It’s been more than 20 years since the Kansas City Royals drafted Carlos Beltran in the second round of the MLB draft. He’s still chasing a World Series ring, and this year could be his final shot.
When the Kansas City Royals traded outfielder Carlos Beltran to Houston in 2004, few would have predicted the franchise stuck in a perpetual state of ineptitude would win a World Series before one of its brightest stars sent to join the Astros.
But that’s exactly what happened. Despite coming close on several occasions, Beltran has never been able to lift the trophy his former organization did in 2015. He’s got another great chance this year. If he doesn’t get it done this time around, it could never happen for the likely Hall-of-Famer.
Where it All Started
A second-round pick in 1995 by the Kansas City Royals, Beltran made his MLB debut with the club in 1998. He played in just 14 games that year before featuring in 156 in a stellar rookie season. Beltran had 194 hits, including 27 doubles and 22 home runs, scored 112 runs and drove in 108 runs. The 22-year-old finished 1999 with a slash line of .293/.337/.454.
After a disappointing sophomore campaign, Beltran bounced back with impressive seasons from 2001-03. Over those three seasons combined, the switch-hitter racked up 79 home runs, 306 RBI and 107 stolen bases. He never finished a single one of those seasons with fewer than 24 home runs, 100 RBI or 31 stolen bases. His remarkable 2003 season, which included just nine more strikeouts than walks, saw Beltran hit .307/.389/.522 and earned him ninth place in MVP voting.
He started the 2004 season on another tear for the Kansas City Royals. With free agency looming, the organization traded him to Houston as part of a three-team deal with Oakland. The trade sent Mark Teahen, Mike Wood and John Buck to Kansas City. At the time of the deal, Beltran had already managed to hit 19 doubles, crank 15 home runs and drive in 51 runs with a slash line of .278/.367/.534.
Despite a relatively short career in Kansas City, Beltran easily ranks as one of the greatest outfielders in franchise history.
Chasing a Ring
Since the trade, Beltran has made several trips to the postseason. None has resulted in a coveted World Series title. He twice suffered Game 7 losses in the National League Championship Series to the Cardinals — once in 2004 with the Astros and again in 2006 as a member of the Mets.
It took Beltran until 2012 to get back to the postseason. This time featuring for his previous playoff nemesis, St. Louis. However, he suffered another NLCS heartbreak. This one came in six games at the hands of the Giants, whom Beltran had played for in the second half of 2011.
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The next year, the Cardinals returned to the NLCS and defeated the Dodgers in six games. At the age of 36, Beltran was going to play in his first World Series. Despite going 5 for 17, he ended up on the losing side, as Boston took home the championship after six games.
Since then, Beltran has made the postseason with three different teams. His 2015 Yankees lost the Wild Card Game to the Astros, whom the Kansas City Royals defeated en route to their World Series title. Last year, Beltran and the Rangers fell in the ALDS to the Blue Jays. This time around, he’s back with the other Texas team and hoping to finally break through.
Will This Time be Different?
The Astros, who signed Beltran during the offseason, were arguably the best team in the American League for a majority of the year. Cleveland got super hot in August and September, but Houston still managed to win 101 games. Thanks to Beltran’s clutch RBI-double in the ninth inning of Game 4, the Astros defeated the Red Sox in the ALDS. However, he went just 1 for 12 against the Yankees in the ALCS.
With at least two games — and possibly one or two more — in a National League ballpark, Beltran will likely be relegated to pinch-hitting duty in Los Angeles. He could see time at designated hitter in Houston. Although, his recent struggles have probably cut his chances of that happening. Even still, the 40-year-old will be a nice weapon off the bench with his switch-hitting ability.
With or without a World Series title to his name, Beltran will go down as one of the best postseason hitters of all-time. Even with the recent 1-for-12 performance, he has a career postseason slash line of .311/.417/.618. Beltran has 16 home runs and 41 RBI in 62 playoff games. Maybe most incredibly, he has more walks (37) than strikeouts (32).
If the Kansas City Royals can’t win another World Series this year (and, at this point, I’m pretty sure that won’t happen), it would be nice to see a former franchise standout get his elusive ring.