Now in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Carlos Beltrán's candidacy is nothing short of polarizing. On merit alone, the longtime center fielder has the best case for election among all the first-timers this year based on his performance and production over a 20-year big league career. The Puerto Rican-born Beltrán was, after all, a Rookie of the Year winner (1999), a nine-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove honoree.
Beltrán's link, however, to the Astros' sign-stealing scandal from 2017 -- the final season of his playing days -- complicates matters.
While Baseball Writers' Association of America voters have to weigh that factor as they consider whether to put a check next to Beltrán's name, let's focus on his on-field exploits here. Although he cracked the top five in MVP voting only once (finishing fourth in the NL in 2006) and fell short of many of the "conventional milestones," like 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, here are five stats that make a strong case for Beltrán's place in Cooperstown.
1,500 Runs and 1,500 RBIs
Only 38 players in AL/NL history have reached the 1,500 mark in both runs scored and runs batted in. With 1,582 runs and 1,587 RBIs, Beltrán is one of them.
Of those, 29 have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame -- and that does not count Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols and Adrián Beltré, each of whom is not yet eligible but should be a first-ballot electee.
That leaves only the following names not in Cooperstown: Alex Rodríguez, Manny Ramírez, Gary Sheffield, Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro -- a group of superstars who have all been connected to performance-enhancing drugs in some form.
Put simply, if a player scores and drives in 1,500 runs, Hall of Fame induction usually follows.
500 Doubles, 400 Home Runs and 300 Stolen Bases
Even more rare is the 500/400/300 club.
Only five players in AL/NL history have achieved 500 doubles, 400 homers and 300 steals in their careers. Here's the list in full: Rodríguez, Bonds, Andre Dawson, Willie Mays ... and Beltrán, who has 565 two-baggers, 435 dingers and 312 thefts. That is a collection of the most dynamic power-speed threats baseball has ever seen.
What's wild is that even if you remove the qualifier for 500 doubles, the list remains unchanged: It's the same five players -- and only them. If you want to boil down Beltrán's case to a single stat, this is as persuasive as any.
Unparalleled Stolen Base Rate
Speaking of swipes, Beltrán's career stolen base success rate is the best among all players with at least 200 career steals in the Live Ball Era (since 1920).
Highest SB% in the Live Ball Era (minimum 200 SB)
- Carlos Beltrán: 86.43% (312 SB, 49 CS)
- Tim Raines: 84.70% (808 SB, 146 CS)
- Mike Trout: 84.65% (204 SB, 37 CS)
- Trea Turner: 84.56% (230 SB, 42 CS)
- Jarrod Dyson: 84.44% (266 SB, 49 CS)
It's even more noteworthy when laid out like so, because you can see the sizable gap between Beltrán at the top compared to the much smaller percentage-point differences that round out the rest of the top five.
70 WAR Career Threshold
The 10 others? Many of the names already have been mentioned: Pujols, Beltré, Rodríguez, Bonds and Palmeiro. The five remaining are Pete Rose, Scott Rolen (on the ballot and trending toward being elected), Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich -- a pair of second basemen who are two of the most overlooked players in the history of Hall voting -- and, none other than Mike Trout, who of course still is active and almost certainly will be a first-balloter.
1.000 Postseason OPS
Last but certainly not least, there's Beltrán's incredible October résumé.
In his postseason career, he slashed .307/.412/.609 -- good for a 1.021 OPS that checks in among the top 10 in AL/NL history.
Highest Postseason OPS (minimum 100 PA)
- Lou Gehrig: 1.214 OPS
- Babe Ruth: 1.214 OPS
- Randy Arozarena: 1.121 OPS
- Lenny Dykstra: 1.094 OPS
- Hank Greenberg: 1.044 OPS
- Paul Molitor: 1.026 OPS
- George Brett: 1.023 OPS
- Carlos Beltrán: 1.021 OPS
- Albert Pujols: .995 OPS
- J.D. Martinez: .987
Beltrán's most memorable playoff performance came in 2004 with the Astros, when he hit eight homers to tie Bonds' 2002 run for most in a single postseason (since surpassed by Randy Arozarena's 10 in 2020). But Beltrán also crushed in the 2006 NLCS with the Mets (despite the lingering memory of that showdown being his infamous series-ending strikeout looking) as well as in the 2012 and '13 playoffs with the Cardinals.
All told, Beltrán finished with 16 career postseason home runs and more walks (37) than strikeouts (33) in 65 games. That's the sign of a star player rising to the occasion against the best the sport has to offer.