I have always been a fan of players who possess both the skill of speed and power. As a kid I was a big Jose Canseco fan who was the first player member of the 40/40 club. I was also a big fan of Eric Davis and Ron Gant, both members of the 30/30 club with Davis narrowly missing out on being the sole member of the 40/50 club in 1987.
As a fantasy league fanatic my love for players with the ability to hit for power and steal bases has never faded, it has only increased. One of my all-time favorite players happens to be a player who possess the rare combination of power and speed that is about to land him in a club that only seven other players have ever entered: The 300/300 Club.
As a teenager in the mid-90s some of my favorite characteristics in a position player, and ones I would try and replicate in the sandlots, where power, speed, ability to switch hit, and ability to play either center field or shortstop. This is also when I started noticing prospects much more.
In 1996 I had a goal to get all the Topps Traded sets from recent years becaause they had some of the best prospects in the game. Guys like Nomar Garciaparra, Ben Grieve, Todd Helton, Paul Konerko, and, at the time, Ben Davis. Ben Davis’ rookie card was part of the 1995 Topps Traded set along with Hideo Nomo and I had a hard time finding it until I came across a box with 36 packs in it. I was eager to get home and see how many Ben Davis and Hideo Nomo rookie cards I could get.
Opening that box, and reading the backs of the prospects cards, is when I first learned who Carlos Beltran was. The second half of the back of his card read as follows: “…Beltran, a sprint champion on the island (Puerto Rico) who can cover 60 yards in 6.3 seconds. He is a strong-armed switch-hitter with power potential.” Needless to say, Beltran became an instant favorite of mine and a prospect I could not wait to see reach the Majors.
Carlos Beltran made his Major League debut in 1998 and won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1999. And after a sophomore slump in 2000 he has done nothing but hit for power and steal bases in his potentially hall-of-fame worthy career.
That power and speed combination has Beltran one stolen base away from becoming just the 8th member in the history of the game of the 300/300 (homeruns and stolen bases) club. Current hall-of-famers Willie Mays and Andre Dawson are on the list as are future hall-0f-famers Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Bobby Bonds, Steve Finley, and Reggie Sanders round out the group.
The newly retired Mike Cameron was very close to joining this club as he finished his career with 278 homeruns and 297 stolen bases. And at one point, Alfonso Soriano looked to have a legitimate shot at one day joining this club. He already has enough homeruns with 352 and his 265 stolen bases are not so far off that one would think he cannot join this club. But, at the age of 36, it is looking less and less likely he joins the club. He has one stolen base this season and only 17 over the past four seasons (including 2012).
Hall-of-Famer Rickey Henderson just missed joining this club as he finished his career with 297 homeruns but his 1406 stolen bases and being the sole member of the 1000 stolen base club is far more prestigious. Fellow hall-of-famer Ryne Sandberg missed joining this club by 18 homeruns as did former All-Star Eric Davis. Future hall-of-famer Craig Biggio missed by a mere nine homeruns.
Bobby Abreu, who has borderline hall-of-famer written all over him, already has 395 stolen bases and only needs 15 more homeruns to join the club. Abreu hit 15 or more homeruns for 13 consecutive seasons until last year when he hit a mere eight homeruns in 585 plate appearances and he only has one homerun in 2012 in 131 plate appearances. Abreu is 38 years old.
Beltran is on the heels of reaching a few other milestones as well. With three more doubles he will have 400 for his career. With 23 more hits he will have 2000 for his career. By reaching base 125 more times he will have reached base 3000 times in his career. With one more triple he will have 75 for his career. Beltran is only 35 and has at least a couple more good seasons in him, especially considering how he is swinging the bat this year hitting .290/.378/.594 and leading the National League with 18 homeruns.
Beltran’s 87.4% stolen base rate is the best all-time among players with at least 150 stolen base attempts. If Beltran ran a little more recklessly he would have likely reached the 300/300 club a couple years ago. But that is not how Beltran plays the game.
Any day now Beltran will reach that 300th stolen base and he will join an exclusive club. But, unlike Reggie Sanders, Bobby Bonds, and Steve Finley, the 300/300 club will not be the highest achievement of Beltran’s career and it may simply be one of the milestones that is etched into a plaque that will be hung from the walls of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | 30/30 Club, 300/300 Club, 40/40 Club, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Barry Bonds, Baseball Cards, Ben Davis, Ben Grieve, Bobby Abreu, Bobby Bonds, Carlos Beltran, Craig Biggio, Eric Davis, Hall of Fame, Hideo Nomo, Mike Cameron, Nomar Garciaparra, Paul Konerko, Reggie Sanders, Rickey Henderson, Ron Gant, Ryne Sandberg, Steve Finley, Todd Helton, Willie Mays