KC Royals: Why Carlos Beltran might not make the Hall of Fame

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

It’s been 24 years—25 come next September—since Carlos Beltrán first displayed his magnificent baseball skills in the major leagues. He debuted in right field late in the KC Royals’ Sept. 14, 1998, 16-6 shellacking of Oakland and later singled on the second big league pitch he saw. He added a walk before his first game ended.

Beltrán tripled the next day, then played 12 more times and finished his short big league season with a .276 average.

The rest is, as they say, history.

Taking full advantage of the fact he didn’t play enough in ’98 to lose his rookie status, he won the American League Rookie of the Year award in ’99 by clubbing 22 homers, driving home 108 runs and hitting .293. And by the time the Royals traded him to Houston in 2004, he’d totaled 123 homers and 516 RBIs, stolen 164 bases and slashed .287/.352/.483.

He later played for St. Louis, Texas, San Francisco, and both New York clubs, and finished his 20-year career in 2017 as a member of the World Champion Houston Astros. His final stats are Hall of Fame-worthy: a .279 average with a .350 OBP, 435 homers, 1,587 RBIs and 312 steals to go with nine All-Star berths, three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and a Roberto Clemente Award.

And, as of Monday, he’s officially a candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

That Beltrán’s name would appear on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot as soon as he completed the mandatory five-year post-career waiting period has been certain for years. And rare is a player as statistically well-credentialed as Beltrán denied HOF membership.

But being on the ballot and getting elected are two different things. Just ask Bobby Bonds and Roger Clemens, who’ve always failed to garner the minimum 75% of votes required for election. Eligible Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the Hall’s electors, haven’t forgiven them for whatever connection voters believe they had with PEDS, and their next chance for the Hall rests on how they fare on the Contemporary Baseball Era Players ballot.

Their fate so far might soon become Beltrán’s.

Former KC Royals star Carlos Beltrán isn’t assured Hall of Fame membership.

As they did with Bonds and Clemens, electors may block Beltrán. The taint of the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal is one Beltrán is unlikely to ever shed and one many voters probably won’t ignore.

Unforgettable is the hard fact that Beltrán is the only player mentioned by name in MLB’s report of its investigation into Houston’s infamous trash can and video monitor-fueled sign stealing. Other than a single reference to a discussion Beltrán had with unnamed players, the report doesn’t specifically describe just what Beltrán did or didn’t do, but its intentional or unintentional implication is clear.

So, will the BBWAA members elect Beltrán?

Good question. Based on their consistent treatment of Bonds and Clements, both of whom would be Hall of Famers but for the PED issue, most voters seem to have long memories and appear to have relied on their interpretation of one of the core criteria for induction: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Sign-stealing has long been part of the game, but on its face the Astros’ reliance on real-time, in-game video to decipher catchers’ signals exceeded the “norm” of naked-eye efforts, and Beltrán’s connection to the scheme certainly clouds his prospects for election and renders unlikely his selection on the first, and maybe all subsequent, ballots, especially if the rejections of Bonds and Clemens foretell his chances—electors who didn’t, and won’t, vote for Bonds and Clemens because they believe those stars cheated may not vote for Beltrán if they think he cheated.

Whether Beltrán deserves Hall membership is a question perhaps made more complicated by the Commissioner’s report, which specifically detailed so much of the scandal’s substance and nuts and bolts operation, but so little of Beltrán’s connection to it.

The answer to the Beltrán question lies in what the voters believe. If enough of them think he cheated, the Bonds-Clemens precedent will be difficult for them to ignore; if most don’t believe he did, or find the Commissioner’s report lacking in specific evidence of his operational participation, the Bonds-Clemens precedent probably won’t matter.

But one thing is certain. We’ll know Beltrán’s fate Jan. 24 when the Hall announces the election results.

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Will Carlos Beltrán make the Hall of Fame?