By signing a five-year extension with Kansas City, Carlos Beltran ensures that he will finish his career as a life-long Royal and will be firmly established as the second best player in team history.
Having spent 14 years patrolling centerfield of Kauffman Stadium, Beltran hopes his career will end on a more competitive note.
“We’ve lost a lot during the last decade here in KC, but with all the talent we’ve got coming up, I really think we’ll compete for championships before I’m done,” Beltran said.
Despite being slowed by injuries, Beltran has been one of the few bright spots for the Royals. When outfield mates Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon sought greener pastures in the early 2000s, Beltran chose to stay in KC, joining George Brett and Frank White as the faces of the franchise.
“Sure I could have made some more money somewhere else, but I always wanted to be a guy who played his whole career for one team,” Beltran said upon signing the contract extension. “Some things are more important than money. Who knows where I’d be right now if I’d listen to that money-grubbing Scott Boras.”
Ok, so the reality is that Beltran is now a Cardinal. He’s also an ex-Giant, ex-Met, ex-Astro, and of course, ex-Royal. Beltran is now 34 and might possibly finish his career in St. Louis.
Beltran left KC at age 27, having played five and half seasons in a Royals’ uniform. Because of injuries and the natural decline of skills, Beltran played his best baseball before the age of 32. About half that time was spent in Kansas City.
Sadly, KC just missed out on some of Beltran’s best seasons – 2006 to 2008. In those seasons he won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, made two All-Star appearances, and in 2006 finished fourth in the MVP balloting.
I really shouldn’t blame Beltran for his departure from KC. The team wasn’t paying top talents at the time, and they knew they had to deal Beltran when they could get a good return. It’s not his fault that the three players KC got in the trade (Mark Teahen, Mike Wood and John Buck) didn’t help the team rebuild.
What Beltran can provide the Cardinals and where Beltran stands among the greats of history are topics for another article.
But what interests me is just where Beltran would rank if he had played the same seasons, with all the same production, and with all the same injuries and decline of skill, in KC.
Here are Beltran’s career numbers compared to the best in Royals history:
Games – 1768 Beltran would rank 6th currently and could move to 3rd this season behind Brett and White.
At Bats – 6767 Beltran would currently be in 5th place.
Runs – 1184 Beltran would already be in 2nd place on the team list, with only Brett’s 1583 to shoot for.
Hits – 1917 Racking up hits isn’t exactly Beltran’s game. Even so, he would rank 6th on the team list and could move into 2nd this season. Only Brett and White collected more than 2000 hits.
Doubles –390 Beltran would be in 4th place at present.
Triples – 73 Beltran would be a distant 3rd behind Brett’s 137 and Willie Wilson’s 133.
Home Runs – 302 Beltran’s home run total might be different if he’d spent his entire career playing in Kauffman stadium. But for the sake of this game, we’ll give him full credit. Amazingly, only one other Royal has more than 200 homers – Brett with 317. Beltran would, in 2012, become the Royals all-time home run leader.
Runs Batted In – 1146 Beltran would trail only Brett, who drove in 1595 runs.
Stolen Bases – 293 Beltran is one of the most efficient base stealers in the game, but thievery numbers are down from the Royals golden years. Even so, he would rank behind only Wilson (612), Amos Otis (340), and Freddie Patek (336). In reality, Beltran ranks 6th in team history.
Average – .283 Of players with more than 4000 at bats in a Royals uniform, Beltran would sit fourth, behind Brett (.305), Mike Sweeney (.299), Hal McRae (.293), and Wilson (.289).
Without a doubt, Beltran would rank as the second greatest player in Royals history, and by some measures could be considered THE greatest.
It’s been hard over the past decade for Royals fans to resist delving into a lot of “what ifs:” what if the Royals had kept the outfield of Beltran, Dye and Damon together; what if they could have held onto Joe Randa and Raul Ibanez, what if Mike Sweeney had stayed healthy…
I’m sure millionaire professionals like Carlos Beltran don’t waste time on “what ifs.” But if Beltran did, he might wonder what his legacy would be had he stayed in KC. He might think that players who jump from team to team during the prime of their careers are quickly forgotten. But players who grow up and grow old with the same team can become legends.