Adrian Beltre Is Becoming Baseball’s Most Overly Appreciated Underappreciated Player

A co-working FrontBurnervian points out Jonah Keri’s article today on Grantland about the career of Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. Here’s my favorite part, a story I didn’t know, from Beltre’s time playing for the Seattle Mariners:

If Beltre was an opportunist who could summon the mighty Contract Year wizard to grant him +50 mashing points for his next pre–free agency battle, he had a lousy way of showing it in 2009. In an injury-plagued season, he put up his worst numbers since his rookie year, hitting just .265/.304/.379, with a measly eight home runs. August 13 of that year was the coup de groin, as a hard ground ball skipped off the infield dirt and whacked Beltre in a most uncomfortable place. Given that Beltre was one of the few major league infielders who refused to wear a cup, this was even more uncomfortable, so bad that he was placed on the DL after suffering bleeding from one of his testicles. Credit Ken Griffey Jr. for having the public address operator play the waltz from The Nutcracker as Beltre’s walkup music in his first game back from the DL. Seems all that brain and nerve tonic filled his oversize head with some brilliant, albeit cruel ideas.

Keri recaps Beltre’s career to make the case for his Hall of Fame worthiness. For those who don’t follow baseball, or follow it only casually, the reason an article like this is necessary is because to many Beltre doesn’t “feel” like a Hall of Famer. He’s never been the best player in the league, never won an MVP award, and he’d never made an All-Star team in the first 12 years of his career. Yet, when you look at the numbers as Keri does, there’s a strong case to be made that he’s among the 10 greatest third basemen in the game’s history.

Which is why Keri’s headline is “The Often Underappreciated Adrian Beltre.” Only, I think he’s become far less underappreciated the last couple seasons. Scribes at ESPN and Lone Star Ball and FanGraphs and the Morning News and Sports Illustrated have all raised the argument. (It’s not even the first time I’ve blogged about it.)

And it’s a good argument. Even if the numbers don’t full describe why it is we love him.