In my 12th grade AP literature class, we were assigned to give a graduation speech to the class of 2009. We could talk about whatever we wanted. It was one of the more enjoyable assignments of the year.
I spoke about baseball. Well, what else did you expect? Here is how I started my speech:
Congratulations to the Hendrick Hudson High School class of 2009. You know, there are
so many different ways of looking at the next part of our lives, and like so many different
things I view, I look at this in terms of baseball. As a result, I have nine positions I want
to share with you that I hope will serve you in good stead.
And then I proceeded to give nine pieces of advice and compared all of them to baseball.
It is my second piece of advice that I have been thinking about lately.
2 – Play hard. Don’t be like Adrian Beltre, the Dodgers third baseman who hit 48 home
runs in his contract year in 2004. He knew he was going to be a free agent at the end of
the year, and as a result, his performance significantly increased. In every other season,
Beltre has struggled to hit even 20 home runs. Play each game like it’s your last, treat
each opportunity as if it’s a stepping stone for something big, and don’t be afraid to get
your uniform dirty. Play hard from the first pitch.
Yes, you may remember that Adrian Beltre had his finest season in 2004, when he hit .334 with 48 home runs and finished second in the MVP voting. He then signed a big contact with the Seattle Mariners and had five mostly mediocre seasons.
But since 2010, he has been the best third baseman in baseball.
2010: 154 games, .321/.365/.553, 28 HR, 141 OPS+
2011: 124 games, .296/.331/.561, 32 HR, 131 OPS+
2012: 156 games, .321/.359/.561, 36 HR, 139 OPS+
2013: 161 games, .315/.371/.509, 30 HR, 137 OPS+
I would like to formally apologize to Adrian Beltre. He has put together a marvelous career. He is again having a fine season in 2014, his seventeenth in the majors. Through 93 games, he is hitting .321 with 15 home runs and a 141 OPS+.
Beltre got an early start. He had just turned 19 when he made his debut for the Dodgers in 1998. He is 35 now, and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He is building a strong case for the Hall of Fame. He is also a complete goofball.
Beltre is probably one of the ten best third basemen of all time. He is third all time for games played at the position – this doesn’t sound right, but it is. He will soon surpass 400 home runs and 2,600 hits. His career WAR is 75, well above the threshold for a Hall of Famer.
His defense is legendary. He has won four Gold Gloves and his career defensive WAR (22.6) trails only Brooks Robinson and Buddy Bell.
Beltre needs about three more solid seasons to reach 3,000 hits, which, I think, would guarantee him a spot in Cooperstown.
Adrian, if you are reading this, I am sorry for doubting you in my high school graduation speech.