The Bright Spot
As the summer heats up, your motivation to visit Globe Life Ballpark might be winding down. After all, the Texas Rangers have one of the worst records in the American League.
Rangers brass met late last week, and general manager Jon Daniels told reporters the rest of this season amounts to developing and improving players. That isn’t the sort of talk you expect from the GM of a team that some considered a World Series contender in April.
But half of the projected everyday lineup is on the disabled list for good this season, and the pitching staff, after Yu Darvish — who is having another exceptional season — is a patchwork of young, eager prospects and veteran retreads.
Beltre has spent the month of June redefining the word “torrid” and is nearing Hall of Fame status.
It’s not what Rangers fans have grown used to the past few seasons. So why venture out to Arlington and watch baseball in the searing heat?
Well, for starters, there is third baseman Adrian Beltre, who has spent June redefining the word “torrid” and the better part of last week listening to others debate his credentials as a future Hall of Famer.
That’s right. Future Hall of Famer.
Those around the game started tossing about those four words after Beltre notched his 2,500th career hit June 24 against Detroit. He wrapped up the homestand on June 29 with 2,511 career hits.
He’s had a ridiculous June, hitting .394 (37-for-94) and raising his average from a low of .233 on May 11 to .332. That average is now second-best in the AL. Despite a slow start, Beltre is among the AL leaders in three other offensive categories and has nine home runs and 41 RBI.
“He found his swing,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said on Saturday, after Beltre had three hits. “He’s taking what pitchers give him. He’s started hitting to the opposite field. He’s getting all kinds of hits. When Adrian starts doing that, he’s locked in.”
Beltre is on the verge of his fourth All-Star Game berth. He has four Gold Glove awards, three Silver Slugger awards (as the game’s best-hitting third baseman) and was the National League home run champion in 2004. He’s closing in on being one of the game’s top 50 home run hitters. (He sits at No. 59 with 385 home runs.) He’s been in the top 15 in MVP voting five times, finishing in the top three twice. Plus, he’s been to two World Series with the Rangers.
But is all of that enough? Probably not. That’s why the benchmark Beltre reached last week is vital. It puts him in striking distance of 3,000 hits, a number that, historically, puts you in the Hall of Fame. In fact, you have to really screw up to not get in with 3,000 hits.
Twenty-eight players have reached 3,000 hits. Of those 28, four are not in the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose is banned for life, which means he cannot be elected. Rafael Palmeiro is linked to performance-enhancing drugs and, after failing to get the minimum number of votes in 2014 to remain on the ballot, can no longer be considered.
That leaves Derek Jeter and Craig Biggio. Jeter is still active, but with five World Series rings for the New York Yankees, he won’t be kept waiting. That leaves Biggio, who played his entire career with the Houston Astros and finished with 3,060 hits.
You won’t find a better citizen in and out of baseball than Biggio. Plus, his bio looks quite a bit like Beltre’s — a seven-time All-Star, a four-time Gold Glover and a five-time Silver Slugger. He never won a World Series ring.
Biggio has missed out on the Hall of Fame each of the last two years, including an agonizing two votes last winter. Most believe Biggio will eventually get in, and he’s not the first player with 3,000 hits to not get in on the first ballot.
The fact that he never won a World Series or an MVP award hurts, but he’s also not the first player with 3,000 hits to fail to win a ring or an MVP award, either. Nap Lajoie reached the Hall of Fame without doing either. So did Tony Gwynn. So locking Biggio out for not doing either is ludicrous.
Plus, we’re talking about fewer than 1 percent of Major League players that have reached 3,000 hits. It is still a milestone to be honored with enshrinement.
That’s why the number is meaningful to Beltre and should be meaningful to Rangers fans. Take Beltre’s 15 full seasons in the majors and he’s averaged 159 hits. At that rate, he would need a little over three seasons to reach that benchmark.
By then, maybe Beltre has a World Series ring. By then, he could have more Gold Gloves, All-Star Game berths and 500 home runs, another number that usually means automatic inclusion in Cooperstown. By then, maybe you’ll be wishing you’d gone out to the Ballpark more to watch this master craftsman at work, and that includes this lost summer.