Adrian Beltre emerged as one of the game's big-time players in the early 2000s. Now that the Rangers star is closing in on the end of his playing career, the milestones are beginning to point toward possible enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
Beltre is one of those rare guys who emerge as the leader of a team without seeking the role. He has a 90.8 career WAR, which ranks 44th all-time and is second among active players to Albert Pujols. He is also the leader among active players in games played, games played at third base, and RBIs at third base.
In his first six years with the Rangers, Beltre was an All-Star three times, a Gold Glove Award winner three times and a Silver Slugger Award winner twice. In that span, he has also finished in the top 15 for the American League MVP Award six times -- and the top 10 four times.
Beltre talked about how his career will be remembered, particularly in his native Dominican Republic, in this week's Q&A.
MLB.com: With you closing in on 3,000 [hits], Wade Boggs said, "That means Cooperstown when he gets 3,000 hits." The fact there are only two Dominicans in the Hall of Fame -- Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez -- I assume that would be a special honor for you.
Beltre: I'm aware of the situation, but I'm not thinking, like, "That's going to put me in the Hall of Fame." Obviously it's a big accomplishment and I'm very proud of what I have done, but I don't want to get caught up on the Hall of Fame and what that means and how or what I should have done. We'll see when I get there.
MLB.com: From talking to Dominican players over the years, it is ever-apparent the pride the countrymen take in what players such as yourself accomplish. It seems like it would be a big deal for the Dominican people for you to be enshrined.
Beltre: I think it would be big. I mean, the No. 1 sport in the Dominican is baseball. Dominican people have breakfast and lunch and dinner, and they talk about baseball. They are very supportive of the players from the Dominican.
MLB.com: And it seems like there are a few of your countrymen in line for the honor in addition to yourself.
Beltre: Vladimir Guerrero is probably going to get in next year. Big Papi's going to be in soon. We have a lot of players who are beloved in our country. I think that for me to be one of those guys, who hopefully they can look up and be proud of what I've done in my career, would be special. It's nice to know that people are looking up to me and respect me for all I have done in this sport.
MLB.com: It would seem your career really turned around with the year you spent in Boston, and then the time you have been with the Rangers. You are in your late 30s. Isn't that supposed to be the backside of life?
Beltre: It's true that I went through a little rough time in Seattle. I did not play to the potential that I wanted to play to. Once I got to Boston, I felt comfortable with that ballclub and that lineup. And I just found over time that I don't have to try that much. Just put the work in, and do anything I need to do to get ready for that game, and let my ability just take off. Obviously, experience helps a lot. I study the game a lot. I'm trying to make sure that I'm prepared for the game. When you are on a team that has good ballplayers and you get help, as a playoff contending team, sometimes that'll get a little bit more out of you, and I think that may be the case here.
MLB.com: Nolan Ryan indicated that the year you and Cliff Lee were free agents, he was emphatic that the guy the Rangers had to have was you, because he felt you would help them win, and without you the Rangers couldn't win. I believe he said the team might win with Lee and it could also win without him, but that they could win with you but couldn't win without you.
Beltre: I'm honored that he was one of the guys that pushed for me to be here. I'm glad he did, because I think I am in the right place. It's been such a nice six years of great teammates. We have accomplished good things, but not enough. We have had a good team, we have a good enough team to be able to win the World Series. We haven't got there yet. But I like our chances, and I like where I am.
MLB.com: Having been around Don Baylor with the Angels and Hal McRae with the Royals, what seemed obvious is a player doesn't walk in and decide he is going to be a leader. That is something that evolves because of the person, not because of conscious desire.
Beltre: It's not a conscious effort. We play for a while, and you want to be sure that your team is doing the right thing. You want your teammates following what needs to be done to be prepared for the game. In this ballclub, it has been easy because it's not only me. We have a lot of veteran guys that step up, and we keep this clubhouse fun. We keep it open in the sense of nobody here is better than anybody. We have really good relationships with each other. We just make sure that everybody follows rules and is ready to play every day. We make sure that everybody understands that the main goal here is to win the World Series and not just to show up and play a game.
MLB.com: But you don't come in and say that. That's when it evolves into where people look to you. But the World Series still remains a thing. ... That's the missing ingredient, right?
Beltre: The World Series, that's the only thing that keeps me going every day. For me, I have had a decent career. I have accomplished a couple things. I have made good money. I enjoy this game. But I want to be a champion. That's what drives me every day, because I want to win the World Series. I want to go home knowing that I have done it. I want to make sure that these guys understand that, because it's not easy to get there. It's not easy to get there, and not only do you get there, you have to win it, too. I've been there, but I haven't really come out on top.
MLB.com: You were close, though.
Beltre: Close. Really close, but it's a bit of a sour situation whenever you think about it. But I want to make sure these guys understand that it's not easy to get there, and that it's going to take a lot, because it's a competition. I tell them, "You guys may feel, 'OK we can make it this year and the next year.' For me, my window is closing every day." I'm pretty sure that if we [win], it's going to make it a lot easier for me to just say, "I'm going to go home and be with my kids. And I'm going to probably hang it up and get somebody else to play for me."
MLB.com: Boggs said you could be the last 3,000-hit man, because with the money players make now, the motivation to grind out an extra year or two isn't there. He said, "They have $4 billion when they've been in the game 10 years. They don't need to stay around to get 3,000 hits."
Beltre: That's a good way to put it, but I think that when you like the game, and you're good enough to compete and contribute to the ballclub, and you still enjoy the game, why go home? I understand, like, if probably your body is not well enough to be competing with the young guys and you're not producing, you're not helping the team, that's different. You can realize, "You know what, I'm not good enough. I'm going to go home." Like with Big Papi last year, yeah, he was 40, but he was hitting like he was 25. So, yeah, he made a decision to go because he wanted to go, not because he had a lot of money and all that stuff. He just felt like his body wasn't responding the way he wanted it to. He didn't want to go through that. When you're still producing that way, I mean, why go home?
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.