With over 3,000 hits and his status as one of the greatest defensive third basemen in history, Adrian Beltre is already a lock for Cooperstown. On Thursday, he claimed a particularly cool slice of history. With his double off A’s starter Daniel Mengden, he collected hit number 3,054, surpassing Hall of Famer Rod Carew, whom he had tied on Tuesday night, for the most hits of any player born in Latin America.
Here’s the record-setting hit, whose significance was acknowledged by the Rangers’ broadcasters a few moments after the clip:
— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) April 5, 2018
At some point later this season, Beltre will likely overtake Ichiro Suzuki, now a 44-year-old reserve, as the all-time leader in hits for a player born outside of the United States:
|2||Adrian Beltre||Dominican Republic||3054||25|
|5||Roberto Clemente+||Puerto Rico||3000||31|
|6||Albert Pujols||Dominican Republic||2972||33|
|8||Ivan Rodriguez+||Puerto Rico||2844||49|
|10||Carlos Beltran||Puerto Rico||2725||61|
|11||Roberto Alomar+||Puerto Rico||2724||62|
|14||Vladimir Guerrero+||Dominican Republic||2590||86|
|15||Julio Franco||Dominican Republic||2586||87|
Note that I’ve included Puerto Rico-born players here. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory, and its citizens are US citizens, but the Caribbean island is also considered part of Latin America, and its ballplayers have long been recognized and celebrated within that context, particularly during and after the career of the iconic Clemente.
Looking at the above list, it’s remarkable that for all of the talented Latin American players that have starred in the game over the past several decades, only four have reached 3,000 hits (out of 24 such players since World War II), with Pujols poised to become the fifth; none has advanced much further than that. Clemente ranked 11th on the all-time hit list at the time of his December 31, 1972 death, but the total number of players above him has more than doubled in the 45 years since. He was 16th at the end of 1985, Carew’s final year, while Carew himself was 13th. Beltre, who turns 39 on April 7, is still playing at a consistently high enough level to think beyond 2018. Assuming he can total 200 hits over this season and next — a conservative assumption given that he had 106 in just 94 games last year — he’d climb to 14th all time, with 3,248, seven shy of Eddie Murray at number 13, and 35 shy of Willie Mays at number 12. He’d need a total of 3,320 to crack the all-time top 10.
(All of these rankings rely upon the inclusion of Cap Anson’s National Association stats from 1871-75 towards his career total of 3,435, as recognized by Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference. Elias Bureau and Major League Baseball, which do not recognize NA stats, credit him with 3,011 hits.)
Beltre is also bearing down on another very cool distinction within this group. His 84.2 WAR is the second-highest total of any player born outside of the US, trailing only Pujols, who’s at 89.1 but moving backwards (-2.1 since the start of 2017). Beltre will probably need at least another season to close the gap, but if he does, the Hall of Fame will have to break out a very narrow typeface for his plaque in order to fit all of his accomplishments.
Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.