Adrián Beltré’s Major League career is among the more interesting ones in recent memory.
Beginning as a top prospect, Beltré played through various ups and downs before becoming one of baseball’s best personalities and players for the Rangers in the 2010s.
Adrian Beltre is a national treasure pic.twitter.com/NCRzb1vk9d
— Baseball (@mlbelites_) August 31, 2022
Adrián Beltré was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on April 7, 1979, to parents Bienvenido and Andrea.
Bienvenido was a professional baseball player in the Dominican Republic and often took his son Adrián to his games as a young boy.
Adrián quickly fell in love with the game of baseball and began to play with friends whenever and wherever he could.
He and his friends would use anything they could find to play, including tennis balls, broomsticks, and socks.
He also played tennis and basketball often, but baseball was the game he loved most.
In his early teens, Beltré began attending a baseball school after his father had him meet the school’s organizer, Franklin Rodriguez.
Multiple Major League players had practiced under Rodriguez, and Beltré was determined to become good enough to be a professional like his father.
Rodriguez had connections to multiple scouts representing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who quickly became enamored with the way the young Beltré played the game.
He had a great arm and hit the ball hard. At just the age of 15, Beltré signed a contract with the Dodgers.
Making his professional debut in 1995, Beltré impressed in the Dominican Summer League.
He worked out and practiced at one of the Dodgers’ facilities in Puerto Rico, and dedicated much of his time to becoming the best ballplayer he could be.
The following year, the Dodgers brought Beltré to the United States and assigned him to their Single-A club at age 17.
While adjusting to life in the United States and speaking very little English, Beltré excelled on the field. He batted over .300 and hit 26 home runs in stints at Single-A and High-A.
He quickly rose to the top of the prospect lists and was being touted as the next great young Dodger.
In 1997, Beltré was named the Florida State League’s MVP after leading the league in home runs and RBI.
His final year playing in the minor leagues would be 1998, as the Dodgers called Beltré up to the big leagues in late June.
Listed as baseball’s third-best prospect, Beltré made his debut against the Anaheim Angels, collecting two hits.
He struggled throughout the rest of the summer, but the Dodgers made him their starting third baseman for the foreseeable future based on his potential.
Still not even 20 years old, Beltré won the Dominican League’s MVP Award in the offseason and worked to become a better hitter in anticipation of his first full season in Los Angeles.
Beltré’s work paid off in 1999, a season in which he played in almost all of the Dodgers’ games and hit 15 home runs as their third baseman.
His original signing came under scrutiny in 1999, as he revealed the Dodgers had signed him at age 15, not the legally-required age of 16.
As a result, the Dodgers were fined by MLB, and multiple scouts were suspended.
A New Millennium
The year 2000 was Beltré’s best season yet.
He improved in nearly every offensive category, hitting 20 home runs for the first time in his career.
After an appendectomy that nearly killed him in the Dominican Republic, Beltré returned for the 2001 season weaker and more sluggish than he had been in the previous two seasons.
He made his first appearance in May but struggled the entire season.
His power was nearly non-existent, and he never seemed comfortable at the plate.
His struggles would carry into the next two seasons with the Dodgers, as he continually became worse at the plate.
A player who was once hailed as the number three prospect in all of baseball, the Dodgers concluded that Beltré was a bust and attempted to trade him multiple times.
Out of the blue, Beltré had a terrific 2004 season, hitting a whopping 48 home runs to lead the National League.
Adrián Beltré's 2004 Season was ELITE:
• Slashed .334/.388/.629 w/a 1.017 OPS
• Hit 48 HR (Most in MLB)
• 9.7 fWAR (2nd MLB)
• 3 GSH (tied for most in LAD history)
• 2nd in NL MVP
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) June 13, 2021
In addition to his power surge, Beltré also demonstrated a noticeable improvement defensively.
He would finish the season second in the NL MVP race to San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds.
After the Dodgers lost the NLDS to the eventual National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals, Beltré became a free agent for the first time in his career.
The Seattle Mariners, looking to get over their own playoff woes, signed Beltré to a five-year deal worth $64 million.
His first season in Seattle was a rough one, as he came down from his 2004 numbers and hit just 19 home runs, 19 fewer than he had the year prior.
In 2006, Beltré improved but was still not the player he had been during his final season in Los Angeles.
To make matters worse, the Mariners were playing losing baseball, finishing with losing records in all but one year during Beltré’s tenure.
That lone season came in 2007, when the Mariners finished 88-74, thanks in part to Beltré finding his groove for the first time in three years.
He finished the 2007 season batting .276 with 26 home runs and 99 RBI, also winning his first Gold Glove Award at third base.
Beltré’s tenure in Seattle would last through the 2009 season.
His hitting was consistent and above-average, but his defense had become elite, and he was now viewed as one of if not the best defender in the Major Leagues.
After a good 2008 season, Beltré missed more than 50 games due to injury in 2009 and failed to crack double-digit home runs.
The Mariners never played in the postseason while Beltré was manning the hot corner, and many believed he had failed to live up to his hefty contract.
Nevertheless, the city of Seattle and the Mariners’ players looked up to Beltré and viewed him as a steady veteran presence who always did his best to inspire the younger players and help them to not take themselves so seriously.
The team attempted to bring Beltré back on a low-risk one-year contract, but he declined and opted to sign with the Boston Red Sox.
Getting Better with Age
Now 30, there was skepticism surrounding Beltré.
A former top prospect, Beltré had underperformed in his career with a couple of seasons of greatness sprinkled in.
Beltré excelled during his only season in Boston, however, making the American League All-Star team and having one of the best overall seasons of his career.
He led the league in doubles and posted a batting average of .321 with 28 home runs.
Despite having a lineup that boasted Beltré, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz, the Red Sox failed to make the postseason and finished with a record of 89-73, good for third in the AL East.
Beltré became a free agent for the second season in a row, but this time, he was viewed as one of the top players available for signing.
The defending AL-champion Texas Rangers signed Beltré to a huge six-year deal worth almost $100 million.
Coming off a World Series defeat to the Giants the year before, the Rangers were looking to add defense, offense, and a veteran presence to their team.
Beltré ticked all those boxes, and he did not miss a beat.
In his first season in Arlington, Beltré continued his hot hitting and finished with 32 home runs and a .296 batting average despite having missed a month and a half due to injury.
Fans selected him for his second AL All-Star team, on which he would serve as the starting third baseman for the first time.
Beltré made the postseason for the first time since 2004 as the Rangers won 96 games and the AL West for the second consecutive season.
Texas defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and then the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS to capture their second straight AL pennant.
Beltré hit exceptionally well against the Rays but struggled against the Tigers.
Another Shot at a Ring
Facing the Cardinals in the World Series, Beltré went on a tear.
He collected a hit in nearly every one of the seven games played, including a clutch home run in Game Five.
The Rangers would lose in the World Series once again despite Beltré’s exceptional offensive performance.
Coming off that heartbreaking loss in the World Series, Beltré had one of his best seasons in 2012 and was one of the best overall players in the league.
He clobbered 36 home runs and made another start at third base for the AL in the All-Star Game, his third straight selection.
Beltré also took home another Gold Glove and finished in the top three in the AL MVP vote.
Beltré’s consistency at the plate, coupled with Josh Hamilton’s immense power and the Rangers’ excellent pitching staff led the team to 93 wins, earning them a spot in the first-ever Wildcard Game.
The Oakland Athletics would defeat them by a score of 1-0, with Beltré going 0 for 4.
Now two seasons into his stint with the Rangers, Beltré was already a fan favorite and one of the more fun personalities on the team.
He quickly became one of the most recognizable faces in the game, as fans enjoyed his silliness and antics on the field and in the dugout with his teammates.
It did not hurt that he was also one of the best players in the American League.
Over the next few seasons, Beltré remained remarkably consistent in the field and in the batter’s box.
Beltré failed to make the All-Star team for the fourth time in 2013 despite finishing the season with 30 home runs, 92 RBI, and leading the AL in hits.
And the man of the night, Adrian Beltre – the 2013 Rangers Player of the Year pic.twitter.com/V8c9GhLlSW
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) January 25, 2014
The Rangers finished the season tied with the Rays for the second Wildcard spot and played one game to determine who would make it.
The Rangers lost, failing to make the postseason despite their 91 wins.
Hitting Some Big Milestones
In 2014, the team finished dead last in the AL West with an abysmal 67-95 record, uncharacteristic for a team coming off two pennants, an additional postseason appearance, and nearly another one in 2013.
Beltré finished the 2014 season hitting .324 with 19 home runs and 77 RBI, making his fourth and final All-Star Game of his career.
After a rough showing in 2014, Texas returned to the postseason in 2015 with 88 wins and a first-place finish in the AL West.
The Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays played in of the most exciting Divisional Series to date, with the Blue Jays beating the Rangers in five games.
Despite another postseason loss, Beltré continued to be one of the most consistent players in baseball and began to be seen as a potential Hall of Famer.
He became just the fifth third baseman in baseball history to reach 400 home runs and finished the season with 18 home runs and a .287 batting average.
The Rangers signed Beltré to a two-year extension that would take him through his age 39 season in 2018.
In the final three seasons of his career, Beltré continued to be a productive player both in the field and at the plate.
He was also a fantastic team leader, mentoring young players like shortstop Elvis Andrus, with whom he would often joke around on the field and in the clubhouse.
Beltré had become one of the most likable and admired players in the game at this point in his career.
In his final seasons, Beltré began reaching significant milestones, including notching his 3,000th career hit during the 2017 season.
Time to Go
He would retire after 2018, as his bat began to decline significantly, and the Rangers were not competitive.
Adrian Beltre has announced his retirement from @MLB. What a career it was!
— SportsMemorabilia (@SportsMem) November 20, 2018
Announcing his retirement in November of 2018, Adrián Beltré said, “I have thought about it a lot, and although I appreciate all the opportunities that baseball has given me, it’s time to call it a career. I have enjoyed the privilege of playing professional baseball since I was 15 years old. I have been blessed to have played 21 seasons at the highest level in Major League Baseball.”
Beltré finished his impressive career among the best third basemen to ever play the game.
In his career, he amassed 477 home runs, collected 3,166 hits, batted a career .286, and totaled 94 WAR (Wins above Replacement).
He was selected to four AL All-Star teams, won five Gold Glove Awards, and won four Silver Slugger Awards.
Beltré finished his career as the all-time leader among third basemen in hits and RBI and is the only third baseman in Major League history to hit 400 home runs while collecting more than 3,000 hits.
Life after Baseball
Not even a year after his retirement, the Rangers held a ceremony to retire Beltré’s number 29.
In a pregame ceremony in June of 2019, joined by former teammates Michael Young, David Murphy, and Prince Fielder, among others, Beltré reflected on his career in Texas.
To a crowd of more than 40,000 fans, Beltré said, “The Rangers mean a lot to me. They gave me the chance to come to this city and join what was already a good team and give me a chance to win the World Series. My expectations, it ended up being better than what I thought. My teammates were really good and the fans were unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked more from the fans and the support, not only to me but the entire organization.”
In August of 2021, the Rangers inducted Beltré into their team Hall of Fame along with Chuck Morgan, the team’s longtime public address announcer.
The ceremony took place at Globe Life Field, the Rangers’ new stadium that opened after Beltré had retired.
Elvis Andrus, Beltré’s friend and teammate in Texas, was not able to attend the ceremony due to family commitments but recorded a video message congratulating Beltré on his induction.
Beltré’s induction to the Rangers’ Hall of Fame is likely a precursor to his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2024.
Outside of baseball, Beltré has been involved in numerous charitable causes in Texas and around the globe.
He has contributed to multiple charities related to Major League Baseball, including the RBI program and the Rangers Community Fund.
Adrián and his wife Sandra currently run Uncork for a Cause, an organization that holds charitable wine events that donates proceeds to the Texas Rangers Foundation.
He is also involved in causes in his native Dominican Republic, and he returns there often.
While he was never a flashy player or even a superstar, Adrián Beltré slowly ascended to become one of the greatest third basemen the game of baseball has ever seen.
Beginning as one of the most highly-touted prospects in all of baseball with the Dodgers, Beltré’s play was underwhelming for the first decade of his career with good seasons sprinkled in.
It was not until he joined the Rangers when he was in his 30s that he became one of the best right-handed hitters in the game to go along with his elite defense at the hot corner.
Beltré’s time in Texas transformed him from a decent player to one of the game’s most entertaining personalities and a likely Hall of Famer.
While he may not be as famous as Mike Schmidt or have played as long as Brooks Robinson, Adrián Beltré’s contributions to the game will be remembered when he is enshrined in Cooperstown.