For a long time it has been said that Cardinals right fielder
Carlos Beltran plays with class and acts in the same manner off the field. But,
today, Beltran stands in a class by himself.
With the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez still sidelined after hip surgery, Beltran stands as the only active player -- there are eight overall -- with at least 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases in their careers.
Beltran, in fact, reached 350 home runs with a pair Saturday, and he has 307 steals.
"That feels good," said Beltran. "Everything you can accomplish in this game is great. I don't really think about this stuff unless you guys come to me. But I feel proud."
With 16 homers, 44 runs batted in and a .306 average, Beltran's accomplishments through 69 games rival those of last year when he earned a start in the All-Star Game. After the club's 69th game last year, he was hitting .310 with 19 homers and 53 RBIs.
Third-base coach Jose Oquendo, a fellow Puerto Rican who has known (and managed) Beltran for some 20 years, said that if Beltran had not missed nearly a year's worth of games in 2009 and 2010 because of a knee ailment that required surgery when he was with the New York Mets, he would be a certain candidate for the Hall of Fame.
"Even so, I think he still should be considered," said Oquendo.
Manager Mike Matheny said, "Some of the things he's been able to do have been pretty impressive. Very impressive, that he keeps being able to do it, regardless of his age.
"He's just so smooth in how he goes about it that it sneaks up on you that he's doing what he is."
At age 36, Beltran shows little sign of slowing and Oquendo said, "I know he still wants to keep playing. Hopefully, they can work out something out here so he can stay here because he really likes it here."
Beltran, on the second year of a two-year, $26 million deal, signed on, in large part, to get to a World Series. He may stand alone in baseball annals as a member of three different clubs that lost National League championship series in seven games. In order, despite Beltran's considerable contributions, those clubs were Houston (2004), the Mets (2006) and Cardinals last year.
"One game," said Beltran, wistfully.
"As long as I'm contributing, and not that I'm just here, I would love to continue to play and fight for that (World Series). If it happens, great. If it doesn't, it wasn't meant to happen. But I'm not going to stop trying."
Oquendo said, "He knows he's close to the end and he doesn't have too many chances, so he's going to do whatever it takes.
"The key is to try and keep him fresh," said Oquendo. "At the same time, he wants to play. But we're all here for the same thing, to go as far as we can. For us to do that, he has to have fresh legs at the end."
Beltran's 14-game hitting streak, which was stopped Sunday, had been abetted by three days off Matheny gave him.
"I don't know (if the days off) help or not," said Beltran. "I like to be out there every day."
Matheny felt he might have leaned too heavily on Beltran last year when Beltran played 151 games. This year, Matheny already has given Beltran 12 starts off.
Veteran Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook held Beltran to two singles in nine at-bats in a previous American League life. But Westbrook hardly detected any holes in the switch hitter.
"You don't have the success that he's had if you've got holes," said Westbrook. "No, he doesn't have too many."
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