Former Dodgers third baseman Adrián Beltré was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, and will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 21.
Beltré sailed in on his first ballot, receiving 366 of 385 votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America, his 95.1 percent well above the 75 percent required for induction.
Also inducted by the BBWAA were Twins catcher and first baseman Joe Mauer, also on the first ballot, and Rockies first baseman Todd Helton.
Beltré’s credentials from his 21-year career are vast. The five-time Gold Glove Award winner and four-time Sliver Slugger amassed 3,166 hits, good for 18th all-time, and his 636 doubles are 11th in major league history. Beltré’s 477 home runs are third-most by a primary third baseman in major league history, behind only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews.
At the hot corner, Beltre has the most hits (12 more than George Brett), the most total bases (5,309), the most RBI (1,707; 84 more than Chipper Jones), the second-most doubles (behind Brett), and third-most runs scored (1,524).
“This is as easy a Hall of Fame vote as they get, and a celebration awaits,” wrote Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs in December.
The first seven of Beltré’s major league seasons came with the Dodgers, who signed him out of the Dominican Republic in July 1994. Beltré was only 15 years old at the time, earlier than was allowed, but the Dodgers falsified his birth certificate to make him appear one year older. The team was sanctioned in 1999 — after Beltré’s first two years in the majors — including shutting down the Dodgers’ facility at Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic for a year.
At 19 years, 78 days old for his major league debut in 1999, Beltré is the youngest Dodger to debut in the last 59 seasons, since Willie Crawford (18 years, nine days in 1964).
Beltré grew up professionally with Los Angeles, and had potential breakout seasons at ages 20 and 21 in 1999-2000, combining above-average offense with excellent defense at third base to surpass three Wins Above Replacement in each season. The next three seasons saw regression offensively, averaging 19 home runs and 26 doubles with a 90 wRC+, but was still fairly valuable thanks to his glove. The Dodgers even tried to bring in players at the trade deadline in both 2002 (Tyler Houston) and 2003 (Robin Ventura) in hopes of spurring improvement from Beltré. For what it’s worth, even though Beltré didn’t lose any real playing time at third base, he did slug over .500 after each trade in that season.
In 2004, Beltré had his breakout season, perfectly timed just before reaching free agency. He led the majors with 48 home runs, achieving career highs in hits (200), runs scored (104), and runs batted in (121), leading the Dodgers to their first playoff berth in eight years. Beltré finished second in National League MVP voting, receiving six of 32 first-place votes and finished well behind peak superweapon Barry Bonds and his 1.422 OPS.
Beltré’s departure from Los Angeles wasn’t as bitter as Mike Piazza six years earlier, but it was more confusing, and annoying all the same. Beltré signed with the Mariners for five years and $64 million after the 2004 season, terms the Dodgers, under general manager Paul DePodesta and future bankrupt owner Frank McCourt, were unwilling to meet.
“They’d known Adrian with the Dodgers and they were excited about him,” Beltré’s agent Scott Boras told Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register in 2017. “They gave us a good offer and we told the Dodgers it was time, if they wanted to keep him. They were too late.”
In 2018, Beltré told Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, “I think it was more the GM than anything. ... It was a mistake on my part to show it too much, that I wanted to stay back then. They wanted to use that against me in the negotiation.”
Whatever the reason, Beltré was no longer a Dodger, though he still had 14 more years and 70 more bWAR left in the tank. Beltré was underrated in his five years with the Mariners, with Safeco Field suppressing the offensive numbers of right-handed hitters — sound familiar? — then signed for one year in Boston before finishing out of his career with eight years with the Rangers.
Beltré’s time with the Dodgers accounted for a quarter of his career bWAR and 30 percent of his fWAR. But despite the relatively short time in LA, Beltré’s 25.5 fWAR and 23.4 bWAR are the fifth-most with the Los Angeles Dodgers for any player elected to the Hall of Fame.
Most WAR with LA Dodgers by a Hall of Famer
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|LA Dodgers fWAR
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Coupled with first basemen Gil Hodges in 2022 and Fred McGriff in 2023, Beltré makes three consecutive years that a former Dodger is elected to the Hall of Fame. That’s the first three-year streak in Cooperstown since Greg Maddux, Pedro Martínez, and Mike Piazza from 2014-16.