Monday, June 17, 2013
Time to discuss Beltran's Hall of Fame case
By David Schoenfield
Carlos Beltran leads National League outfielders in All-Star voting, which I guess is interesting only if you care about All-Star voting or if you thought if any Cardinals outfielder would get a boost from hometown cyber-stuffing it would be Matt Holliday, not Beltran.
Now 36, Beltran is having another solid season, smashing 16 home runs with that still-quick, still-effortless stroke from both sides of the plate. He's hitting .306/.337/.537, and while he's adjusted a little bit to the aging curve -- his walk rate is down, suggesting a little more aggressive approach -- he's still putting up big numbers.
Beltran's career numbers are now entering Hall of Fame territory, or at least the point where's a serious candidate. There has always been a little bit of an inconsistency from the BBWAA -- those writers who vote for the Hall of Fame and the regular season MVP Awards. While they praise the all-around virtues of players like Beltran, it is the RBI guys who fare best in MVP voting. The Hall of Fame inductees in recent years have included the ultimate specialists in relievers Goose Goosage, Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley, plus Jim Rice, a specialist in the batter's box who wasn't even as good a specialist as others who have been denied entry like Edgar Martinez.
Anyway, there's an obvious recent inductee to compare Beltran to, in that he was elected on the strength of his all-around play: Andre Dawson. If Beltran eventually has a chance at getting elected, I think it's because voters will view him in the same light they viewed Dawson, a guy who helped win games in many ways.
Career numbers (entering Monday, for Beltran):
Dawson: 2627 G, 2774 H, 1373 R, 438 HR, 1591 RBI, 314 SB, .279/.323/.482
Beltran: 1981 G, 2138 H, 1301 R, 350 HR, 1287 RBI, 307 SB, .283/.359/.498
The hitting lines are similar -- Beltran has a 122 OPS+, Dawson a 119 OPS+ -- but the general description of both players is similar: Gold Glove center fielders, above-average power, good speed. Dawson's bad knees forced him to right field when he was 29 while Beltran lasted in center until he was 34.
Beltran has a couple advantages over Dawson. He's one of the great percentage basestealers of all time (86 percent, fourth all time among those with at least 100 steals) and he has an incredible .363/.470/.782 line in 34 career postseason games, including 14 home runs, while Dawson hit .186 in 15 games.
Dawson played until he was 41, piling on those necessary counting stats (while adding little actual value) to create the career longevity that got him elected on his ninth year on the ballot. Beltran is in that phase of his career but still producing. His career Baseball-Reference WAR is 66.5 while Dawson's was 64.4.
There is one big difference between the two, however. Dawson won an MVP Award in 1987 with the Cubs (although he wasn't one of the 20 best players in the league that year, let alone the best) and finished second twice earlier in his career with the Expos. Beltran has had just two top-10 MVP finishes: ninth in 2003 with the Royals and fourth with the Mets in 2006. And Mets fans remember that year not so miuch for his MVP-caliber season but for taking that called third strike to end Game 7 of the NLCS.
Ultimately, Beltran's Hall of Fame case will probably rest on more than comparing favorably to Dawson, who obviously had to battle his way to election. The good news for Beltran: He's still playing well and the way the Cardinals are playing he should get another opportunity to add to his postseason legacy -- and maybe even play in his first World Series.