Tears streamed down Carlos Beltran’s face in the moments after the Houston Astros won the World Series this month. After 20 seasons as one of the most distinguished and respected players in baseball, and six previous trips to the playoffs, the 40-year-old Beltran was — finally — a champion.
“It’s a blessing,” he said at the time.
Even though Beltran said he would talk to his family about whether he would play one more season, his calm and contented demeanor in a raucous Astros celebration offered a telling clue that he probably wouldn’t. On Monday, Beltran confirmed his decision by revealing his retirement in an essay posted on The Players’ Tribune.
The announcement capped a memorable career in which Beltran, who played for seven teams, finished with 2,725 hits, a .279 batting average and an .837 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He retires as undoubtedly one of the best switch-hitters of all time, and while he did not reach the milestones of 3,000 hits or 500 home runs (he leaves with 435), some believe he has a solid case for membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In his prime, Beltran was a stunning combination of contact, power, speed and fielding. Only five players have recorded 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases in a career: Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Andre Dawson and Beltran. Beltran also hit .307 in 65 career playoff games.
In addition to his play on the field, though, Beltran was widely regarded as one of the best teammates in baseball. He was given the Roberto Clemente Award, baseball’s highest philanthropic honor, in 2013 in recognition of his efforts to promote baseball and education in his native Puerto Rico. He was a fierce advocate for players, particularly Latinos, and campaigned for the introduction of the interpreters who are now required in clubhouses.
Beltran was a nine-time All-Star, including at age 39 in 2016 with the New York Yankees, and won three Gold Gloves for his play in center field. The American League rookie of the year with the Kansas City Royals in 1999, he was traded to the Astros in 2004 and hit eight home runs in 12 playoff games, nearly carrying them to the World Series.
Beltran played 6 1/2 seasons for the New York Mets, and then had stints with the San Francisco Giants, the Texas Rangers, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Yankees before returning to Houston this season on a one-year deal.
While his skills were diminished — Beltran hit .231, mostly as a designated hitter and part-time outfielder — he played a more important role as an unofficial mentor to everyone. Many Astros officials and players credited Beltran’s leadership and tutelage as critical to Houston’s World Series title.
“I am blessed to be a champion,” Beltran wrote in his essay. “But now, my time as a player has come to an end.”