Steve Cohen is still making big coin, and why Carlos Beltrán deserves enshrinement in Cooperstown, someday
Carlos Beltrán is among the all-time great switch hitters in baseball history
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Carlos Beltrán is Hall of Fame worthy, but his day may not be today ✍🏻
Tonight, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce if there will be anyone enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the class of 2023.
In particular, there are two returning candidates, both of which are former Mets, and a new candidate, also a former Met, on the ballot who are all worthy of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame:
But today, I’ll discuss Beltrán since he might be the best candidate of the three but also the one where controversy is hanging over him like a cold bucket of water.
Beltrán never led the league is any offensive category, which is something a stat head might call out as a concern for his candidacy. He also never won an MVP award although he finished in the top-10 in voting twice during his 20 year career. But he was a nine-time All-Star and two-time silver slugger award winner mainly as a centerfielder, put up seven seasons of 4 bWAR or higher, and was a massively awesome postseason player despite being remembered in this part of the country as being frozen by an Adam Wainwright curveball to end the 2006 National League Championship Series.
He signed a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets after the 2004 season, a season in which he was traded from the Royals to the Astros and put up one of the great postseason performances in the history of the game when he went 20-for-46 with eight home runs and 14 RBI in 12 playoff games for Houston that year.
His best years, of course, came in Flushing. He was as solid and graceful as any player to put on the uniform had been, so much so he drew criticism for appearing indifferent and lackadaisical at times. But it was merely his talent and ability to slow the game down.
Beltrán was a switch hitter who amassed 435 home runs in his career while posting a lifetime .837 OPS. His splits were shockingly even as well:
.279/.353/.481 against right-handed pitching
.280/.343/.501 against left-handed pitching
There are only three switch hitters in the history of the game to hit more home runs than Beltrán, and they’re all in the Hall of Fame:
Mickey Mantle (536)
Eddie Murray (504)
Chipper Jones (468)
There are only two other switch hitters to amass more than the 1587 RBI than Beltrán:
Eddie Murray (1917)
Chipper Jones (1623)
Among players with at least 8000 lifetime plate appearances, Beltrán has the fifth highest slugging percentage among switch hitters at .486, the 11th most walks with 1084, and his 2725 hits ranks sixth-best.
Certainly, Beltrán could be considered a compiler candidate for those who would argue against his candidacy, and one could certainly argue there have been players who have come and gone similar to Beltrán who are not in the Hall of Fame or are borderline candidates at-best, and inducting Beltrán would set a precedent that lowers the bar for future ballots.
The difference is Beltrán was elite at a premium position for well over a decade, did so as a switch hitter and, as noted above, sits atop the list with not just Hall of Famers, but all-time greats in the game.
Of course, there’s that one thing with Beltrán which will be tested on his first ballot, and that is his role in the 2017 cheating scandal with the Astros.
The thing is, this happened while Beltrán was a player. It unquestionably tainted that championship for the Astros, and fairly tarnished the reputations for himself and the people around him. I have wondered how much this would impact his candidacy if Beltrán had been a member of the coaching staff on that team rather than as a player. But there was already a contingent who believed Beltrán was a borderline candidate, so this scandal certainly won’t help on his first ballot at least.
Still, while what he did and orchestrated wasn’t cool, the rest of his playing career and that with the Mets in particular - a period in his career during which he was at his absolute best without dispute - should not be discounted. It remains unquestionably Hall worthy in my mind, and should be a first ballot Hall of Famer as well. This isn’t the hall of very nice players - just look at players like Ty Cobb, for instance.
But it’s hard enough for players who didn’t shame the game to make it on the first or even second try. Time will tell how much this transgression impacts his candidacy.
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