Adrian Beltre is a free agent again this offseason. The last time he was a free agent was after his monster 2004 season with the Dodgers. He signed a 5-year, $64 million contract with the Mariners, the team that may be losing him now.
As a Dodger fan, it pains me to say this, but I miss Beltre. It is easy for Dodger fans (and media) to point to Beltre's numbers as a Seattle Mariner, saying that they never came close to his 2004 numbers and therefore Beltre is a failure as a Mariner. I've done that.
But after a little more reading, I've come to realize that Beltre's 2004 numbers (48 HR/121 RBI/.334/.388/.629), were an aberration. You can interpret "aberration" any way you want, but all it means is that Beltre's 2004 season was not Beltre. No matter how much Dodger fans wanted it to be.
Beltre has always been a solid-fielding third baseman with above-average power. A decent run producer. Nothing more. Safeco Field has been killing his numbers, feeding the arguments that Beltre has been a mess with the Mariners. But his numbers have been right in line with everything else he has produced in his career, everything except for 2004.
Believe me, I don't like saying any of this. I spent years hoping Beltre would become a superstar. And when 2004 hit, I thought we'd finally hit paydirt. But 2004 was something he just couldn't duplicate. And I think the Mariners knew that. People who know money and economics (believe me, I don't) point out that the contract that Beltre signed in '04 was right in line with his career-average numbers, not his 2004 numbers.
Beltre has put up respectable power numbers -- nothing great, but nothing hideous -- in his 5 years with the Mariners.
Meanwhile, in those same 5 years, the Dodgers have put Mike Edwards, Willy Aybar, Antonio Perez, Jose Valentin, Oscar Robles, Bill Mueller, Wilson Betemit, Cesar Izturis, Julio Lugo, Ramon Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche, Tony Abreu, Shea Hillenbrand, Blake DeWitt, Casey Blake, Ron Belliard, Mark Loretta and Juan Castro at third base.
(When Beltre appeared to be leaving the Dodgers, L.A. acquired Jeff Kent to make up for some of the power exiting the lineup. L.A. also said Kent could play some third base. Kent never played third for the Dodgers).
Listen, I like the Dodgers' current starter at third base, Casey Blake.
But, damn, I wish the Dodgers had signed Beltre after 2004. And I never thought I'd say that.