallo replacing Beltre. Gallo, though the top power hitter in the minors, won’t be ready to be a full-time major-league third baseman by April.
With a new TV contract kicking in next season, the Rangers don’t need to dump the $34 million Beltre could make the next two seasons.
So he should stay. He is a player worthy of the Hall of Fame, or he at least will be in the discussion five years after he retires.
“No doubt about it,” said Washington, who lumped Beltre into the same status as Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson and George Brett.
Beltre is also keeping his head down and plugging away as the Rangers’ offensive woes continue. The mound work hasn’t been much better.
“We’re trying to find a way out of it and find a way to stay afloat,” Beltre said. “We don’t want to fall too far behind.”
It might be too late for that, though Beltre believes in his team this year and next. But his drive for just one World Series title would force him to consider a trade if the opportunity arises.