SEATTLE -- There are those who believe Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre has played his last game in the Major Leagues.
However, Beltre, speaking before and after the Rangers' 3-1 loss to the Mariners on Sunday, said he is "right down the middle" on the possibility of retiring, and gave no indication of a final decision before heading back with his family to their home in Southern California.
"It's weird, I just don't know right now," Beltre said.
Beltre said he will take his time before making his decision.
"I do not know when I'm going to decide," Beltre said. "I am going to go home, relax, take a vacation with the family and then take 10 days to think about it, but I don't know when that is going to be."
There is one reason why Beltre would want to return and he showed that Sunday. He still loves the game.
"I love the competition," Beltre said. "There's a side of me there that's never going to die. I know that I can still compete -- maybe not the way that I used to because there's aging -- but I can still play the game. I love the game, I love the competition. I like to be out here. It's a fun game. It's what I've done since I was a little kid. I have nothing else to do but play baseball."
He was still having fun Sunday afternoon. Beltre reached on a single in the second inning, giving him 3,166 hits for his career. He then got doubled off when Joey Gallo hit a wicked line drive at first baseman Ryon Healy. After the play, Beltre ran over to the Mariners dugout and hugged Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, his former teammate in Seattle and one of his closest friends.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Mariners had Healy at second and catcher David Freitas at first with two outs when Guillermo Heredia hit a hard grounder right at Beltre. Healy stopped, thinking Beltre would immediately step on third for the inning-ending force. But Beltre just stood there smiling and staring at Healy, beckoning him to run to third so he could be tagged out.
That was his last defensive play. Beltre flied out in his second at-bat in the top of the fifth. Beltre took the field in the bottom of the inning, before being replaced defensively by Jurickson Profar. He left the field to another standing ovation, along with hugs and handshakes from his teammates.
They all shared their feelings with him during the moment. It was a scene similar to the one last Sunday in Arlington where Beltre played potentially his final home game at Globe Life Park.
"Yeah it was emotional," Beltre said. "Some of the guys said stuff to me that was meaningful to me, they spoke from the heart. It was emotional. I wasn't expecting that. They told me a couple of things that were emotional, that was deep and got me choked up. You could tell they were speaking from the heart and it got to me. I tried to block it out a little bit because I didn't want to start weeping."
Beltre has yet to announce anything, but the last couple of weeks have taken on the appearance of an emotional farewell tour of a player ready to call it a career.
"I love the game," Beltre said. "But it's just ... maybe it's just time for me to go become a full-time husband, a full-time dad. That's part of my life -- be selfish with my family. They live in a different state. Maybe it's time. And like I said before, I love the game, and I appreciate everything about it, but I want to go on my own terms, too."
That means he does not want his career to end because of an injury or lack of production. Beltre finished this season strong, hitting .279 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 18 RBIs over 24 games in September. He was the Rangers' Player of the Month for the 12th time in his career.
"If I do come back next year," Beltre said. "If I don't stay healthy, if I don't play the way I want to, I don't want to be pushed out of the game. So, I want to go on my own terms, so maybe this is some sign. You want to quit -- well, not 'quit' because I'm not quitting, but I just use the term 'quit while you're ahead."
Shin-Soo Choo was 1-for-3 and finished hitting .264 for the season. That was the highest on the Rangers among players with enough qualifying plate appearances. That's the lowest average to lead the Rangers in hitting since Dick Billings did so with a .254 average in 1972.
HE SAID IT
"The experience that the young guys gained, it's invaluable. That's what you look at in these situations, especially as bad as the season went. You look at the positives, that they gained some valuable experience going in to play as a group next year." -- Rangers interim manager Don Wakamatsu