Carlos Beltran’s season ended last night in the same way it’s ended in each of the last 18 seasons he’s spent time playing Major League Baseball: without a championship. Beltran, one of the greatest postseason hitters of all time, with 16 home runs and a 192 wRC+ in 223 plate appearances, did what little he could against Dallas Keuchel, producing one of the three New York Yankees hits. Beltran, along with Adrian Beltre, are reminders that no matter how great a player is on the field, even in an age of great parity and multiple playoff berths, a World Series championship is far from certainty.
Beltran has had a Hall of Fame-caliber career on and off the field. With just eight more home runs, he will become the fifth player in MLB history to record at least 400 home runs and 300 steals (Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Andre Dawson). His 66 wins above replacement sit comfortably among the top 100 position players of all time. He has used his wealth and fame to start a baseball academy in his native Puerto Rico that has already produced more than 10 MLB draft picks even as Beltran himself continues to produce on the field. After a disappointing 2014 season and disappointing start to 2015 that had this author worried he was finished, Beltran hit .295/.357/.505 with a wRC+ of 134 following the month of April and added a few more WAR to his career ledger.
While Beltran’s exit is disappointing for those hoping he wins a ring before he retires, he’s not even the most accomplished player in this postseason without a title. Beltre debuted in 1998 just like Carlos Beltran and, over the last 18 seasons, has accumulated more than 10,000 plate appearances, coming close in 2011 to a World Series title but never getting over the hump. Among active players, only Alex Rodriguez has stepped to the plate more times than Beltre. As for performance, no active player has been more accomplished than Beltre without winning a title.
The chart below shows the active leaders in MLB WAR who have yet to win a World Series championship.
The list includes players, pitchers especially, still relatively young and with more time to win a championship, but at the very top is Beltre. Moving too much further down the list gets us to younger players like Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. Even considering only longevity by plate appearances, the only player with more than 7,000 PA not on the above list are Aramis Ramirez and Jose Reyes. Looking at pitchers with at least 2,000 innings, the only pitchers not on the above list all might be finished after this season: Dan Haren, Cliff Lee (who could have been put on the list above at 47.4 WAR), Aaron Harang, and Randy Wolf. By games pitched, Latroy Hawkins, Chad Qualls, Joe Nathan, and Fernando Rodney are among the leaders without a World Series ring.
While Carlos Beltran might have a somewhat difficult time getting elected to the Hall of Fame, Beltre’s case should be much easier. With 75 wins above replacement, Beltre ranks 42nd among all position players. Of the eligible players ahead of him, only Barry Bonds and Jeff Bagwell are not in the Hall of Fame. He is considered one of the greatest defensive third basemen of all time, and with more than 400 career home runs and nearly 2,800 hits, Beltre also ranks high in statistics that traditionalists value. If he is not already at no doubt, lock status, he will be there shortly. Since the World Series begain in 1903, there are 34 position players ahead of Beltre in WAR. Only Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jeff Bagwell did not play on a World Series-winning team.
Add to this collection of superlatives that Beltre does not appear close to finishing his career even as he turns 37 at the beginning of next season. The Rangers have already picked up a $16 million option that would have vested after Beltre’s performance this season. In the last 30 seasons, the only players to put up more than Beltre’s 10.2 WAR over their age-35 and age-36 season are Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, and Edgar Martinez. Beltre was one of only eight players at either age 36 or above to qualify for the batting title and, with 4.6 WAR, he was nearly two full wins ahead of second-place David Ortiz in his age bracket and 25th among all position players. Beltre’s offense fell off a bit this season as his wRC+ dropped to a still-above-average 108 — due in no small part to a sprained thumb he suffered the first half — but in the second half, Beltre hit .318/.376/.509 with a 136 wRC+, helping the Rangers along their surprising run to the playoffs.
At this time of year, many fans lose their ability to cheer for their favorite team as the field is whittled down. Articles telling fans who they should root for if their team is out of it tend to pop up as teams try to end droughts and whether certain fans deserve a title after supporting years of ineptitude. If supporting another team is not desirable, cheering for Adrian Beltre himself should be an appealing alternative. If any current player is deserving of a title based on excellence throughout his career, it is Adrian Beltre.
Addendum: Below is a more complete list of players by WAR who are currently competing in the playoffs. The cutoff was the top-50 active position players, plus any pitchers above the 50th position player.
|Troy Tulowitzki||Blue Jays||1089||4598||35.5|
|Russell Martin||Blue Jays||1292||5147||32.8|
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||1403||5642||32.7|
|David Price||Blue Jays||218||1441.2||32.0|
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.