The Arizona Diamondbacks are on fire.
At the conclusion of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, the Arizona Diamondbacks were seeking to make a splash in order to once again make them respectable. It would take $206.5 million over six years to lure starting pitcher Zack Greinke away from the Los Angeles Dodgers as he was seen as a piece that would help the Diamondbacks get back to the playoffs. Prior to joining the Diamondbacks, Greinke was a three-time All-Star, while also winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2009 as a member of the Kansas City Royals. In 2015 with the Dodgers, Greinke was 19-3 with an earned run averaged of 1.66 while he also struck out 200 batters. Greinke could have remained with the Dodgers to keep the best one-two starting pitching combinations in Major League Baseball going as he would have been alongside starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. But a big payday along with giving up the spotlight of Los Angeles was too much for Greinke to pass up on.
Greinke’s first season in Arizona was not one to write home about as he failed to live to the massive expectations which were placed on him. In Greinke’s first start with the Diamondbacks, he surrendered 7 earned runs in just 4 innings of work which included giving up three home runs as Arizona fell to the Colorado Rockies at home 10-5. Greinke would never recover as he went 13-7 on the season with an earned run average of 4.37. Greinke also had a stint on the disabled list and he appeared to be another player who succumb to the pressure of signing a big contract.
However 2017 has been a reversal of fortunes for Greinke as he has already matched his win total from last season. Greinke is 13-4 with an earned run average of 3.10, while he is on pace for his third 200-strikeout season in the last four years. Greinke’s turnaround this year has coincided with the turnaround of the Diamondbacks whose record of 63-48 has them currently in possession of the second wild card of the National League.
The Greinke that were seeing this year is what the Diamondbacks envisioned when they brought him in last year as he has now given them a frontline starter. Greinke’s presence has helped the Diamondbacks pitching staff overall as their 3.53 earned run average is second in the National League only trailing his former team in the Dodgers. Arizona is also second in the N.L. in strikeouts with 1018, while their 57 quality starts are fifth.
Greinke might not be on the level of Hall of Fame starting pitcher Randy Johnson who signed a four-year $52.4 million contract with the Diamondbacks in 1999 as he was sought after to help a budding expansion team, but he is still important. And just like Johnson, the folks in the desert are hopeful that Greinke can help them win a World Series.
With the dominance of the Dodgers this season, there is absolutely no way that the Diamondbacks can make up enough ground to catch them for first place in the National League West as they currently trail Los Angeles by 15.5 games. But Arizona’s chances of earning one of the wild card slots in the N.L. is pretty good. Barring injury Greinke would get the baseball for Arizona in that wild card game which would give him a chance to revive his status as a big game pitcher, while also redeeming himself for his last postseason start which resulted in the Dodgers being eliminated by the New York Mets in 2015.
However the fact that the Diamondbacks are even in the hunt for a playoff spot this year comes down to Greinke seeking to put 2016 behind him and show that he is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. Every fifth day that Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo gives Greinke the baseball, he is giving it to an ace that his teammates can rely on, while he also has Arizona smelling the playoffs.
This past Sunday afternoon saw Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre become the 31st player in Major League Baseball history to reach to golden plateau of recording 3,000 career hits. Beltre’s name is now among MLB legends such as Pete Rose, Stan Musial, and Willie Mays who reached the milestone, while he is also the first Dominican born player to achieve the feat.
Beltre’s Major League Baseball journey began as a 16-year old kid who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995 out of the Dominican Republic. By 1998, Beltre was ready to make his MLB debut and in 77 games for the Dodgers that season, he would hit .215 with 7 home runs and 22 runs batted in. In 1999, Beltre would become the Dodgers everyday third baseman as he batted .275 with 15 homers and 67 runs batted in. Beltre’s only playoff appearance with the Dodgers would come in 2004 as he helped them win the National League West for the first time since 1995. Beltre would also finish second in the National League MVP voting that season as he batted .334 with 48 home runs and 121 runs batted in.
Following that season Beltre would leave the Dodgers as a free agent to sign with the Seattle Mariners. In five years with the Mariners, Beltre was never able to help the organization reach the postseason, but his career in the Pacific Northwest would be highlighted by him winning a pair of Gold Glove Awards.
In 2010, Beltre would join the Boston Red Sox on a one-year deal. And it appeared to be a solid signing as Beltre would be in the middle of the Red Sox lineup with another Dominican born player in designated hitter David Ortiz. That season Beltre batted .321 with 28 homers and 102, but Boston would fall short of making the playoffs. But after one season in Boston, Beltre would find something that he never had during his career which was a home.
In 2011, Beltre would join the Rangers and it has been a marriage made in heaven. That season Beltre batted .296 with 32 home runs and 105 runs batted. Beltre would help the Rangers win the American League Pennant for the second consecutive year, and in the World Series he would bat .300 while hitting a pair of home runs.
Since Beltre has been with the Rangers, they have only had one losing season, while they have made four trips to the postseason. And for Beltre he has simply continued to be the model of consistency.
For Beltre’s career he has averaged 175 hits per year, while he is a career. 286 hitter. Beltre’s career batting average with the Rangers is .308 which is tied with Will Clark for the second most in franchise history and he is only 24 homers shy of becoming the fifth player in the club’s history to hit 200 career home runs. And as Beltre reached the milestone with his fourth-inning double off of Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Wade Miley this past Sunday, he punched his ticket to Cooperstown, New York and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When Beltre collected his 3,000th hit on Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t just him who was rounding first base to mark this magical moment, but it was entire nation which was on his back. The Dominican Republic has a proud baseball tradition that includes the likes of Pedro Guerrero, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ortiz, but it was Beltre who was the first from this nation to get to 3,000. And it is amazing that when Pedro Martinez was enshrined in Cooperstown last summer, he was only the second player from the Dominican Republic who received the honor. However that will be changing as Vladimir Guerrero should be a lock next year after barely missing out this time around and the same can be said about Ortiz in 2022. Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols in the next Dominican born player on the list as he is 86 hits shy of 3,000, while he already has 607 home runs, and when his playing career is over he will be Cooperstown bound as well.
But right now it is all about Beltre who was able to enjoy his moment with his family as well as the home fans at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. And even though that Beltre has an intense hatred for people who attempt to touch his head, there isn’t a person who is associated with Major League Baseball that didn’t take joy in seeing him collect his 3,000th, while he also solidified his Cooperstown resume.