The One That Got Away: Ex-Dodger Adrian Beltre, on His 41st Birthday
Don't let the headline fool you. Adrian Beltre wasn't the one that got away. He was one of several who should have been Dodgers, if not for life, then certainly for a longer portion of it.
Yes, we're dredging this up, but only for a moment, and the pain should recede quickly. Or not.
In less than five calendars years, the Los Angeles powers that be traded away two men who were a few short years away from Dodgers immortality. First and famously, Pedro Martinez to Montreal in 1993 and Mike Piazza to Florida (and then the Mets) in 1998. More on those some other time. If I feel like it. Which is doubtful.
Sure, it’s fair to say that L.A. -- an organization with a rich past, present and future penchant for finding, coveting and nurturing pitchers -- could not possibly have known what they had in Martinez (HOF, 2015) at the time, but it’s also fair to say they could have. And should have. Piazza, on the other hand, was already on his way to Cooperstown when Fox executive Chase Carey put his grubby paws all over Dodgers history. And out went Iron Mike (HOF, 2016). You don't trade a Hall of Famer. You just don't. Or so I'm told.
Stepping back in reverse chronological order, Walter O'Malley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. Because clearly, it would have been difficult to trade away the team's owner.
Say what you will about Don Sutton, who left Los Angeles for the division rival Astros after leading baseball in ERA (2.20) and WHIP (0.989) in 1980. He's a Hall of Famer (1998). And L.A. let him walk.
Roberto Clemente (HOF, 1973) is perhaps the most painful Dodger who got away, plucked via the Rule 5 Draft from the Brooklyn organization by their former leader, the ever baseball savvy Branch Rickey, then running things for the Pirates in 1954.
Beltre will be the next original Dodger to enter Cooperstown, most likely in July of 2024. Yeah, yeah, yeah; the career year in 2004, in which the 25-year-old third baseman hit .334/.388/.629, with 200 hits, 48 home runs and 121 RBIs, before choosing free agency. The club was all in. If you want to take Frank McCourt's word for it.
It doesn't matter that Beltre's five years in Seattle may have been less than HOF-caliber (.266/.317/.442, 103 HR, 396 RBIs). He moved onto Boston for the 2010 season (.321/.365/.553, 28, 102) and found his place in Texas. There Beltre hit .304/.357/.509, with 199 homers and 699 ribs, while playing some of the best eight American League seasons of third base defense since Brooks Robinson.
The final numbers are these: 2932 games, 11068 at bats, 1524 runs, 3166 hits, 636 doubles, 38 triples, 477 homers, 1707 RBIs and a .286/.339/.480 line.
Not the one who got away. Just the last one who got away. Unless Yordan Alvarez (traded for Josh Fields, God bless em) finds his way to Cooperstown 20 years from now. Do you think the Dodgers might have won a World Series by this time -- one little Series -- had even one of Martinez, Piazza and Beltre stuck around, let alone all three of them? What do you say we hold onto those Hall of Famers a little closer, huh? That would be nice, wouldn't it?
And remember, glove conquers all
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.