So this past weekend, the Kansas City Royals traveled down I-70 to play the Cardinals. We all know how this goes.
For the Cardinals and their fans, this weekend usually doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot. St. Louis is usually playing much better ball and doing that whole thing where they perennially contend while the Royals, God love ’em, are throwing out a bunch of washed up rejects and young kids who are apt to be gone once they fall out of affordability.
One of these latter types who we lost to the highest bidder—long since gone from our humble burg, now—was Carlos Beltran.
And now that the current Cardinals outfielder is fast cementing a Hall of Fame candidacy, this is particulary depressing.
After being traded to the Houston Astros in the midst of their 2004 playoff run (for Mark Teahan! And John Buck! And Mike Wood! And wait—an Astros’ playoff run??!! What?), Beltran excelled in postseason play, ultimately setting himself up for a big-ass contract, the likes of which the Royals couldn’t have even started to dream about beginning to imagine thinking about affording (well, you know… unless they’d sunk early-funds into Beltran instead of Mike Sweeney).
In 2005, he signed a seven year deal with the New York Metropolitans worth $119 million. He hit 41 homeruns in 2006, setting the Mets’ single season record, and won his first Gold Glove. In that year’s NLCS, he hit three homeruns, bringing his playoff total to 11 knocks in 22 games. Before being traded to the San Francisco Giants in the middle of the 2011 season—he was due to be a free agent and the Mets were in cost-cutting mode—he’d tallied 3 Gold Gloves, won 2 Silver Slugger Awards and had made 6 All Star appearances. In December of last year, he signed a two year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for $26 million.
And though his career has undoubtedly been hampered by injuries—his legs are particularly troublesome—he has put up the sort of career figures that everyone in Kansas City always expected him to.
Over the weekend, he recorded the 300th stolen base of his career. Coupled with his 300 homeruns, he is now in an elite fraternity with only eight other players, and the only switch hitter amongst the group. He just turned 35, and, if his recent return to astounding productivity is any indication of future successes, he could easily end his career with 400 homeruns, 350 stolen bases, 2,500 hits, and close to 1,500 RBI. Couple this with his previously referenced defensive hardware, and a very strong case can be made for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. VERY strong.
The frustrating thing as a Royals fan is that WE HAD HIM. He was ours to watch flourish and grow, but unfortunately, we never found the pieces to fit around him. Therefore, he languished and, when it was brutally apparent that there was no intention of him remaining a Royal, he was dealt for a bunch of long-departed promises.
This is nothing new.
As KC sports fans, we’re used to it. Unlike losing Jermaine Dye or Zack Greinke, however, we rarely have to deal with the loss of a future Hall of Famer. We lose good players—sometimes REALLY good players—but rarely do they go on to quietly achieve the sorts of amazing things that Beltran has. The unfortunate part—the one that not only kicks us in the teeth but then shits in our cereal—is that, unless the current regime does something to change the course of history (which TOTALLY sounds like the description of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film), he’ll head into Cooperstown rocking a New York Mets hat.
So hear me out: his current contract ends at the end of the 2013 season. He will turn 37 in April of 2014. Presuming that he’s still in working order—that his knees haven’t blown into a thousand pieces or anything equally as grotesque—we need to sign him to a two year deal worth, oh, I don’t know… he’ll be old then, so… $24 million? He can DH and maybe collect his 400th homerun as a member of the Royals. Maybe he’ll have fun, and maybe this eternal “youth-movement” full of ridiculously talented youngsters will be firing on all cylinders and maybe we’ll be winning. And maybe, just MAYBE, he’ll decide that he started here, he ended here, and when the committee asks his preference (they listen to the players’ wishes, though ultimately, they make the decision themselves) he’ll petition to go in as a Kansas City Royal.
Fools can dream, right?