I can safely assume you’re thinking “The best ever…at what…?” Certainly, Carlos Beltran in his prime was a great player and is probably headed for Cooperstown in a few years (well, until recent events put that somewhat up in the air). So what is he the best ever at?
I recall a game played at Yankee Stadium in 2015 when Beltran was with the Yankees that Eric Karros was calling for FS1 in which Karros called Beltran “…the best switch hitter of all time.” (Rubs temples.) “I know some folks around here would say, Mickey Mantle…”, Karros continued. I wasn’t listening to the rest but I can assure you I’m not going to tell you that Carlos Beltran is the best switch hitter of all time.
Among MLB players all time, with a minimum of 250 stolen bases (Beltran had 312), Beltran has the highest success rate, coming in at 86.4%. Among the 237 players who got to 250 SB – the most prolific base stealers of all time – Beltran was the best at it.
Why is this relevant to current events in baseball today?
Because it’s a pretty good indication of how high Beltran’s baseball IQ is. Prime Beltran ran well. He was one of those athletes who seemed to be moving effortlessly while still covering a lot of ground, but he wasn’t a track star by any means. He was able to steal a base against major league pitchers and catchers 312 times with an almost nine out of ten success rate because of his observational and computational skills.
He certainly wasn’t faster than Brady Anderson, Mookie Wilson, Dee Gordon or Devon White, all of whom have similar career SB totals, but much lower success rates.
I doubt he was faster than Willie Mays who is generally considered the best baserunner of all time, and who also had similar SB totals but lower success rate than Beltran.
He sure as hell wasn’t faster than Billy Hamilton, (the 21st century Billy Hamilton, not the 19th century Billy Hamilton) who has made a pretty good living on a baseball field for no other reason than his legs. And yet, Billy Hamilton (all together now) has a similar career SB total to Beltran and a much lower success rate.
There is a ton of information to glean from pitchers when you’re on first base or in the dugout:
- Some pitchers move their right foot first when throwing to first, but move the left first when going home. Some do the opposite.
- Some pitchers’ right shoulder moves first when throwing to first but will move the left shoulder first when going to the plate. Some do the opposite.
- Some pitchers move their head one way when they throw to first but in another manner when throwing home.
- Some pitchers hold the ball for exactly the same length of time before throwing to home. Others vary the cadence.
- Some pitchers have multiple moves: One designed to just remind you that he knows you’re there, another that you’re supposed to think is their good move and a third that is the good one designed to pick you off. Some pitchers have none of the above.
- Some pitchers receive signs from the third baseman or shortstop about the runner’s lead so the pitcher doesn’t have to look over.
Beltran was (is) obviously elite at observing and interpreting the above information* and implementing good decisions from it, even without electronic assistance. (*Among other information such as pitch anticipation, catcher “tells”, game situations, field conditions, etc.) Also recall that as a member of the Yankee organization, he was the one who spotted James Paxton tipping his pitches which explained Paxton’s struggles at the time.
It’s obvious the man has at the very least, an insanely high baseball IQ – my guess is that he’s pretty bright off the field too.
This is why back in 2018 he was my choice to manage the Yankees. Bright guy, had played in New York, recently had been with two of the best organizations in the sport (HOU and NYY), young enough to relate to young players but has a baseball card back that any baseball lifer would respect. Being bi-lingual in today’s game certainly is a plus. Also being a minority when the Yankees are one of the few remaining teams that have never had a minority manager wouldn’t hurt either.
Boy how times have changed.
With each passing day, the Astros organization looks worse and worse and Beltran’s role in their departures from what would be considered normative behavior seems to be growing.
As reported in The Athletic, several Astros players had an issue with the sign-stealing practices in 2017 and said so to Beltran who was at a bare minimum, one of the ringleaders. To no one’s surprise, Brian McCann was a player who directly asked Beltran to stop doing what he was doing.
A less veteran player than McCann said “Where do you go if you’re a young, impressionable player and this guy says ‘We’re doing this.’ What do you do?”
Needless to say, I’m glad the Yankees went with Aaron Boone.
What comes next can only be answered by those with crystal balls. More punishment for Beltran and other Astros players? Long term damage to Beltran’s reputation and Hall of Fame chances? Keep in mind, A-Rod has recovered his reputation for the most part and I don’t think anyone believes he’s getting voted into the HOF.
Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I can safely say this: Whatever decisions are made by Rob Manfred, they will likely be the wrong ones.
Did I miss something? Let me know.
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