With apologies to Buddy Bell, Steve Buechele and a few others, Adrian Beltre will go down as the best third baseman in Texas Rangers history by the time his contract ends. Heck, he might already be the best third baseman in franchise history.
And he’s only been in Texas two years.
Beltre won his second consecutive Gold Glove on Tuesday night. It was his fourth in the past six years (he won a couple in Seattle, too). Don’t bet against Beltre winning at least a few more of these gold awards while wearing a Rangers uniform. At 33 years old, Beltre just seems to keep getting better with age.
Perhaps the biggest reason is his firm belief that he’s merely “above average” defensively at his position. Even his collection of Gold Gloves hasn’t changed his mind about that.
That doesn’t mean he’s not confident on the field. But the conviction that he constantly has things he can get better at doing drives him to work harder and try to do more.
"Every time the season begins, you always have space to improve," Beltre said. "I know I have some areas that I can get better, more consistent. It doesn’t matter how hard you work and how much you want to improve in those areas, there's always going to be challenges. Some things you’re more comfortable doing, some things you have to work harder at."
We know that Beltre makes ridiculous plays. We know he’s extremely unorthodox, throwing lasers to first base flat-footed. We know no one is better at charging balls down the third-base line and making the off-balance throw to first than Beltre. And we know few in the game have more fun than Beltre when he’s defending the hot corner.
Be thankful, Rangers fans.
There are few players in the league that are more fun to watch than Beltre and you get to do it on a nightly basis during the season. One of the best parts of spring training for me the past two years has been watching Beltre go about his business at third base during drills and batting practice. He takes a ton a ground balls, and treats every one of them like it's the regular season.
Trust me, his teammates notice that. They feed off it, too.
“I play it with a lot of love and determination that I want to make every play I can,” Beltre said. “There are probably some plays I should give up and not be as aggressive, but that’s the way I am. I want to make every play I can.”
It shows. Beltre has become a fan favorite, earning “MVP” chants as the season was ending in 2012 and plenty of facetime on the big videoboard as his highlights are shown on a nightly basis. Part of that was how well he hit the ball this season -- a .321 average, 36 homers and 102 RBIs. He also won over fans with his toughness, playing through pain, especially in the final weeks of the season.
He’s impressed those who played third base before him, including Bell (the only other Rangers third baseman to win a Gold Glove).
"If you're going to play that position, you have to be somewhat fearless," Bell said last month. "You have to be very aggressive to the ball. All young infielders should practice throwing off-balance and unorthodox. Guys are fast and you might need to make those throws. Most really good infielders are able to throw from where Beltre throws and do it from different angles.
“What I like about him is that he has a little fun with it. You have to have some of that in your game. There's no doubt he wants to be the best and there's confidence there, but there's a lot of relaxed fun in his game."
The good news for Rangers fans: They’ll get to see that for at least another three seasons.