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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017 — No. 7: Carlos Beltran Retires

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We’re a few short days away from 2018 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2017. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On November 1, Carlos Beltran did the one thing he had never done in his 20-year big league career: he won a World Series. On November 13 he announced his retirement.

Beltran, the 1999 Rookie of the Year and a nine-time All-Star, played for the Royals, Mets, Yankees, Cardinals, Giants, Rangers and did two separate tours with the Houston Astros. Over the course of his career he put up a line of .279/.350/.486 with 435 homers and 312 stolen bases. An elite defensive center fielder for much of his career, Beltran took home three Gold Glove awards and could’ve won more if Gold Glove voting was approached a bit more objectively than it is. He was a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner as well.

In later years, Beltran became a corner outfielder and a veteran team leader, mentoring younger players while with the Yankees, Rangers and Astros. He was the winner of the 2013 Roberto Clemente Award, which honored both his leadership and his charitable and community contributions.

Beltran will probably make the Hall of Fame and he probably should. While he never won an MVP Award, his candidacy is a strong one when you think of him as an all-around great player as opposed to an all-time great in any one capacity. Fortunately for Beltran’s candidacy, he finishes his career at a time when, more than ever, the media and fans have come to appreciate the value of the all-around player more than they ever had in the past. When you listen to baseball writers talk now, they usually say, “yeah, Carlos Beltran is a Hall of Famer.” And I think that will carry the day for him, maybe not in his first year on the ballot, but at some point not long after.

Beltran was not the only one to call it quits in 2017. Among baseball’s other departures:

  • Brennan Boesch: Folks in Detroit have a few fond memories;
  • Cory Luebke: You can come back from one Tommy John surgery. Two is a bit tougher;
  • Jeff Francoeur: Never as good as his press, never as bad as the shade thrown at him and a really nice guy;
  • Nolan Reimold: He has seven children. He’s probably more tired in retirement than after a game;
  • Joe Beimel: Played a bit part in my greatest in-person baseball memory;
  • Jeremy Guthrie: Led the league in losses twice. It takes a pretty good pitcher to do that, actually. I mean that sincerely;
  • Jered Weaver: Led the league in wins twice and, for a short time, was one of baseball’s best pitchers;
  • Paul Janish: A Houston native and Rice University alum will join the Rice coaching staff in 2018;
  • Joe Nathan: Number eight all-time in career saves;
  • Will Venable: Stole a lot of bases and didn’t get caught much. Hit a lot of triples too. A nice player to have on your roster.
  • Ryan Vogelsong: Missed four full seasons before coming back with the Giants in 2011. Got himself a World Series ring to boot;
  • Bronson Arroyo: A reliable and durable workhorse for most of his career. A key part of Boston’s historic 2004 team. A surefire first ballot inductee to the Lovable Flakey Dude Hall of Fame; and
  • Matt Cain: Three World Series rings, an excellent postseason track record and, for a time, one of baseball’s best. Consistent as all get-out but often plagued with poor run support. Went out with a wonderful final career start.

Happy trails, gentlemen. Here’s wishing you the best in your post-playing endeavors.

How long do you stay a fan of a team that left town?

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File this under “not a really deep thought, but there isn’t much going on this morning, so why not?”

I was catching up with the latest, and final, season of “The Americans” over the weekend. I will give no spoilers and ask that you do the same, but I want to talk about something that came up in the second episode.

The episode takes place in October 1987 and a character is listening to a Twins playoff game on the radio. He later talks about baseball and the Twins with some other characters. The context is not important, but the guy — probably in his mid-late 40s, living in the Washington D.C. area — makes a point to say that he has been a Twins fan since the beginning, and then says he was, in fact, a fan of the franchise back when they were still the Washington Senators.

In case you are unaware, the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota following the 1960 season and became the Twins. At the same time an expansion team, also called the Senators, was placed in D.C. to replace them. That franchise would stay in D.C. for 11 seasons before moving to Texas in 1972 to become the Rangers.

In light if that, am I the only one who has a hard time buying that such a man actually existed? How would the character, who was a kid when the original Senators moved, be a Twins fan some 26 years later?

There were relatively few televised baseball games back then. Just a game of the week and some out of town coverage of local teams. There was obviously no internet. Outside of the 1965 World Series, it’d be a shock if more than a couple of Twins games were broadcast to the D.C. area during the rest of the guy’s childhood. Maybe he kept up with the Senators players like Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison via box scores, baseball cards and The Sporting News, but I couldn’t imagine a D.C. guy raised on the Senators keeping up with the Twins through the 1970s and 1980s. Would he not become a new Senators fan or, eventually, a Rangers fan? Maybe, like so many people on the D.C. area, he picked up the Orioles as his team due to their 1960s-70s dominance? Any number of things could happen, but I’m struggling to imagine the existence of a Senators guy who becomes a hardcore Twins fans up to and including 1987.

All of that got me thinking about other relocated teams.

The Dodgers are the most famous example, of course, with the narrative being that Dodgers fans in Brooklyn felt betrayed by Walter O’Malley and thus turned their back on the club, later adopting the Mets as their rooting interest. The betrayal narrative is less pronounced with the Giants, but that’s the same general story with them too. I mean, there’s a reason the Mets picked orange and blue as their colors. They wanted to, and largely did, co-opt the old NL New York fans.

I’m sure a lot more Dodgers and Giants fans continued to follow their teams in California than would let on, given that many of the same players starred out there in the ensuing years, but that likely died out as those players retired. Bob Aspromonte was the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the bigs, retiring after the 1971 season. Willie Mays played through 1973. I assume NL fans in New York kept some nice thoughts for them — particularly because the Mets picked both of them up for the tail end of their careers — but I can’t see those guys rooting for, say, Steve Garvey and John Montefusco in 1979.

Others:

  • There likely aren’t many St. Louis Browns fans left — they last played in Missouri 65 years ago — but even if the ones they had in 1953 felt like rooting for the Cardinals was impossible, I bet most of their kids and grandkids became Cards fans;
  • The A’s fans in Philly — and later Kansas City — probably have a similar story. I mean, there’s a reason that franchise skipped town twice, so to expect undying love over the decades, with the Phillies and Royals around, is a bit much. The Philadelphia A’s glory years were like 90s years ago now anyway, and all of those fans are dead. The A’s modern glory years have all come in Oakland. No one in Philadelphia or Kansas City is looking to the California with an aching in their heart;
  • I could imagine someone’s grandfather in Milwaukee still thinking that the Braves are his team, but not many other people. The Braves won a World Series and two pennants in Milwaukee, but that was an awful long time ago and they moved to Atlanta before the A’s moved to Oakland. Don’t even get me started about Boston Braves fans. They all have to either be dead or have long since moved on. Following a team to a new city is a big ask, but following them to two new cities over 66 years seems pathological. UPDATE: OK, there are some pathological people out there.
  • I have some Nationals fan friends and they tell me that there is a small, weird contingent of Expos fans who root for Washington now. I get that since it wasn’t terribly long ago, but was Brad Wilkerson really a good enough reason to carry a torch? I’d like to talk to some of those people and ask them about their value system;
  • The only other team to move was the Seattle Pilots. They played one season in Seattle and no one would remember that if it wasn’t for Jim Bouton’s book, “Ball Four.” If you find someone claiming to be a Pilots fan in Seattle, you’ve found yourself a hipster peddling revisionist b.s.

Anyway, that’s a lot of words wasted on a couple of lines from a TV show, but as always, your thoughts are appreciated.