Carlos Beltrán’s Hall of Fame resume was almost completely closed heading into 2017, his 40-year-old season.
The 1999 American League Rookie of the Year was at the end of an impressive career. He had topped 400 home runs, 300 stolen bases, 2,600 hits, 1,500 runs, 1,500 RBI and had a hefty 70.9 bWAR. His position as one of the best switch hitters in baseball was assured; he already had more hits, more RBIs, more doubles, more triples and more stolen bases than Mickey Mantle, the gold standard for switch-hitting stars.
All he was really missing was a World Series ring, and he was seen as one of the possible final pieces of the puzzle needed by the up-and-coming Houston Astros, the team with young stars that just needed some veteran leadership, and pop. from both sides of the plate, to bring it all together. Beltrán signed as a free agent in December 2016.
When the Astros beat the Dodgers in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, Beltrán got his coveted championship. I was on the field after the final out with the rest of the media, players and family members. I saw his smile, the one that just wouldn’t give up, as he held his son and celebrated the end of a long career with his teammates and former Astros icons.
His legacy seemed secure, his place in Cooperstown now assured.
Only it wasn’t.
In February 2020, news broke of the Astros’ nefarious sign-stealing scandal. And not only was Beltrán involved, but he was supposedly the driving force behind the deception Other indicated reports that this was not a scheme that Beltrán had participated in for the first time after his arrival in Houston. His reputation was forever tarnished.
The scandal cost him his new job, as manager of the Mets, before his first game.
But what about his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame? That is a very good question. It’s on the ballot for the first time next winter, as part of the potential class of 2023. We really haven’t seen a case like this. Cheating, sure, with PED. It’s what has kept Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro out of Cooperstown. But illegally stealing signs is not the same as using PEDs. No health issue, just a massive competitive one.
Will it have the same impact? Is that a bridge that cannot be crossed with Hall of Fame voters? And it’s not just about Beltrán, although he is the first. José Altuve and Carlos Correa have many years left in their careers, and then the five-year waiting period before qualifying for the BBWAA ballot, but they’re on a Cooperstown track. Maybe Alex Bregman too.
Of course, it is impossible to know what the landscape will look like in 15 years.
I’m a Hall of Fame voter, and I honestly haven’t made up my mind about Beltran. At the World Series last fall, I spoke to half a dozen other Hall voters about this exact issue, knowing Beltran would be on the class of 2023 ballot. Some told me the scandal wouldn’t affect their vote, while others wouldn’t. they were unsure how they would approach the ballot. I will speak to more voters and others in the game over the next year. I honestly don’t know how the electorate will approach Beltran, although I feel relatively confident that he won’t get into Cooperstown on his first ballot.
Let’s take a quick look at his resume in the field.
The switch hitter checks in at No. 8 all-time in bWAR for center fielders, at 70.1; the average Hall of Fame center fielder is 71.6, just a hair above Beltran. In a vacuum, that would bode well for his chances of getting elected, if not on his first ballot, then sooner rather than later. He is a nine-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and two-time Silver Slugger, and received MVP votes in seven seasons (albeit often on the ballot).
He is one of only five players in MLB history with at least 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases (he had 435 and 312, respectively), the others being Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. He was an All-Star regular, with three Gold Gloves.
And he was a postseason monster. Do you remember his 2004 presentation with the Astros? In 12 games for the Astros, he hit eight home runs with 14 RBIs, six stolen bases, a .435 average and a 1.557 OPS. In his 65 career postseason games, Beltrán finished with a slash line of .305/.412/.609, with 16 home runs, 11 RBIs and 42 RBIs, with more walks (37) than strikeouts (33). . He didn’t make it to the World Series until the 2017 season with the Astros, but his team’s failures in the NLCS weren’t his fault; in 26 career NLCS games, Beltrán hit .326 with eight home runs, 17 RBIs, seven stolen bases, and a 1.126 OPS. Although all he seems to remember is the third strike against Adam Wainwright in 2006.
And while he likely has the stats to get in, there’s no question he’s a lock. Remember that 70.1 bWAR? Well, another elite center fielder, Kenny Lofton, finished with a 68.4 bWAR and 622 stolen bases (15th all-time) and didn’t even reach the minimum 5 percent of the vote required to stay on the ballot for another year. . To be clear, Lofton’s drop on the ballot after his freshman year was a sham, surely he was the victim of a crowded ballot for the Class of 2013 and a maximum of 10 votes, and I’m not saying Beltran even comes close. to that same fate of Hall. Just to point out that if Lofton wasn’t seen as worthy of a top 10 spot on voters’ ballots, Beltran probably won’t be seen by most as a lock.
It stands to reason that the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal will ensure he doesn’t get elected in his first year on the ballot.