Hall of Fame second baseman Rogers Hornsby once said that during the winter time all he could do was stare out the window and wait for spring. Though I often do the same thing, for me, baseball season never really ends. I’m one of those guys who follows all the off-season trades and free agent signings with great interest. It’s amazing how much certain elements of this process parallel real life.
One free agent that is reportedly signing a new deal is third baseman Adrian Beltre. His new contract is reported to be worth over $90 million for the next six years. Clearly, Beltre’s services are in demand, but is he worth it? I’m not talking about whether anyone is worth that kind of money for playing a game. I’m talking about the wisdom of a baseball team–in this case the Texas Rangers–investing that much of their payroll in a guy who may not be worth it. Let me explain (and then draw spiritual parallels).
Beltre is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game; that is not up for debate. Given the fact that he is also a productive offensive player, his set of skills is highly desirable. Yet, when you look closer, he might not be as good as his new contract suggests. In his first six years in the Major Leagues, Beltre never hit more than 25 home runs or had a batting average above .290. Then, in 2004, his “contract year” (i.e. the year before potential free agency), he batted and amazing .334 with 48 home runs and over 120 RBIs. That off-season, he signed a huge deal with the Seattle Mariners.
Fast-forward a few years. Beltre had a dismal time in Seattle, filled with injuries and disappointments. Clearly, he didn’t live up to his contract. Thus, he signed a one-year contract for 2010 with the Boston Red Sox. So, 2010 was another contract year for Beltre. The results? In Boston, he hit .324 with 28 homers and over 100 RBIs. Those stats have now earned him the $96 million deal he is signing today.
What’s the point? Beltre only plays well when it matters to his pocketbook, only in contract years. In non-contract years, he has never topped 100 RBIs, hit more than 30 homers, or had a batting average above .300. Amazing. Yet, the Rangers are willing to spend nearly $100 million on him. Is he good? Yes. That good? I don’t think so.
Before we bash Adrian Beltre, though, let’s look in the mirror. Who are we when it doesn’t matter? It’s easy to live with integrity in a “contract year,” or when people are watching. It’s easy to “perform” as a Christian or as a pastor or whatever when the lights are on and you know you must. But, what about the times when you are playing what seem to be meaningless games in life? When you just are getting up to go to work? When you’re alone?
Adrian Beltre performs well when he has to, but seems to disappear when nothing is on the line. What about you and me?