By Robert Dominguez
A hurting hammy put a sudden halt to Adrian Beltre’s historic march to Cooperstown.
The Dominican native, who last year became the 31st player to collect 3,000 hits, on April 5 became baseball’s all-time hits leader among Latin American-born players when he smacked a second-inning double in a game against the Oakland Athletics.
The two-bagger was Beltre’s 3,054 career hit, moving the Texas Rangers third baseman past Panamanian great Rod Carew.
It also put Beltre into some further exalted company: The only other foreign-born Major Leaguer with more lifetime hits is Mariners outfielder/DH and Japanese icon Ichiro Suzki, who at age 44 has 3,089 through the end of April.
Unfortunately, Beltre’s steady rise up the all-time list was stalled on April 24 when the 39-year-old strained his left hamstring running the bases. The mild Grade 1 strain landed him on the 10-day disabled list.
Depending on when a healthy Beltre rejoins the Rangers lineup, he could still end up passing a handful of Hall of Famers by season’s end. He needs just 110 more hits to blow by the likes of Dave Winfield, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount and then Cal Ripken, who’s at No. 15 with 3,184.
Passing Nap Lajoie’s dead ball-era total of 3,243 will likely have to wait until sometime in 2019, though.
But Beltre, who was hitting .310 after 24 games with 1 HR and 8 RBI, may not stay at the top of the all-Latin, all-time hits heap for long.
The three active players behind him are the Angels’ Albert Pujols, 38, who’s at the cusp of 3,000 with 2,996 hits through April 29; the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, who at 35 has 2,665 hits; and Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, 35, with 2,406 hits.
Robert Dominguez is a senior editor at the New York Daily News and co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.”