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It's Real, and It's Spectacular
2004-04-29 16:10
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

He smashes pitches on the inside half of the plate like grapes in a vat.

He escorts pitches on the outside to right field like a gentleman - he might as well be laying his coat out over a puddle on the outside corner, protecting the dainty feet of a fair young maiden, the way he extends those tailing pitches such courtesy.

There is nowhere to pitch him now. His plate coverage is star-quality. It's dangerous.

So I'm declaring the wait over.

Spread the word.

A real ballplayer has arrived, and his name is Adrian Beltre.

And that talent isn't going anywhere.

No, the walks haven't come - only two so far this season. The cynical men on the mound aren't buying the news - it's April still, and many are seeing the graduated Beltre for the first time. Few of them are yet once-burned and even fewer twice-shy.

They're staying near the plate - and so Beltre swings. And he connects.

He can reach everything now and knows what to do with it. It's become instinct, like learning how to turn into a skid. It's become pure.

He's gone Gagne on us. So go gaga on him. His transformation is that profound.

As time passes, as the pitchers tinker, Beltre's production will fluctuate. The averages could go down - almost certainly will, even though he has not attained a 1.055 OPS this year from anything other than hitting everything really hard.

But I'm here to tell you, there's no fluke here. You can see it. Beltre is no longer chasing the game. He grabbed it with both hands, throttling it. Basic Training is over - no longer a scared, shaky private, he's officer material now. He used to be Swiss cheese at the plate - now he's Teflon.

And, by the way, only one error in the field so far.

I'm serious. Forget all that stuff about what motivates him, forget about first halves and second halves, forget about his appendectomy, forget about his age controversy. Forget the uncertainty. It's not the same guy anymore.

Visiting from out of town? Time you got clued in on what's happening in these parts.

Adrian Beltre is for real. He's a player. He's a Dodger, he's 25, and he's a star.

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