At some point, Adrian Beltre will no longer be good at playing baseball. That time is not yet here, and for that we should all be thankful. Now 38 years old, Beltre missed most of the first two months with a calf injury, and, at his age, any significant injury makes you wonder if that's the one that will start his decline.
For now, it appears Beltre remains a young 38, just as he was a young 37 in 2016. In 24 games since returning from the DL, he's hitting .303/.373/.562. And in the ninth inning Tuesday, he crushed a Cody Allen high heater to give the Texas Rangers a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
That was Beltre's 450th career home run, breaking a tie with Jeff Bagwell and Vladimir Guerrero for 39th on the all-time list. He's now just 33 hits away from 3,000, so he stands a reasonable chance of becoming just the sixth player to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Eddie Murray).
A future Hall of Famer, Beltre has had a remarkable career in many ways, one full of twists and turns. He had that monster season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004 when he hit 48 home runs, spent five years in obscurity with some bad Seattle Mariners teams, spent a season in Boston and then became a legend with the Rangers. As his career progressed, he remained largely unchanged as a hitter, one who was always aggressive but skilled enough to still do damage when chasing pitches out of the zone. In fact, he set a career-high walk rate in his first full season in the majors. That, I would suspect, is an unusual career path.
Instead, he has compensated by striking out less, even as strikeouts across the league have reached new records every season. He topped 100 strikeouts five times earlier in his career, but last year fanned just 66 times in 640 plate appearances. This year, he has 10 walks and 11 strikeouts. Beltre's approach wouldn't work for everyone, but it works for him, and his contact ability is sorely missed from so many others in today's game.
Here's a question: Is Beltre the best player to never win an MVP award? The modern BBWAA MVP awards began in 1931. Since that season, Beltre ranks 19th among position players in WAR at 90.9 (entering Tuesday's game). Only three of the 18 players with more WAR failed to win MVP honors, curiously two of them also third basemen: Eddie Mathews (96.2), Al Kaline (92.3) and Wade Boggs (91.1). Beltre will pass Kaline and Boggs in WAR this season.
To be fair, he has never deserved an MVP award. Beltre's best season was 2004, when he ranked second among NL position players with 9.5 WAR and also finished second in the MVP voting, both to Barry Bonds. His only other top-five MVP finish was in 2012 with the Rangers, when he finished third, after also ranking third in WAR. He has never been the best player in the league, but he has consistently been one of the 10 best. He's to be appreciated for his consistency, his durability, his defense and, of course, that head that he doesn't like to be touched.
Marathon meeting. After 14 innings, Denard Span hit a single to bring home Gorkys Hernandez and gave the Giants a 4-3 win over the Rockies. The Giants got their second win against the Rockies after nine straight losses.
— MLB (@MLB) June 28, 2017
— #Statcast (@statcast) June 28, 2017
Or was it George Springer's diving catch way over in right-center? I mean, how does a right fielder even have a chance in this area of the field?
Just another day in the life of George Springer. pic.twitter.com/oCOkMk6SUV
— MLB (@MLB) June 28, 2017
The Houston Astros mounted a furious rally in that game after trailing the Oakland Athletics 6-1 in the bottom of the ninth. Springer hit a three-run homer -- his 23rd of the season -- and they had two on with no outs before Josh Reddick popped up and Brian McCann grounded into a double play. Springer is third in the All-Star voting, and he'll be a deserving starter if he holds on with two days left in the voting. Ryon Healy's grand slam was the big hit for the A's. In related news, Healy is on pace for 38 home runs. But so are a lot of other guys!
Washington Nationals run wild against hapless Chicago Cubs. Trea Turner swiped four of the Nationals' seven bases against the combo of Jake Arrieta and Miguel Montero, all in just four innings. A few takeaways here:
1. Arrieta was awful, issuing six walks, and failed to go even five innings for the third time in four starts. It seems increasingly clear that we're not going to see the Arrieta of 2015 and the first half of 2016.
2. The Cubs have now allowed 62 stolen bases, after allowing 133 last year. The one guy who is suddenly effective at holding runners is Jon Lester, as base stealers are just 8-for-17 against him. Still, teams should look to run against them, especially when Montero is catching (runners are 31-for-31 off him, although this game was mostly on Arrieta).
3. A huge key for the Nationals has been the play of outfielders Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor, who combined to reach base five times. When Adam Eaton was lost for the year, the thought was the team might go after a veteran center fielder, but Taylor is slugging .525, and Goodwin, filling in for Jayson Werth, is hitting .273/.348/.545.
4. Max Scherzer's double-digit strikeout streak ended at six games, but he allowed just two hits in six innings. Over his past seven starts, he has a 1.00 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 54 innings and a .121 average against. He's the Cy Young favorite at the moment, but what about Scherzer as an MVP candidate?
Quick thoughts ... Great outing by Alex Cobb, taking a no-hitter into the seventh against the Pittsburgh Pirates and finishing with eight scoreless innings. Alex Colome blew the save, but the Tampa Bay Rays won in 10. That's four good outings in a row for Cobb, and if he can get on a roll, that's a nice 1-2 punch with Chris Archer. ... The New York Yankees keep finding ways to lose. They scored three in the eighth, only to see the Chicago White Sox score one in the eighth and win it against Dellin Betances on Jose Abreu's two-out, two-run single in the ninth. That's the first loss for the Yankees when leading entering the ninth. ... Here's what makes the Dodgers scary: Joc Pederson is heating up, hitting .319/.467/.745 in 15 games since returning from his concussion. He's another potential 30-homer bat. ... Some viewed Sean Newcomb, the huge lefty for the Atlanta Braves, as a reliever because he had trouble throwing strikes in the minors, but his first four starts have been terrific, with 21 strikeouts and eight walks and just one home run in 24⅓ innings. ... Odd decision by Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo to leave in Taijuan Walker to give up three runs in the seventh inning with the score tied against the St. Louis Cardinals, in an outing in which he walked five and struck out nobody. Maybe trying to teach him a lesson, telling him to battle through those games when you don't have your best stuff. Remember, last season the Mariners basically questioned his toughness and sent him down to the minors at one point.