ST. LOUIS -- Adrian Beltre has played a long time for a guy who has never reached the World Series.
A long, long, long time.
"You got that right," Beltre says. "It took me 14 years. But I'm here, man."
Beltre's 1,959 regular-season games are the third-most among active players for a guy who has never set foot in the Fall Classic, trailing only Bobby Abreu (2,247) and Miguel Tejada (2,118).
But as that great baseball man, Branch Rickey, once said, luck is the residue of design. And Beltre's splashdown in St. Louis for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday is more design than luck.
When he signed a five-year, $80 million deal last winter to play third base in Texas, he had plenty of other options. One was with the Los Angeles Angels, though, as he told me this spring, he spurned them because he thought the Rangers had a better team and, as such, a better chance to go to the World Series.
Beyond the Angels, Beltre had a few other options as well. Oakland. Baltimore.
"If it was the money, I'd be somewhere else," he said. "Money wasn't my main issue. I could have had more money [elsewhere] or I could have stayed home in L.A.
"It was a hard decision to come here, but it's been the best one."
Beltre was everything the Rangers were hoping for. He played Gold Glove defense. He hit .296 with a .331 on-base percentage. He slammed 32 homers and collected 105 RBI in 124 games. Only a hamstring injury slowed him late in the year.
Now that he's back strong, the Rangers' lineup is as dangerous and deep as there is in the game. Their second consecutive World Series appearance proves that.
Beltre said he never felt pressure in Texas because he was surrounded by so much talent, guys like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli.
"I came here, but I wasn't the guy," says Beltre, who played exceedingly well in Boston in 2010 before signing with Texas. "I was just one of the guys.
"It's different when they bring you in to be the guy."
Asked about the Red Sox's meltdown and ongoing drama, Beltre quipped: "Why? What happened to the Red Sox? I don't watch TV."