BY John Hickey 06:54PM 04/05/2011

Felix ready for Beltre, and vice versa

Longtime teammates looking forward to a little mano-a-mano

Felix Hernandez will rare back against former teammate Adrian Beltre Wednesday. / Getty Images

It started in January, in the first few hours after Adrian Beltre had signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Texas Rangers.

Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez called to congratulate him. And to tease.

“I told him I was going to strike him out,’’ Hernandez told Sportspressnw.com this spring. “All fastballs.’’

Beltre was up to the challenge.

“I told him I was going to take him deep,’’ Beltre said.

So now the two longtime Mariner teammates and friends meet for the second time. Beltre had one at-bat against Hernandez last year when the third baseman was playing for the Boston Red Sox.

He struck out in his first at-bat in the second game of a doubleheader. Before he had a chance to see Hernandez a second time, Beltre was ejected for complaining about the third strike.

Wednesday afternoon Hernandez makes his second start of the year for Seattle to close out the Mariners’ first road trip in Texas. Beltre, who has been batting cleanup for a power-laden Rangers team, will get his first prolonged chance to beat up his buddy.

“We call, we text, we’re always talking,’’ Beltre said. “He knows he’s going to get me. I know I’m going to get him.’’

Over time, both will prevail, each in his own way. Maybe both will find their way to the post-season, too. Beltre has been there once. Hernandez has not.

It’s that chance to win that is the reason, as much as anything, that Beltre is a Ranger now and not a Mariner. He loved his time in Seattle; he considered re-signing with the team in 2010 and listened when the Mariners called this off-season, although that was more a courtesy on both sides than anything else.

The Rangers, who went to the World Series last year, offered not only a lot of money but a chance to play in October, maybe deep into October.

“There were other ways I could have gone,’’ Beltre said. “I’ve accomplished a lot in my career but this team gives me a chance to get to the World Series.

“I’ve been in the big leagues 12 years and only played in the playoffs once. That doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t have a ring, and I want one.’’

Beltre turned down the four-year deal from the Mariners after his five-year contract with Seattle ran out after the 2009 season to sign with the Red Sox. He found that spending the year in hitter-friendly Fenway Park did wonders for his game. He averaged .321, hit 28 homers and drove in 102 runs.

“Boston is a great place to play,’’ he said. “You’d get to the park and 30 minutes before the game would start the stands would be full. And they’d stay until the last out. You couldn’t ask for better fans or for a better experience.’’

That being said, the Red Sox’s push for Beltre’s services wasn’t significant once another Adrian – Gonzalez, that is – came on the scene. Boston’s successful pursuit of the Padres’ longtime first baseman meant that the field was open for Beltre. The A’s were a contender for a while, as were the Angels, but the package offered by the Rangers was hard to beat.

It’s not just that he got a five-year, $80 million deal with an option for a sixth year. It was more that the Rangers, who have a young and improving pitching staff, a solid lineup and aggressive management, seemed to be a team that could make it deep in the postseason multiple times during Beltre’s Texas odyssey.

“It’s never been about numbers for me,’’ Beltre said. “My numbers are good, but I’ve always been about winning. Looking at the players in this clubhouse, I have the feeling that the playoff chances here are very good. And for me, that’s the fun of baseball, to be in the playoffs consistently.

“I’m overdue.’’

Hernandez, who at 24 is seven years younger than Beltre, feels the same way about winning. But he has more time and, apparently, the belief that winning can happen in Seattle.

“Everybody here wants to win,’’ he said. “We’re building. I think we’ll get there.’’

Before that happens, he’ll have to face Beltre and the Rangers more than a few times.

He’s looking forward to it.

Twitter: @JHickey3


YourThoughts

  • Steve59

    Great column.  You are right-on.  And, nothing will happen.

  • spudzDP

    Mark Emmert reminds me of Gorbachev who, after becoming the leader of the Soviet Union, helped to bring it all crumbling down, basically ending Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. I doubt that Gorby had that intention when he came to power, but he facilitated it with his personality, his relative youth and his new school attitude.  Communism was already falling apart, but it needed someone like Gorbachev to help kick it down the stairs.  Emmert might be in that same position as far as the NCAA goes.
    He is younger than most of the senior citizens who ran the NCAA before, so he is probably more open to new ideas and new ways of looking at things.  This could open the door to paying athletes — not like professional football players, but on a scale perceived to insure college players won’t be as tempted to accept illegal payments.  This will be the beginning of the end of the NCAA.  It will come crashing down faster than any bust of Lenin ever did.  Once the cash begins trickling down, every thing will change. The athletes might benefit, but the entire landscape will go through a radical makeover.  The loss of the NCAA is no great tragedy, but Saturdays will never be the same.  

  • Anonymous Coward

    OK, pay the athletes to make up the difference between expenses covered by a scholarship and actual costs.  But can you pay them enough so the kid won’t still be tempted by a big-money sleaze ball agent who can put the kid’s family in a nice house rent free or set up anything goes weekends at a resort?  The problem is still there whether you pay them or not.  Effective enforcement and penalties will still be needed.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    “The likeliest solution, which is already on the drawing board in some
    form, is for the top 64 schools to break away from the NCAA and form
    their own professional association of four super-conferences, with
    limited connections to the universities and the old rulebook.”

    They can call it the Premier League.

    [Oops, that name's already taken.]

  • 1coolguy

    Come on Art – If the coaches are liable with JAIL TIME as the consequence, this whole issue becomes moot.
    You know it, I know it and Emmert knows it.

    The NCAA only needs to establish rules that result in jail time – it’s not that tough.

    End of strory.

    • Anon

      The NCAA rules are not law, and the NCAA is not the government so they can not make their rules have the power of law. 

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