|Beltran Looking Like Star Again||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on July 01, 2012
Beltran looks as strong as his days in Kansas City. He’s surprisingly leading the NL in home runs with 20 and RBIs with 59.
Over his career, Beltran has been consistently productive when he’s been healthy. Though his Mets career was plagued by injury, he stills ranks among franchise leaders in the major offensive categories.
Photo by Dave Fletcher, used under creative commons license.
His skills certainly diminished from the day he signed a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets after his eight home runs in the 2004 playoffs, but teams this offseason were attracted to his decent power bat and above-average outfield defense.
Who would have thought that the 35-year-old Beltran would be tearing up the NL like he has over the first three months of the season though? In addition to his power and RBI numbers, he’s also hitting .308 and has a .393 on-base percentage. If he keeps up this pace, he’ll certainly be in the discussion for NL MVP.
Earlier this season, Beltran became the first switch-hitter to join the 300-300 club (home runs and stolen bases) when he stole his seventh base of the season. He joined an impressive group including Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds, Andre Dawson, Steve Finley, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez and Reggie Sanders.
There has to be an explanation for Beltran’s sudden revival. He did have an overall good season last year, but the numbers he’s putting up right now are quite unexpected.
A likely reason has to do with the fact that he is no longer under the bright spotlights of the New York market. After playing in Kansas City for so long, coming to New York was definitely a risk, considering he was expected to be the new face of the franchise after signing the mega contract.
However, Beltran has always been more suited to be a role player on a team. His best year with the Mets came in 2006, when Carlos Delgado, David Wright and Jose Reyes also had big years around him.
St. Louis is by no means a small baseball market, but with the departure of Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim, much of the focus has been off the team. The Cardinals got off to a slow start but have turned it around thanks in part to Beltran.
Beltran certainly was not expected to be the sole replacement for Pujols, but ironically he’s putting up Pujols-like numbers early in the season. Pujols has just started regaining his stroke in LA, but his numbers are way behind Beltran’s.
Sometimes a change of scenery can really help a player, especially a veteran. Though a two-year deal to an injury-prone 35-year-old outfielder was originally construed as crazy, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak looks like a genius now.
But of course, Beltran is only as productive as his next injury permits. Based on his track record, it’s bound to happen.