The way Adrian Beltre has been playing lately, he has eclipsed Josh Hamilton in popularity. And that’s not an easy thing to do in Texas unless you are a real-life Texas Ranger, never mind someone who plays one in the big leagues.
If Beltre keeps up his current hot streak he may wind up with the best season of his career and given that he has had some very fine seasons, that would be impressive for the Dominican at age 33. Well, maybe not THE best since Beltre hit 48 home runs and drove in 121 runs for the Dodgers in 2004. He’s not going to reach those stratospheric numbers. But with 25 homers, 81 RBIs, and a .315 average going into Tuesday’s play, he is on pace to make this one of his other best seasons.
Beltre has been en fuego lately with eye-catching huge games at the plate. He had three home runs by the fourth inning of one game, drove in five runs here, four runs there, and hit for the cycle. Beltre has 13 RBIs in his six games. Josh who? Actually, although Hamilton has been showing signs of coming out of his funk lately, he had been in a slump that was bad enough to make hometown fans in Arlington, Texas actually boo him.
That would illustrate that no one this side of Nolan Ryan is immune from such treatment in the Rangers’ organization and really, that is kind of a dumb reaction to Hamilton taking a walkabout. He is second in the American League with 35 homers and he’s leading the league with 111 runs batted in. But Beltre, a three-time All-Star in a Major League career that dates to 1998 when he broke in with the Dodgers, redirected the spotlight.
“Right now I feel good, I feel comfortable and I have confidence offensively,” Beltre said.
Well, darn tootin’, he should after batting .332 in his previous 65 games, a pace which he only has once matched over the length of a full season, also in 2004. Beltre has long been a very solid player, but he has actually shown signs of more consistent season-long play since 2010, his sole year with the Red Sox when he batted .321 with 28 homers and 102 RBIs. In 2011, he stroked 32 homers with 105 RBIs with a .296 average for the Rangers. And this year he is hitting at the same level.
It’s not as if Beltre was a non-entity before, but we are seeing a guy improving for a couple of years in row in his early 30s. Up until last week or so when Melky Cabrera got flagged by the drug police and Bartolo Colon followed, I wouldn’t have thought much about this Beltre stretch. I’m not going to dwell on it and I’m not saying I even think he’s guilty of any sin, but the fleeting thought occurs, What if? Beltre can thank Cabrera and Colon for this inescapable cynicism.
I’d just like to think he is playing great because he’s playing great. So do the Rangers. I feel a bit sleazy even talking about this. But except for that 2004 monster season, Beltre never hit .300 in his career between 1998 and 2009. Now year by year he’s raising his career batting average. Am I a jerk for bringing this up, or a fool if I didn’t?
Up until recently, when Cabrera and Colon were busted, I pretty much thought everyone in baseball was clean again. And that included Ryan Braun. I would prefer to just praise Beltre. Go get ‘em Adrian. Light up those pitchers for the rest of the year. Help Josh lead Texas to that elusive World Series title.