Having been in the major leagues since he was a teenager in 1998, and good enough to make a large fortune playing baseball for a living, it’s hard to feel sorry for Adrian Beltre.
In this case, however, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. He just got Nowitzki'd.
Hopefully the Rangers do Beltre better than the Dallas Mavericks did to Dirk Nowitzki.
Much like the Mavs with Dirk, the Rangers sold Beltre a bag of hope when it's more of a prayer, and made him believe they had a shot at the one thing he covets, a title, when we know they don’t.
Beltre doesn’t want to think about it, or talk about it, so let us do it for him.
The second before it becomes apparent this team can’t win the World Series, the Rangers need to do right by Beltre and trade him to the team that can. That "second" feels a lot like right now.
Trading Beltre will be this team's dominant story line, and a distraction, throughout the season.
Trade Beltre, even if it’s for a bucket of practice balls in return. Yes, even to hated Houston.
He doesn't want to leave the Rangers, but the World Series is the priority. That's going to be a problem.
BTW: One Vegas casino set the over/under on the Rangers' season win total at 78.5. I am pretty sure 79 wins is not going to be quite enough to reach the playoffs.
“If we get to that point where we need to think about it, if it’s the best thing to move on, then we’ll think about it,” Beltre said Monday morning. “Maybe we are not as good as Houston or Anaheim or Seattle right now, but I believe in this club. And my focus is this team.”
If everything – everything – breaks right, the Rangers can flirt with the wild card again for five months of the season. Even that, however, feels like a stretch.
Beltre's not necessarily happy the team didn't add an arm or bat of note in the offseason, but he deals with it. Not silently, but not destructively.
When it becomes apparent to the Rangers they aren't winning the World Series, they should deal Beltre out, move Joseph Gallo to third base, and let prospect Ronald Guzman take over at first.
Whenever Beltre wants to return, give him the key.
While the comparisons between Beltre and Dirk are aplenty, these are different guys. Both are non-American players who entered the highest level of the pro ranks in the same year, when they were 19.
But Beltre has been with three other big league franchises whereas Dirk has known but one.
And, the biggest difference, of course: Dirk has his title, won in 2011. That same year, Beltre’s home run in the top of the seventh in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series gave the Rangers the lead in St. Louis (not sure how the game, or series, ended, though).
The Mavs are tanking their way towards another horrible season, and while Dirk may hate the losses he can always see that ring.
“Yes, you play to win and if you have a chance to experience that, then you play to experience that,” Beltre said. “For that, that’s the goal. That is the only box left to check.”
He's right; Beltre will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame with or without the ring. But no Hall of Famer wants to be Ernie Banks.
Since Beltre arrived in 2011, he has been everything and more than your typical big-money free agent signee. Especially for a Scott Boras client.
Beltre has never once flashed a sullen attitude. He plays hard, and he plays hurt. He produces big numbers, and crucial plays. He’s a pro and a grown-up. He’s become the leader of the clubhouse, a voice so big the players may often be playing for him more than the manager.
He’s been worth the money.
When the Rangers handed him a two-year, $36 million extension in the spring of '16, he signed it thinking his team had a chance. And the team went out and won an AL-best 95 games that season.
Then came 2017, when all of their flaws were revealed, and age began the process of fouling one off Beltre's foot. He was limited to 95 games last season.
"I don't know that Adrian ages," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "I keep watching him and I'm not so sure."
They all age. Older players, in particular, are vulnerable to aging overnight, too. They wake up, and the hands are no longer there, and the .295 batting average is stuck at .235. It happens to all of them.
Even with a .235 average, a good team would be stupid to pass on Beltre.
Beltre has dealt with iffy hamstrings since he was 21, and that area of concern is not going to change. But there is no sign of anything else that says Beltre is going to be an old guy stealing money this season.
The obvious sign is his team is average, and that his hopes of winning the World Series with this club is not meant to be; his legacy with this club will be 3,000 hits, and going to Game 7 of the '11 World Series (apparently they lost Game 6).
His lone desire is to win the World Series, and the moment the Rangers feel they aren't going to do that they need to do right by the player and give him that chance. He has earned it.
And, no, you're not crazy if you think that moment is right now.