Is Adrian Beltre a Hall of Famer?
I was asked this question on Facebook recently by my friend Steve Tarde, who performs the famous baseball poem “Casey at the Bat” and constantly bugs me about the status of Padres manager Bud Black. This is my response:
The history of third baseman voted into the Hall is a strange one. There are only 11. Wade Boggs is the last one the BBWAA voted in (on the first ballot) a decade ago. He has the highest batting average (.328), the highest on base percentage (.415) and the most hits playing third (2,788).
Ron Santo is the only other modern player voted in recently (2013) by a Veteran’s Committee. I suspect that his was more a sentimental vote coming after 15 years of BBWAA and numerous Vet Committee rejections. Santo’s hitting numbers just don’t compare with Boggs or George Brett or the power numbers of Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews. Nor do I remember him as the defensive wizard that was Brooks Robinson. And that covers all of the modern third baseman in the Hall.
The retired Chipper Jones is the next third baseman up. He’ll be eligible for the Class of 2018. And Beltre is still active and far behind him. Chipper’s numbers compare very well with the other Hall of Fame third basemen and switch hitters like Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. As a third baseman, he batted .305 with a .401 on base percentage, 2,235 hits and 389 homers. He also has sizable numbers during the few seasons he played left field. The more I look at the traditional numbers the more I think he’s a first ballot electee. Same with Beltre, who right now has 400 homers and is working toward 3,000 hits overall. Only Schmidt (548) and Mathews (512) would have more homers than Beltre among third basemen in the Hall.
When you look at non-traditional numbers like WAR, Alex Rodriguez is 16th all-time and by far the highest among players who have logged significant portions of their career at third base. We don’t have to get into the details, but his candidacy will certainly be marred by his suspension and involvement with performing-enhancing drug use. Schmidt at 26th overall has the highest WAR of any of the third basemen already in the Hall. And consider that the stat wasn’t even imagined when most of the 11 were voted in. Jones is 50th and Beltre is currently 65th.
I’ve come to using WAR lately in my annual Hall vote as not a defining stat, but as just another useful metric. When I vote for the Hall I first compare others voted in at a candidate’s primary position. It’s a definite dynamic for each position so it’s almost impossible to compare and contrast a guy like Beltre with a first base candidate like Jeff Bagwell or an outfielder like Tim Raines. Certainly, middle infielders and catchers are categories all to themselves. Suffice to say that among third basemen, Schmidt, Mathews, Boggs and Brett are all well above Beltre all-time in this metric.
Does it alter my opinion of Beltre as a potential Hall of Famer? Maybe. He’s at 78.9, well below A-Rod’s 116.7. Of course, Alex will wind up as one of the top offensive players in Major League history no matter what drugs he did. Anyway, if I’m around that long to ponder these guys names on the ballot I will have plenty of time to figure it out.