Adrian Beltre was one of the more interesting players I'd ever met covering the Mariners. He was intense and played unbelievably hard. He didn't always play under control. There were the swings that left him on one knee. There were the swings at pitches literally at eye level. There was his odd insistence on appealing his own check swings.
Of course, I remember writing one of my first stories of the 2008 spring training about him not wearing a cup. And then later writing a story about him suffering the consequences of not wearing a cup - a contused testicle.
It led to one of the oddest questions I've ever heard asked in a press conference that brought tears to Larry Stone's eyes in laughter
He could be maddening because of some of his quirks and undisciplined, but then there was the defense. The marvelous, ridiculous defense.
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He's in the midst of a career rejuvenation with the Red Sox. He's fourth in the AL in hitting at . 339 (118-for-348) with 27 doubles, 16 homers and 61 RBI. He has an OBP of .377 and a .560 slugging percentage.
Why the surge in numbers?
Well it could be that he's healthy for the first time in a while, after battling shoulder issues last season.
"I want to say so," he said. " I’m healthy. I think it’s big thing that I’m healthy. But who knows? I think that one of the main reasons is that usually am I slow starter and this year I was able to get off to a good start and after that I’ve just been trying to keep the same swing and keep everything simple."
Or it could be the fact that he's hitting in hitter friendly Fenway as a home park and far, far away from spacious Safeco Field.
"I guess Fenway is a little more forgiving, I guess," he said.
Hmm, but Beltre's numbers are a little funky ... this year he's hitting .315 with an .849 OPS (on-base+slugging at Fenway and .365 and a 1.035 OPS on the road -- of course the road parks include Camden Yards, Coors Field and the Rogers Centre.
"The ball carries a little bit better," he said of Fenway. "I know that Safeco is a little tougher on hitters than Fenway so I guess it’s a little better hitting at Fenway to Safeco.
When asked how many balls he hit at Safeco that he thought were out, but didn't go out, he said ...
"A lot. I can’t put a number on it, but a lot."
And then he said ...
"You guys focus too much on numbers," he said. "All I hear today is numbers, numbers, numbers. I don’t play for numbers. It’s good when I’m a free agent. But when you get on team that’s winning, you don’t care about numbers."
Well, he wasn't putting up great numbers with the Mariners for whatever reason, and Safeco Field has something to do with it. He hit .252 with a .308 OBP and slugged just .408 at Safeco.
Another interesting aspect in the conversation was his comments about wanting to return to the Mariners. Of course, he also mentioned that he wanted to a multi-year deal. But when that wasn't going to happen from really any team, and when he saw the additions GM Jack Zduriencik made, he still wanted to come back and might have even accepted a one-year contract.
"I don’t know how close it was," he said. "After we had that talk early, I didn’t really want to sign a one-year deal in the beginning. I was hoping to sign a multi-year deal, two or three years whatever. After that we kind of stopped and said lets see what’s going on. They traded Lee to here, they got Bradley and they signed Figgins, after that I asked if there’s still a place for me? They said, “Yeah, we’re still thinking about you,” but there never came an offer. And I just couldn’t sit around and wait."
So the offer never really got serious?
"No," he said. "Not that I know of."
Here's the rest of the transcript with Beltre ...
What’s it like playing in the Boston environment?
It’s a little different. At Fenway they are really into the game, meaning they go. There’s a full house every night. Even though, I can’t say enough good things about Seattle fans. I kind of like the more laid back fans. I don’t care about it when fans go crazy about me, clapping. But I don’t like it when they boo. Here (Seattle) they are more laid back and they don’t boo you and I like that. I haven’t gotten to that point in Boston yet, so far they’ve been good to me.
I guess it’s having an organization that wants to win the World Series every year and puts a little bit more into it is different than environment then other places I’ve been.
Does hitting in a stronger lineup instead of hitting in a lineup where he had to provide much of the power help him relax at the plate?
It could be. But I can’t exactly say that’s what it is. But when you are at home plate, you are trying to do your job. You aren’t thinking about who’s in front or who’s behind you. I don’t think that’s really key. But who knows I don’t have an explanation for that.
Talk about your time in Seattle
Great times in Seattle. I had great times. I won’t lie that first year was a little tough for me. I was hitting good and the team wasn’t playing good and I was getting used to the American League. It was a little tough. But after that I had a really nice time in Seattle. It doesn’t matter if I hit .220 or .250 I enjoyed my time in Seattle.
Can you believe what happened to Mariners this season?
Going back when I told Jack, I wanted to be on this team. It was team that looked like on paper that was going to win. I wanted to come back to Seattle, but there wasn’t enough space for me. But looking back at the team they built since spring training, I picked them myself to win the West. But it’s not about a team on paper. You have to do your job on the field. These guys are struggling a little bit. The season’s not over yet. They’ve struggled a little bit. Hopefully they can get out of it.
Did you entertain a one-year offer from Seattle?
After I declared a free agent, I said I wasn’t going to sign a one-year deal and I never really came close to signing a contract. (Zduriencik) mentioned it to my agent that he was interested, but it never got really serious.
Was it frustrating?
Not frustrated, I wanted to see my options and see what’s best for my family. At the time, I didn’t want to sign a one-year deal. I wanted to sign a multi-year deal. And when I saw that wasn’t happening, I waited. And when I saw the team that they were building, I wanted to be part of it because I wanted to win a championship. But there wasn’t enough space for me.
It’s seemed to work out?
Can’t complain. My main goal of the offseason was to get on a team that has a chance to win the World Series. Of the choices I had, I picked Boston for one year. There’s no doubt we have the team to do it, but we’re going to through some tough injuries right now that doesn’t help us. But as soon as we get those guys back, we have a good shot at it.
Do you want to stay in Boston?
It’s too early. They wanted me here for one year. I want to be here for one year. After the season is over, we’ll see where we stand.
Did you feel that same feeling of wanting to win in Seattle?
We tried to win every year. Look at the team they put together this year. They were trying to win. It’s different Yankees. They put a good team together to win the West. It’s not like they are Pittsburgh or Kansas City, they are trying to win here, it’s just not happening.
What’s different in Boston?
That’s a good question. You tell me. I don’t know.
How many balls did you hit in Safeco that you thought were out, but didn’t go out.
A lot. I can’t put a number on it, but a lot.
You guys focus too much on numbers. All I hear today is numbers, numbers, numbers. I don’t play for numbers. It’s good when I’m a free agent. But when you get on team that’s winning, you don’t care about numbers.