The Most Important Ranger

**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 7/17/12**

The most important Ranger swings a big bat and frequently makes dazzling plays in the field.  He almost single-handedly carries the offense during stretches when most of his teammates are struggling to even bat their own weight.  At the same time, he regularly helps keep his pitcher on the mound (and his team in the game) by vacuuming runs off the scoreboard with his glove.

The most important Ranger is not Josh Hamilton. 

No, Josh Hamilton has clearly been carried much more of late than he’s been carrying.  The Ranger who’s consistently been doing most of this team’s heavy lifting throughout the season is one who certain local sports media members (most notably one lupine-nicknamed radio host) once doubted when he first joined the team.

The most important Ranger is Adrián Beltré.

None other than Jamey Newberg himself is on record as saying Beltré is his favorite Ranger…OF ALL TIME.  That is some very high praise from a very well-respected baseball mind.  And it’s also very well-deserved, based on what we’ve seen from Beltré – not just this season but ever since he first put on a Ranger uniform.

In his first season with the ballclub last year, Beltré was an All-Star who hit .296 with 33 doubles, 32 HR and 105 RBI, while posting an OPS of .892 and a .965 fielding percentage on the strength of an impressively low 11 errors.  These numbers proved worthy of both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.  For good measure, he added five doubles, five HR, nine RBI and 39 total bases in the postseason.  The list of players in franchise history who’ve had a better first season as a Ranger would be short enough to fit on a post-it note.

This season, Beltré has not just picked up right where he left off, he’s actually taken things up a notch.  He’s currently third in the AL in batting (.327, a whopping 49 points above his career average), with 18 doubles, 16 HR and 58 RBI (good for 10th in the AL).  He’s also managed to raise his already lofty fielding percentage to .969, having made only five errors so far in 2012.  He’s actually on pace to have a single-digit error season, which is simply unheard of for an everyday third baseman.

But his powerful bat and spectacular glove aren’t the only assets Beltré brings to the ballpark every game.  He’s always got a smile on his face (not even a head-touching ambush in the dugout fazes him these days), and his enthusiastic love of the game infectiously spreads throughout the clubhouse.  Ron Washington deservedly gets the lion’s share of credit for the Rangers’ fantastic team chemistry, but Beltré is without question one of the main ingredients in that formula.

Simply put, while Josh Hamilton may be the Ranger who receives the most MVP consideration – especially from the national media – those of us who follow the Rangers closely know he is not more important to this team than Adrián Beltré…nobody is. 

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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