My brother isn't a huge baseball fan. You won't find him watching a baseball game unattended, or looking at a player's statistics online, but I would still call him a casual fan, a fan who could see me watching a game and sit and follow along, or a fan who would gladly buy a ticket for a sunny day in July. He definitely enjoys going to games with me--as long as it includes hot dogs and popcorn and ice cream in the helmet with rainbow sprinkles--and when he's at the ballpark, he's engaged.
He tries to be on name recognition terms when he gets there, which helps when you're of the generation of social media and a player's Instagram is a touch away. He particularly loved, for example, the photo of Robinson Cano staring blankly for a selfie. Whenever I go with him, I always make sure to point out any notables on either side. Players come and go, and the opposing teams for a casual fan is just a mess of names, so I usually mention, like when we went to see the Yankees take on the Angels, "Oh, definitely pay attention to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols--they're some of the best you'll ever see."
One of the players I've pointed out in the past few years has been Carlos Beltran, and that one is always puzzling to mention, in the same vein of Pujols. I'm not that old, so I can distinctly remember seeing players past their prime that I knew were great at some point, but lost their luster by the time I was myself a fan. Ken Griffey Jr. is one. As is Rickey Henderson, or Kevin Brown, or Barry Larkin. I always find that funny, that when we're impressed with a portrait of a player as an old man, that we hold that memory over their peak. It's natural, obviously, because the physical and the immediate holds sway over the highlight reel, but that's always interesting to me.
The same can probably be said for Yankees fans of that impressionable age who watch Carlos Beltran on a daily basis. Beltran, for lack of a better word, is old. He can still hit a bit, but he's old. If you've been watching him since 2010, he's hit .275/.344/.476 (125 OPS+) with 119 home runs (20 home runs per year on average). And on defense, he's managed -64.2 runs below average by Fangraphs, -34.3 runs below average by Baseball Prospectus' FRAA, and -29 by Defensive Runs Saved.
And yet, as recently as 2007, he did things like this:
Wherefore art thou, defense? From when DRS started being tabulated in 2003, Beltran had 47 from then until 2009. FRAA also pegged him for 17.7 in 2006, so they weren't alone. Beltran was an excellent defensive outfielder, by any measure and the eye test, and it took a turn in literally the blink of an eye.
And when looking at Beltran's entire Hall of Fame case, it's pretty convincing. He will likely finish his career with over 2500 hits, over 400 home runs, over a 120 OPS+, and right around the average JAWS for Hall of Fame center fielders. Only six center fielders have more career WAR: Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., and Joe DiMaggio. He's that good.
And yet what's even more surprising, something that probably hasn't been the case in a very long time, is that Carlos Beltran might be the only future Hall of Famer on the team. In the past we've seen quite a few: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, (possibly) Mike Mussina, and Robinson Cano. There was actually a time all were employed by the Yankees at the same time, if you can believe it.
Today, the future Hall of Famers beyond Beltran are likely thin. Mark Teixeira will have his case, especially if he sticks around long enough to get to 500 home runs, but it's a long road, and I could see him falling off the ballot rather quickly, like even someone as good as Gary Sheffield did. Granted, Teixeira doesn't have his case clouded by the specter of PED's, but at 28th overall on the first base JAWS lists, it's not going to be easy. CC Sabathia also has a case, and it looked like he could sneak in as of three years ago, but three straight years of absolutely horrid performances, as well as a complete nosedive in his velocity and stuff, almost shuts the door on him, unless he somehow turns around his career. At just 54.9 WAR and a career 117 ERA+, his case is even worse than Mike Mussina, who is having trouble getting in as it is.
There's also Alex Rodriguez, but we know how that's going to go. There will be people, including myself, advocating that he be inducted when his name comes on the ballot, but he won't make it. Barry Bonds is struggling and he's arguably one of the greatest players in history. A-Rod is slightly worse, and the scandal and vitriol associated with him trumps anything associated with Bonds. If A-Rod gets in, it'll be via the Veteran's Committee when I'm on my death bed.
So what that leaves us with is a team with one potential Hall of Famer. I'm not complaining--there are teams that don't have Hall of Famers on their team for many years at a time, or they're so so skewed towards youth that you wouldn't know it at the time. We as Yankees fans are at least lucky enough to have one player, as questionable as he may be in 2016, who we can say will be represented in Cooperstown a few years down the road. So if you attend a game this year, point out to a casual fan of the old, slow guy in right field--he's one of the best who ever played.