Perhaps had Game 6 finished the way it should have, we would view Adrian Beltre differently. Perhaps if the Texas Rangers closed out Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, Beltre would be a Hall of Famer.
Beltre did his part in that game by hitting a home run to put the Rangers up by a run in the seventh inning, and he did more than his share that entire season. But there is something about his résumé that just isn’t quite there.
This week, ESPN began the debate over whether the Rangers third baseman is a Hall of Famer. He needs one more home run for 400, and has a slew of other stats that says he belongs. He is one of the best-hitting third basemen ever.
Yet, he is not a Hall of Famer. Not yet.
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Let’s stop the continued dumbing down of what made baseball, and its wonderful Hall of Fame, great. Every hitter in today’s era should be required to do more than the previous generation. The standards are different, and all voting members should acknowledge that the previous benchmarks that once guaranteed Cooperstown admission no longer apply.
The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum should not take Beltre today, not if it wants to remain the Hall of Historic rather than what the Hall is becoming: The Hall of Really Good. Beltre has a little bit more to do before he should be in baseball’s highest resting place.
His statistics — runs, RBIs, hits, doubles, home runs — all are approaching a Hall of Fame minimum standard that is dated. The game has changed, and so should those minimums.
Guys such as Beltre, who has erased any doubt that his signing the six-year, $96 million deal in 2011 was anything but a solid deal, aren’t there yet.
“He is the best professional I have ever been around,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said Tuesday. “He wants to play and he will play through anything. In today’s game, a guy that wants to be in every inning and every at-bat — that’s extremely under-appreciated. How he shows up, whether it’s 4-for-4 or 0-for-4, it’s the same.”
Beltre is one of those players in the strata that has numbers, longevity and accolades, but he is not a Hall of Famer.
Baseball’s Hall of Fame has remained superior to football, basketball and hockey expressly for this reason: Admission is nearly impossible. Let football, basketball and hockey annually submit too many candidates while baseball continues to elect but the precious few.
When you view the names in Cooperstown, there is never a debate about credentials. Yet, a new class of players is earning selections when the players should have been at the door rather than inside on the walls.
Players such as Barry Larkin and Craig Biggio are great. They were multiple All-Star selections on teams that made the playoffs. They were wonderful pros who represented their teams and cities well, yet neither would have been on my ballot (which I do not qualify to vote for yet).
They are in because of our a collective societal devaluing of the gold standard. Baseball, as much as football, has gone out of its way to generate offense, stats and numbers, which this era of hitters has cashed in on. Now, they are enshrined because of the alterations made to the strike zone, the outfield walls and more.
We are no longer technically in the Steroid Era — of which Beltre has never been linked. But he certainly has played in the Time of the Big Bat.
Beltre, 36, is a victim of circumstance and a beneficiary of wonderful timing. Never before was there a better time to be a hitter, and that came in his prime years.
As much Beltre’s continued Gold Glove play should be considered, so too should the realities that he has thrived in a batter’s era.
Maybe had the Rangers not blown Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, and he had that ring, his résumé for the Hall would be complete. The Rangers didn’t win, and Beltre’s brilliant performance will be mostly forgotten.
He should have a few more good seasons left to add to his totals. There is no way to take away from what Beltre has done for the Rangers, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He has produced, and been a tremendous professional.
He just is not a Hall of Famer. Not yet.
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