Every year at the Major League Baseball winter meetings, Commissioner Bud Selig addresses the assembled cash providers and architects of the 30 teams and proceeds to roast one.
He basically chooses the worst deal of the offseason, and in 2011 he believed that to be the Texas Rangers’ signing of Adrian Beltre for five years and $80 million.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was not in the room when this went down; team president Nolan Ryan told him later, in passing, with a bemused chuckle. The translation for you non-Texans: We either stepped in it, JD, or we are going to show them yankees (or Yankees).
They showed them all right. Or better yet, Beltre has.
He has been phenomenal in the two years since signing with Texas, a reliably destructive bat and even more lethal at third base. How good has Beltre been? So much so there is an argument to be made for him as the American League Most Valuable Player.
This is not one of those “Beltre is the MVP and anybody who does not think so is an idiot” Skip Bayless arguments. It is more my belief that Beltre needs to be in the discussion with Mike Trout and Derek Jeter, Miggy Cabrera and, yes, Josh Hamilton.
I probably should start by admitting the argument for Beltre is complicated. This is mostly because many do not believe him to be the most valuable Ranger. As my best baseball friend emailed me — somewhat smugly, I might add — after I told him my Beltre theory: “Hamilton has more HR and RBI, slightly above in slugging, on-base percentage and OPS, has way more Ks — but people say Ks don’t matter anymore. Hamilton’s stats are definitely better than Beltre’s, I’d say. Although Beltre’s been way more consistent.”
I happen to value consistency. I like my most valuables to be dependable as well. Yet I realize this is not the MDP. This is about value, and nothing underlines value quite like WAR — or, how many more “Wins Above Replacement” a player gives his team compared with a bench player at the same position.
Of all the sexy hipster stats, I love WAR the most because it essentially is the statistic that shows a player’s total contribution, or value, to the team.
Beltre’s WAR is +5.9 wins, according to baseball-reference.com. That’s third in the AL and tied for seventh in MLB. Yes, it is way behind Trout, whose WAR is an utterly ridiculous +10-point-something, last I checked.
Beltre’s value is in the obvious — hitting .318 with 92 RBIs and 32 home runs — and that’s batting behind Hamilton, who clears a lot of bases, too. Beltre also excels with the glove. He makes a play a game, it seems, that defies fielding norms.
He actually injured his shoulder Wednesday making just such a play. An MRI revealed no damage, and he’s listed as day to day. He could be back in the lineup by Friday.
Good thing, because the Rangers would miss him. Earlier this season, Beltre homered only once over a 29-game stretch that happened to coincide with a Rangers skid. His absences, both production-wise and now in actuality, underline his value. When it was unknown how serious the Beltre injury was, it made you wonder if Oakland could overtake the Rangers.
Truth is, in a year when Michael Young has been abysmal and Colby Lewis was lost for the season and the Rangers were coming off the most brutal way to lose a World Series — St. Louis down to its last strike and finding a way to win — Beltre has been valuable.
At the plate.
In the field.
In the clubhouse.
He is the most valuable Ranger, and this adds him to the list of those deserving considering for AL MVP. And if I had a vote, he’d have a vote because there is value in consistently being valuable.