My Premature Farewell to Adrian Beltre

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I know he isn’t gone yet, and I’m certainly a subscriber to the “anything can happen” way of thinking, but it seems inevitable that Mr. Beltre won’t be here come 2010.

Adrian, sometimes fondly referred to as “Yaydrian”, or “King Awesome” over at LL, has been one of the most recognizable faces of the Seattle Mariners for five seasons now. Despite the fact that the team has been really bad for three of the years, Beltre has been one of the few consistent pieces. He’s garnered plenty of unwarranted criticism from fans – fans who expected him to repeat his offensive performance from his contract year with the Dodgers, despite the fact that he was playing at Safeco Field – an awful place for right handed power hitters.

The more well-informed fans, however, have had nothing but praise for him. They can see that he has not only made up for any offensive woes with his spectacular defense, but has also been worth every penny of his contract. They can also see, that he is one of the toughest guys to ever play the game of baseball. Just over the last year, he’s attempted to play through both horribly painful bone spurs in his shoulder, and a torn testicle. Yes, he played several innings, and scored the winning run of a game after a ground ball tore his testicle. If more fans would think about the sheer amount of painful injuries he’s battled through in his tenure here, they might show him the appreciation that he so clearly deserves.

He’s pretty much been my favorite Mariner since he signed here. Sure, I absolutely adore Felix, Ichiro, Guti, Junior, and almost all of the other Mariners, but there was something about Adrian that made him stand out to me. I guess it was mainly that once upon a time I was an aspiring third baseman on my select baseball team, who got by mostly on defense. I’m sure that was a big part of it – I really idolized him when I was younger. It also could have been the many mannerisms he plays the game with – there’s the patented self-appeal that we all know and love, the Beltre shuffle, and of course, the fact that he so clearly plays with as much heart and toughness of anybody in the game.

With a player that’s so easy to love, it’s tough to pinpoint any one reason. I’m sure there are plenty of fans out there who will say they just love him for his defense – and that’s fine – but for me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one – it’s a lot more than that. There’s just something about him that’s irreplaceable. He doesn’t have the stand out personality that Griffey and Sweeney have, or the home grown superstar appeal that Felix has.

I guess he’s most comparable to Guti – a quiet, latino, defensive specialist. The biggest difference between them, though, is that Seattle is embracing Gutierrez in a way they really didn’t with Beltre. The reason for that, I’m sure, is that fans were expecting Beltre to come in and hit 40 home runs every year, and because he hasn’t, they see him as a disappointment, and that’s really a shame. It’s a shame because he’s been far from it, and that’s obvious in the eyes of the people who have really been paying attention.

We’ve probably seen the last of Adrian, now, and we’ll probably never get another chance to show him the appreciation and affection that he deserves. I don’t know if it was just that everyone was lost in the whole Griffey moment last Sunday, but the crowd didn’t even give AB a standing ovation after his last at bat. It also could have been because it resulted in a strikeout, but it was sad nonetheless. I stood up for him, and there were a few others that understood what was going on, and followed, but that’s it. And that was a pretty good representation of what his time here was like. A few people really got it, but there just weren’t enough of them to make any difference.

Thanks for everything Adrian, and good luck where ever you end up. It probably doesn’t seem like it now, but once people realize what the Mariners have lost with your departure, you will be missed.