The St. Louis Cardinals are headed to their fourth World Series since 2004, and Carlos Beltran was a big reason why as he went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI along with an outstanding defensive play in right field in Friday night’s pennant-clinching Game 6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Beltran has driven in 12 runs so far this postseason, and he has been an impact playoff performer during his career (.337, 16 home runs and 37 RBI along with a .724 slugging percentage over 163 at-bats), but this will be the first World Series appearance of his 16-year career.
Beltran has been one of the most productive outfielders in all of baseball over the last decade and a half, but should he go into the Hall of Fame when he calls it a career?
Beltran spent the early part of his career in the obscurity that comes with playing for the Kansas City Royals, but he did hit .293 with 22 home runs and 108 RBI in 1999 on his way to winning American League Rookie of the Year. He had three more seasons with at least 20 home runs, 100 RBI and 30 stolen bases with the Royals prior to being traded to the Houston Astros in June of 2004. He hit 23 home runs after landing with Houston, and finished that regular season with 38 home runs, 104 RBI and 42 steals.
But it was during the 2004 postseason that Beltran emerged on the national scene, as he hit .407 with four home runs and 13 RBI over 12 games, but the Astros lost in the NLCS to St. Louis.
Beltran parlayed that playoff performance into a lucrative contract from the New York Mets, and he would spend the next six-plus seasons (2005-2011) in the Big Apple before being dealt to the San Francisco Giants in July of 2011. The Mets made the playoffs once during Beltran’s time there (2006), and he hit .277 with three home runs and five RBI over 10 games (36 at-bats) as New York lost to, you guessed it, St. Louis in the NLCS.
Beltran signed with the Cardinals prior to the 2012 season, and he has been a mainstay in the lineup while earning an All-Star selection in each of the last two seasons.
For his career (to this point) Beltran has 2,228 hits (.283 batting average) with 358 home runs, 1,327 RBI, 446 doubles, 308 stolen bases and 1,346 runs scored over 2,064 regular season games, and he is in the top-10 among active players in runs scored (sixth), RBI (eighth), total bases (3,902-eighth) and stolen bases (ninth). He has been an eight-time All-Star (2004-2007, 2009, 2011-2013) and a three-time Gold Glove winner (2006-2008), as well as being the active leader in outfield assists with 132.
Beltran will become a free agent after the World Series, and if he doesn’t return to the Cardinals retirement does not look like an option even though he will turn 37 early in the 2014 season. So he theoretically still has time to reach some milestones that would bolster his Hall of Fame resume, with 400 home runs, 1,500 RBI and 500 doubles all within reach if he plays a couple more seasons. 3,000 hits looks very unlikely to say the least, since Beltran would have to play approximately four more seasons to reach that milestone, with his current 162-game average as a guide.
To me Beltran is the perfect embodiment of a player who should be in the “Hall of Very Good”, but he is not quite a Hall of Famer despite his longevity. His postseason track record is noteworthy and should not be discounted, but in the scope of his entire career it’s not enough to make him stand out among his peers in a fashion that makes him a lock for Hall of Fame induction.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.