The Hall of Famer That Got Away

On a day when the latest inductees into Cooperstown are announced, it’s only fitting that we discuss a future Hall-of-Famer who will not go into the Hall as a Dodger, but should have!  It was just over 13 years ago, that Adrian Beltre left the Dodgers for the Seattle Mariners.  Many fans are up in arms over the fact that Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez were  traded away, but Adrian Beltre was arguably the best of the group and may indeed go down in history as the greatest third-baseman of all time. Piazza and Martinez were great players, but Adrian Beltre may be the greatest third baseman of all time… and he should have been a Dodger for life.  How he got away sickens me.

Steve Henson of The LA Times wrote this:

Beltre believes the Dodgers nudged him out the door after seven seasons of service, including a 2004 performance that should have earned him employee-of-the-year honors in a runaway. He believes the front office was indifferent, indecisive and, perhaps, incapable of paying the going rate for a 25-year-old third baseman who batted .334 with 48 home runs and 121 runs batted in.

“This wasn’t easy for me,” he said. “I never thought about leaving the Dodgers. They said to my face they would try to do what it took to keep me in L.A. I believed what they said.”

Dodger owner Frank McCourt and General Manager Paul DePodesta met with him after the season and he says they informed him that re-signing him was their top priority. Contact thereafter was sporadic.

Beltre’s agent, Scott Boras, sat down with DePodesta at the general manager meetings in November and at the winter meetings last week. DePodesta left the latter meeting optimistic that an agreement could be reached.

Boras remained in frequent telephone contact with DePodesta, but no offer was forthcoming from the team that signed Beltre at 15, vaulted him to the major leagues at 19 and persevered as he slowly developed into a star.

Beltre figured he could show some patience too.

“I was waiting for their offer and couldn’t call other teams back,” he said. “I was in my house, waiting on the Dodgers forever.”

Figures from other teams began to roll in, including $90 million over seven years from the Detroit Tigers, according to an industry source. An American League team on the East Coast gave Beltre 24 hours to accept an offer. The deadline passed and the Dodgers remained silent.

The Mariner cash remained on the table, but for how long? They needed an answer because they were also pursuing free-agent slugger Carlos Delgado.

Meanwhile, the three-team blockbuster trade that would free up significantly more Dodger payroll by unloading right fielder Shawn Green and pitchers Brad Penny, Kazuhisa Ishii and Yhency Brazoban was in the works.

Clearly, the Dodgers could have increased their offer to Beltre had the trade been finalized. But DePodesta disputed the notion that McCourt made re-signing Beltre contingent on the trade.

“This was me, it was my decision to make,” he said. “This wasn’t Frank telling me what to do.”

When the Dodgers did make Beltre an offer Tuesday night after DePodesta and McCourt returned from a dinner meeting with free-agent pitcher Matt Clement, it was far too little and borderline too late.

The Dodgers offered slightly less than $60 million over six years, backloaded so only $8 million would be paid next season, according to sources close to the negotiation. Beltre signed for $64 million over five years, frontloaded to include $17 million next season.

Adrian Beltre was gone and that would prove to be one of the biggest blunders of all time.  After Paul DePodesta was fired, he never got back to the GM chair and likely won’t.  That’s his legacy – losing the best third baseman of all time for a few million dollars.

Last season, Adrian hit .300 with 32 HR and 104 RBI at age 37.  He has had over 500 plate appearances every year except one after his rookie year.  He has been remarkably durable and it appears he wants to play two more years.  He will go over 3,000 hits early this season and has 445 HR, 1,571 RBI and a career batting average of .286 to go with his career OPS of .818.  Lest we forget, he is one of the top fielding third-basemen EVER!  Paul Depodesta, you really screwed up!

All time, Adrian Beltre is 5th among 3B in WAR with 90.2.  He could be 2nd, behind Mike Schmidt as soon as this year.  The fact is, all four players ahead of him are retired and all four are in the HOF.  The Third Base JAWS leaders are HERE, in case you want to see for yourself.

One can only wonder what would have happened if Adrian Beltre still played 3B for LA…  I don’t think the World Series drought would be nearly as long.  Maybe McCourt would not let De Podesta sign Beltre, but Adrian is not the kind of player you let walk for such a small (in baseball parlance) amount of money. He’s a Hall-of-Famer and I called him that nearly 20 years ago.

Posted by Mark Timmons

I started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. I took a year off in 2016 and now I am back. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. I don't do game recaps or in-depth sabermetric analysis. I value sabermetrics, but leave that to people smarter than me... which is only 98% of the population. This is where you start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome!

This article has 30 Comments

  1. Yeah, what a screw-up. Makes Dodger fans sick!

    Just goes to show how important good management is. DePodesta for Evans was arguably McCourt’s worst trade.

    Happily, with FAZ in charge now, we hopefully won’t have to endure something like the Beltre fiasco in the future. It was good to see that Turner and Jansen valued what is being built in Dodgerland enough to resign and possibly at a market discount.

  2. Beltre is a tough one. Very weird DePo didn’t even make a formal offer.

    At the same time I would NEVER give in to Bora$’s demands. This is why Seager will only be with the Dodgers five more years. When Seager win ROY his biggest “thanks” was to Bora$, even more than his family.

  3. Well, I see that your new site is up. I also see that you plan to bar some who are “too negative”. I hope that I am not among those. I believe that I have a nuanced view of the situation – I have concerns about the direction of the Dodgers but also observe that there have been pluses and minuses from the current administration, as well as the last one.

    As to your article, I couldn’t agree more. Beltre was the best position player developed by the Dodgers since “The Infield” was traded or retired. While he hadn’t had a uniformly successful Dodger career before 2004, it didn’t make sense to simply let him walk.

    Both McCourt and DePodesta were historically bad as owner and GM, respectively. They should never have let Dan Evans go.

    Conversely, I am very glad to see the current management retain Jansen and Turner (and I’m pleasantly surprised about Jansen). This augurs well for the Dodgers going forward – they should keep their best homegrown players where possible.

    Now – about second base…

    1. Rick,

      You are welcome. Concerns are fine. FAZ is not perfect, but overall I like the direction. the team is heading. I just don’t like it when everything is anti-FAZ. They will on a different path as evidenced by Turner and Jansen re-signing. Enjoy. I think it will be a fun and interesting year.

    2. IMO I am quite certain you will be welcomed dodgerrick. Personally, I agreed with your positions about as often as I disagreed. Even when I don’t agree with your POV you’ve still taken a reasoned position usually including information and facts…but even lawyers can be wrong in their opinion…right? Look forward to your take on LADT.

  4. So Pudge, Bagwell and Raines got into Cooperstown.

    Hoffman and Vlad just missed. They will get in next year.

    I have no problems with Bonds and Clemens getting in (cheaters that they are). Gaylord Perry is in there. Pete Rose should be in there too.

    Schilling was not really HOF material – but close in my opinion.

    1. Glad this site is back, Mark.

      I haven’t understood some of the complaining by some fans on the boards this offseason. The Dodgers were two games from the world series, are bringing the same team back in 2017, and have a stocked farm. There are 29 other teams that would trade places with us in a heartbeat. These are good times!

      Bonds, Clemens, Pudge, and Bagwell wouldn’t get my vote. Tim Raines was a terrific 5 tool player.

    2. I am a little partial to Schilling. He treated a certain kid while with the Phillies and Red Sox very well. He also took time out of his ST strings exercise to talk to that kid’s parents, without being rushed. He’s HOF to me.

  5. I’m a Mark fan. Talented guy. It’s not easy to spark conversation. Every day. Good luck with the new/old site. Beltre is the best 3b I’ve seen since Mike Schmidt. No small praise. On today’s selections: I’m fine with IRod. Not the others. I still hold to 3,000/500 for hitters. I agree that suspicions re PEDs are not enough. We need admissions or failed tests.

    1. Bobbie 17,

      I am glad you came – hopefully we can have some fun. Your takes are always welcome.

  6. He was implicated in the Balco scandal and suspended. He was dirty, for sure… but so were a lot of other who were not caught.

  7. Totally agree letting Beltre walk was devastating in the long run for us at third base. He would have been a beast over the years in the middle of the batting order too. Still leaves a bitter taste i n my mouth. Damn, i forgot how much the McCourt years set us back. Just amazing what a ripple effect(in a negative way) his ownership time has done to the Dodgers. I think we are just now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just bad all the way around.

  8. I’m not so self-righteous that I can say I wouldn’t have done it but at the same time there is no way I would put guys like Bonds, Clemens, and Pudge Rodriquez in the Hall. The cheated the game, they cheated guys who were clean, and they made millions extra by doing so. They don’t need a pat on the back and a plaque for doing so. The Hall is a museum and the Era and the records of that time can be represented without those guys getting a plaque nor should the guys like Raines, McGriff, Kent, etc who played clean have to have their plaques imply they were dirty when they weren’t.

    1. Also, during that era there were plenty of minor league players that did not cheat, and never got the real opportunity to move up because they were blocked by those that did. Bonds and Clemens certainly did not block anyone, but they did not need PED to get to the HOF.

  9. Glad your back and running! Here is a trade proposal. Let me know what you think.
    JDL and Joc for Javier Baez…Toles/Thompson could play center and we have a second baseman. Chicago gets their center fielder and a young #2 or 3 pitcher.

    1. That is an interesting proposal. Pederson could get better… so can Baez. I like the thinking, but I’ll have to think about it. I’ll give you a definite “maybe.”

    2. WIDodger, I give your trade proposal a big NO!! Baez would be nice, but, you give up too much.

      Joc for Baez might be a fair trade, but, I still wouldn’t do that. Joc is very important to what Dodgers are building. I don’t trust Toles/Thompson to get it done. Interestingly, Per ESPN Joc and Baez both had a 3.4 WAR in 2016.

      Cubs need young pitching, how about JDL and Wood for Baez? Baez/Seager would make a nice DP combo for many years.

  10. I for one approve of Ivan R. in the HOF… It was like watching a master work behind the plate and you had to be a kamikaze pilot to try and steal second… Bags and Raines iffy!!!

  11. There were two guys that I saw they were the best players out there one on the court and one in the field. I saw Michael Jordan at The Forum when we had magic and Kareem and all that Michael Jordan was the best player on the floor. That was in the eighties when the Bulls were not very good. The other time was watching the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium play and the guy was Adrian Beltre. He was the best player on the field, that’s before he had his big year.

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