Adrian Beltre on the Hall of Fame Path

After a third consecutive All-Star season, Adrian Beltre‘s Hall of Fame path is becoming clear. Over those three All-Star campaigns, Beltre has added 96 home runs, 309 RBI and 1,820 plate appearances of an astounding .314/.353/.558 (138 wRC+) line. His 19.0 WAR over those three seasons pushed his career total up to 62.5; he’s already a borderline Hall of Famer purely by WAR (or JAWS, which already rates him the 12th-best third baseman of all time).

But I don’t think Beltre is in quite yet — it is the Hall of Fame, after all, and perception matters. His entire career in Seattle was a dud at the plate — he hit just .266/.317/.442 in his five years as a Mariner, and they came in what should have been peak seasons (ages 26 through 30). Overall, he only has four truly standout offensive seasons — his last three and his Bonds-esque 48 home run campaign in his walk year as a Dodger in 2004. Beltre’s consistently exceptional defense is what pushes him into the Hall of Fame conversation, so he would need the Brooks Robinson (just a 105 wRC+ but the unassailable glove) treatment to gain entry if his career were already finished.

His defense is appreciated by most writers (and fans), it seems, but is the appreciation at such a lofty level? If not, Beltre might not even be close to in today — his Black Ink, Gray Ink, Hall of Fame Monitor and Hall of Fame Standards scores from Baseball-Reference are all less than two-thirds of the average Hall of Famer’s scores.

But Beltre is one of those players who consistently makes you double-take when you hear his age. It’s difficult to remember baseball without Adrian Beltre, and yet he is entering just his age 34 season next year, his 16th in the majors.

Beltre’s age transforms an uninspiring list of similar hitters — headlined by Carlos Lee, also including Aramis Ramirez, Ken Boyer, Gary Gaetti, Ruben Sierra, Torii Hunter — into one rife with Hall of Famers — Ron Santo, Orlando Cepeda, Al Kaline, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, and Carl Yastrzemski make up Beltre’s top seven similar hitters through age 33, with Santo the only repeat from the age-neutral list.

Beltre is under contract for Texas through 2015 and a vesting option could keep him a Ranger through 2016. Given the relatively small class of third basemen currently in the Hall — just 11, discounting Negro Leaguers and players like Paul Molitor and Cal Ripken who largely played other positions — three or four more years like Beltre’s last three should get him in with room to spare. He would push 450 home runs (behind just Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews among third basemen) and 1500 RBI (behind just George Brett and Schmidt) for the voter who prefers traditional stats; his WAR would likely land between 75 (conservatively) and 85 WAR, putting him very near the “lock” category.

He’s in the right place to keep it up. Beltre’s skillset at the plate is mostly one dimensional — huge pull power. It’s a fantastic dimension.

When Beltre’s power is unleashed like this — when he gets to watch it fly from his back knee — it’s one of the greatest spectacles in the game. Although it wouldn’t be surprising to see a bit of a power decline at age 34 — 15 of his 36 home runs were labeled “Just Enough” by ESPN Hit Tracker last year, an abnormally high amount — he can fall plenty far and still produce at a high level. He has posted ISOs of at least .233 each year since leaving Seattle and her righty-suppressing fences. Even a 30-to-40 point dropoff would still leave Beltre as one of the most powerful third basemen in the league, and likely somewhere around 20-25 home runs. Texas’s 114 park factor for right-handed home runs — fifth highest in the league — will help slow the decline as well.

There’s still work to do, but Adrian Beltre’s last three seasons have blasted open a clear path to the Hall of Fame. With his huge power, brilliant glove and a great situation in Texas all behind him, he should have no trouble walking it.




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82 Responses to “Adrian Beltre on the Hall of Fame Path”

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  1. Izzy Hechkoff says:

    I’m pretty confident that Beltre will gain entry into the Hall of Fame, especially since defensive metrics and advanced stats will likely gain more traction by the time Beltre is on the ballot, which likely won’t be for another 10+ years.

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  2. alex says:

    Wow, looking at Beltre’s 2004 and 2005 stats right next to each other is insane.

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  3. mattsd says:

    The fact that Beltre has been considered a mild disappointment (often wrongly) for about half of his career and we’re still having this conversation is a testament to the incredible player he has been when he is on his game.

    I often wonder what might have been if he hadn’t had that devastating appendectomy before the 2001 season. At age 21, he had already accrued 8 WAR, he had developing power, an elite glove, and most significantly, an incredible advanced approach at the plate.

    After the protracted recovery, Beltre as a hitter had a completely different approach. After the appendectomy, he didn’t match his age 20 wRC+, let alone his very strong age 21 season, until the Ruthian walk year.

    Even in his great offensive years, he has never approached the BB rate he had demonstrated over 1000+ PAs before his 22nd birthday. If he could have developed the power and glove the way he has while maintaining the advanced approach at the plate, we might be talking about Beltre as a generational great.

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    • Mike R. says:

      I completely agree. I find some parallels between Beltre and Andruw Jones. Those guys and A-Rod are probably the greatest hitting prospects of the Baseball America generation. So much potential that they have been disappointments in many respects yet have quietly put up HOF caliber numbers.

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  4. JoelAnair says:

    Great article, fun read. Beltre is one of the most enjoyable players in the game to watch, which shouldn’t be ignored when considering whether someone is hall-worthy.

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  5. Mike Green says:

    I don’t know. The assessment of defensive ability is very subjective. Hall voters don’t seem to have any difficulty in accepting (sometimes overweighting) the consensus greats at a position like Brooks Robinson and Bill Mazeroski. As for the next step down defensively, the record is much spottier with the example of Santo being the most obvious. Scott Rolen is in pretty much the same boat.

    Beltre’s defensive statistics are very, very good, but he has won 4 Gold Gloves rather than 8, and when voters look back, I am not sure what they will think about him. It probably depends (unfortunately) on whether he continues to perform as he has the last 3 years offensively. The odds are probably against that. I don’t think that the perception of his defensive abilities (to date) matches his defensive statistics.

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  6. wilt says:

    Chipper Jones has surpassed both the 450 HR and 1500 RBI marks.

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    • Wil says:

      Yeah that’s pretty crazy. How did the author leave him out?

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    • JayT says:

      Chipper had 389 homers and 1341 RBIs as a third baseman. Don’t forget that he spent a couple years as an outfielder. I’m guessing that’s what the author was looking at.

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      • JayT says:

        Although, now that I look at it, neither Brett nor Schmidt had 1500 RBIs as a third baseman. Bret only had 1005 and Schmidt just missed with 1474. So I think it probably was just an oversight.

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      • Josh says:

        He may have just been looking at third basemen who are already in the Hall.

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  7. Chris from Bothell says:

    Too bad his time as a Dodger will probably lump him into the PED speculation category. He’s a skilled defender and by all accounts a great teammate. I wish he’d settled in here in Seattle the way he has in Texas; his back and forth with King Felix is hilarious.

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  8. Joe says:

    You just know he’s going to get unjustly tagged with those good old PED suspicions for his 2004.

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    • Grand Admiral Braun says:

      Agreed, Joe. Many in the current group of HoF voters will take issue with that 2004 season power outlier. We’ve seen those with zero PED-link suffer because of “assumption of use.” I also think his Seattle seasons will hurt his chances, although they don’t look awful compared to Safeco adjustments. Defensive “reputation” still goes a long way (Ozzie Smith) in voting, but I don’t believe the majority of voters view Beltre on that level, or even below that. The defensive metrics would put him over the top, but really, how many voters look at UZR or DRS?? Third base is a tough position for the Hall, for whatever reasons. Beltre is close, but I could definitely see him getting less than 50% on the first ballot, unless the voting group alters.

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    • Victor Conte says:

      Not unjustly. He was (and probably still is) juicing.

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    • The Rajah says:

      I’m not saying he was juicing, but how else do you account for such a monstrous season? The likes of which he never, ever approached again. Anyone with knowledge of today’s game would quickly assume that he juiced for one monstrous season to pull down a monstrous contract.

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      • Samuel L Jackson's Baseball Glove says:

        Any person with reasonable intellect and personal background in baseball wouldn’t immediately come to that conclusion.

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      • jim says:

        because nobody’s ever had a fluky HR/FB year without drugs

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      • The Rajah says:

        I referenced “today’s game” because no other player has had a greater one-season HR differential compared to the second greatest season in their career in over 25 years (except the players who either admitted to taking PEDS or being named in the Mitchell Report). Yes, Roger Maris, Hack Wilson and Hank Greenberg accomplished the feat, but that was a different era when the economics and training were light years behind those of today.

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      • Daniel says:

        12 HRs? I don’t think that’s a record

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      • Bab says:

        Haha. The next time you do something surprisingly and unmistakably brilliant and sustain it longer than anticipated, I’ll assume you cheated somehow.

        I’m waiting, by the way.

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    • tommy says:

      eventually the voters will realize everybody has been juicing to some degree. at this point it really shouldn’t be a factor, and in 10 years i doubt it will be as big a factor, because you have to let someone in.

      source: common sense

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    • Jon L. says:

      I don’t know if he used, but the suspicions, if “unjust,” remain perfectly reasonable, considering the ridiculous outlier season he had while playing for a new contract. His production jumped while playing, for instance, with Steve Finley, whose power had jumped absurdly the same season his teammate, Ken Caminiti, won the MVP award. The 2004 Dodgers team has a number of players with suspicious career arcs, and few (on that team, or ever) have been more suspicious than Adrian Beltre’s.

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  9. James says:

    By far my favorite player in the MLB I hope when his contract is up with the Rangers he returns to the Red Sox to finish his career. He was one of the few reasons to watch the Sox that year he was there.

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  10. PackBob says:

    Safeco may be getting a bit of an unfair shake with Beltre’s numbers when he was there. It certainly affected his stats as a pitcher’s park and tough on right-handed hitters, but it seemed as well that he was always injured, many times playing through the injuries. A healthy Beltre for 5 years in Seattle may have been quite different offensively.

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    • Yo says:

      He was injured for a good chunk of his final year in Seattle, but I don’t recall it being a ongoing problem prior to that.

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  11. Timb says:

    And when he inevitably reaches the HOF, he surely will receive a pat on the head!

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  12. Andre the Angels Fan says:

    The Angels’ decision to pass on Beltre, allowing him to sign with the Rangers, and instead trade for the corpse of Vernon Wells, I believe was the single most impactful Angels FA decision since letting Texeira go (which netted Trout). Can you imagine the Angels with Beltre the past two years, and subtracting him from the Rangers? (And Napoli too?) Easily swings the 2012 divison race, and perhaps the 2011 divison / wild card as well.

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    • Bill says:

      The Angels are like the guy who’s one the lottery multiple times yet still is broke. They should be awesome again this year, but you know they won’t be.

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      • MrMan says:

        Agree 100%. Get lucky on a player like Trout. Get Weaver (a Boras client) to give you a hometown discount. Have an owner who’s willing to throw money away ($450M on 3 declining players in two off-seasons) yet can’t win anything. Wait until 2015 when the Angels are paying Pujols, CJ and Hamilton a combined $70M and getting about 4 WAR for it. Should be fun to watch for anyone who’s not an Angels fan.

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  13. Ken says:

    Not only was Beltre seemingly hurt much of the time in Seattle, but he had the reputation of a “gamer” that usually played while he was hurting. Playing injured certainly had some negative impact on his stats.

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  14. Matt says:

    Dude didn’t wear a cup, took a sharp grounder right to the…cup region, and survived! He deserves to be in Cooperstown for that alone.

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  15. Phantom Stranger says:

    The first thing I think of when people cite Beltre as a potential HOFer is his Seattle career. His offensive output during those years was pretty mediocre for a guy at his peak age range. He’s definitely put up consistently excellent defensive numbers over the years, but he’s never really been the best-fielding 3B in his league. Defensively, I would take Longoria or Zimmerman in a heartbeat over him at the moment.

    I guess he will get in if he can put up a few more solid offensive seasons, which is likely in Texas.

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    • Yo says:

      Safeco crushed him (and seemed to get into his head, taking it with him on the road). Defensively, I would take him over Longoria at the same age; Zimmerman I haven’t seen play enough to say.

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    • MrMan says:

      Eh…..YOU would take Longoria or Zimmerman but many others wouldn’t. I haven’t seen anything those two do consistently better than Beltre defensively. And let’s see if they’re still doing at age 34 as Beltre is.

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  16. Allan Brownridge says:

    Am I the only one thinking he might actually be 36 or 37 years old?

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  17. tz says:

    Look at his WAR graphs vs Ron Santo, Sal Bando, and Joe Randa.

    With the Dodgers, Beltre was on the Santo path (deserving HOFer).

    During his Seattle years, he basically performed at a Joe Randa level (average major leaguer, factoring in defense).

    This put him right around the Sal Bando level (star, but not HOF material). Since then, he has put himself back on track and is pulling past the Bando level.

    Since he’s one of my favorite players, I hope he keeps on trucking in Texas, so he can get into Cooperstown.

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    • suicide squeeze says:

      He was worth more 3 WAR per season during his time in Seattle, which is decidedly above average. Yeah, he wasn’t as good in Seattle as he was before or after, but calling him average is a little harsh.

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      • tz says:

        You’re right. Beltre during his down years was about as good as Randa was during his peak, which was above average. Randa’s career curve averaged out to average overall, but my point was that a four-year period of OK but not stellar performance is the only thing keeping Beltre off the fast track to the HOF.

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  18. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Four good seasons and one great season out of 15 don’t add up to a HOF career to me.

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  19. Bob Dole says:

    He had decent road splits in Seattle.

    Home/Away OPS
    2005: .694/.736
    2006: .778/.805
    2007: .745/.858
    2008: .703/.862
    2009: .646/.717

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  20. mkd says:

    When he retires Beltre will be the consensus pick for 2nd greatest fielding third baseman of all time. Apologies to Nettles, Rolen, Clete Boyer and Buddy Bell, but in terms of total fielding value Beltre is, right now, in the mix with those guys. And he is still adding to his legacy.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Who does he surpass for 3B defense? Brooks? Schmidt? Rolen?

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      • mkd says:

        Everyone but Brooks Robinson.

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      • Phantom Stranger says:

        Beltre wasn’t better defensively than any of the players you listed, especially in terms of peak. Sure, he could accumulate more defensive WAR due to his projected career length, but no one is taking him above those guys for defense in an all-time draft.

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      • tommy says:

        Beltre does not surpass schmidt (om offense or defense) or brooks defensively imo. Id take his glove over rolens.

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    • Jon L. says:

      Just looking at dWAR on baseball-reference, Beltre compares pretty well with Nettles, Rolen, Clete Boyer, and Buddy Bell. As a group, they look a little better than Schmidt, and are outclassed by Brooks Robinson. If you accept those advanced metrics, they clearly place Beltre in a group with the best defensive third basemen of all time.

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  21. JayT says:

    One more thing that will help his Hall of Fame case is that he’s got a really good chance to get to 3,000 hits. He’s only 773 away.

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    • Brian says:

      I was surprised that wasn’t mentioned either, Jay. That’s one of the things that has stood out to me about him. Despite that he’s only had one 200 hit season, his consistency and longevity have allowed him to amass a lot of hits. At this point, if he plays through age 38, he reaches that mark with only slightly more than 150 hits a season. Neither seems to be an unreasonable possibility.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Ala, Craig Biggio. Only 200 H in a season one time; 3060 for career.

        Biggio had more AS games, more GG, more SS … and did not get in.

        He may still get in, but I’m not viewing Beltre as a solid HoF’er. He has a strong argument to be made, but perception often trumps reality in those discussions.

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      • Jonathan says:

        I kind of agree. 3000 is typically the HOF holy grail and he’s not all that far away. I’ve thought about this before and that’s usuallyt he first thing I go to with him. I’m not sure how that got missed. Biggio didn’t make it his 1st year but I think most agree he’ll get there eventually.

        I don’t think there’s anything stopping Beltre from entering now. You have to tip your hat off to him. For all the flak he received in Seattle, they were truly the only peak years in which he didn’t perform. He got back up and made it happen.

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      • bstar says:

        32 other players have reached 2200+ hits after their age-33 season besides Beltre. Leaving out the still-active Pujols and A-Rod, only 11 of the remaining 30 guys reached 3000 hits (including the still-active Derek Jeter).

        On the other hand, that means the other 17 of the 28 hitters to reach 3000 had fewer than 2200 hits by age 33, so maybe Beltre does have a pretty good shot at that milestone.

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      • Bip says:

        @bstar

        That really goes to show that 3,000 hit is much more an achievement in longevity than ability. Getting a lot of hits through age 33 probably means the player is really good. That’s an average of 200 a season if they started their career around age 23. However really elite players are just as susceptible to injury as anyone else. On the other hand, if you’re just a guy who was never quite elite but who refuses to age and plays consistently until age 42, then you can average 150 hits a season and reach 3,000. Either way you have to be a good player, but the former group seems to require a higher level of play to reach.

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  22. CircleChange11 says:

    People mention Rolen. Scottie has 7 AS and 7 GG, Beltre has 3 and 4.

    It’s possible that Beltre moves up the HoF list with 2-4 more seasons like he’s had recently.

    The Seattle years obviously hurt him in terms of his “greatness perception” and the idea that a HoF player should be great anywhere they play.

    I’m not sure his defense is appreciated generally as much as it is appreciated or represented in the metrics.

    But, he is recognized as one of the best 3rd baseman for a good run of years and his Texas teams have made World Series appearances.

    I’m not arguing whether things like AS appearances and GG awards should matter, only feeling that they very often do … particularly in the recognition of performance, which can affect HoF voting.

    It also depends who else is going to be on the ballot with him …. there is, due to various circumstances, going to be a logjam of very good to great players on the ballot for quite some time.

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    • Bubba says:

      Beltre has only been to WS once. He was in Boston when the Rangers went to the Series in ’10.

      And thinking back to that World Series, the statue the Rangers had standing at third (Young) probably prompted Texas to sign Beltre.

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  23. tz says:

    That WS homer off his back knee is still one of my favorite sports moments.

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  24. Bip says:

    Either you’re a defensive genius who will get in despite mediocre offensive numbers or, far more likely, the actually quality of your defensive play will play no role whatsoever in your hall of fame case. What I don’t understand is how voters don’t even seem to make an effort to find out how good a player’s defense actually was. They’re perfectly content to accept popular reputation as fact.

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  25. Yoko Ono says:

    Re Circle Change 11’s comment:

    Biggio had more AS games, more GG, more SS … and did not get in.

    Biggio wasn’t elected in Year 1 – writers almost always make people wait at least one year.

    He’ll be elected very soon – probably next year.

    3,000 hits mark has pretty much not changed as automatic election unlike (for example) 400 homeruns.

    Although that being said, would be tough to imagine Palmeiro getting elected.

    So to say “did not get in” – no, he didn’t get in Year 1.

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    • Circlechange11 says:

      IMO, the popular perception was that Biggio had a better career and was the face of a franchise.

      Biggio will likely get in, especially when quite a few others alongside him on the ballot have the “suspicion” label on them.

      I’m not sure voters are going to view beltre as being HoF worthy, thinking “he should have been better” or some crap like that.

      If biggie gets in than that should crack the doorway for roles and beltre. Maybe by then voters will understand the importance of defense and respect the metrics along with understanding the physical demands of 3B and not just compare his offense to the numbers of guys that played much less demanding positions.

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  26. TKDC says:

    Should have mentioned Chipper as obviously getting in and the case for Rolen. He also has Longoria chasing him from behind, so he could easily be lost in the shuffle. Also, how many hall of famers had meh seasons age 26-30?

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  27. Tanned Tom says:

    First off, stop citing WAR. It is a made up statistic that very few know how to even calculate. The elitism of the stat nerds trying to shanghai baseball analysis is shameful.
    Second, the perception of this player is already established based on his Seattle years. He will need to do more to change it. If Texas doesn’t break though I think it hurts his case. (look at Biggio. he has that career in NY, Boston, Chicago, or California and he gets voted in this year)
    Third, how can Mike Scioscia keep his job? Team adds Pujols and Wilson and still wins squat?

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  28. julio says:

    the thing is, his seattle “dud” years werent even that bad. he like 4+ war per season

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