- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Maybe if Andre Dawson's knees had been stronger by the time he played for the Boston Red Sox, he might have competed with Adrian Beltre as the toughest man to wear a Boston uniform in the past 20 years. Jason Varitek is no worse than first runner-up, just for carrying on stoically despite the dizzying number of body parts that have been battered, bruised and mangled in the course of his career.
But for brute strength, sheer power and a game face so fierce that the guy who made the new movie "Devil" wouldn't have a picture if Beltre had been one of the people trapped on the elevator, the Red Sox third baseman is in a league of his own.
Turns out that there is a way to take Beltre out of the Boston lineup, just when he seems at his most indestructible. If it doesn't happen Tuesday, it may be the next day. Beltre's wife, Sandra, is due at any moment to give birth to the couple's third child, a sister for 6-year-old Cassandra and 4-year-old Adrian Jr., and that's something Beltre doesn't want to miss.
"Probably a little more important than getting his 100th [expletive] RBI," said Mike Cameron, who was sitting next to Beltre on Monday night when reporters closed in, asking questions about the fifth-inning single that drove in Marco Scutaro with the run that gave Beltre dibs on triple digits for just the second time in his big-league career.
Whether he can get back home to Pasadena, Calif., in time is another question.
"I'm going to call right now," he said. "Would I go home for my baby? Oh, yeah, no doubt. The only thing is I'm far away, but hopefully I can get there in time.
"I don't give a damn about 100 RBIs."
Still, Beltre admits 100 is better than 99, which is the number he finished with in 2007, or 89, which he had the previous season. "You start looking at the opportunities you had, you think about all the chances you missed, I'd rather have 100."
And as one measure of the success he's had in re-establishing his value on the open market as an elite player, easily one of the most attractive free agents available this winter, 100 RBIs will do just fine, thank you.
Beltre entered free agency after his other 100-RBI season, 2004 with the Dodgers, when he batted .334 and hit 48 home runs to go with 121 RBIs on his gaudy stat line. The Red Sox contacted him then to see if he'd be willing to move to shortstop. The Tigers made a run at him. The Mariners got him, with a five-year, $64 million package.
What about the Dodgers?
"L.A., actually they just played off [the other offers]. They thought I liked it there so much I was going to let other teams go on, and then give me whatever they wanted. They tried to play that card because they didn't even make an offer until I had offers from other teams. Then they said they offered me whatever, but they didn't offer that kind of money."
Wait a second: Does that mean the Red Sox have hurt their chances of retaining Beltre because they haven't made an offer yet?
"I don't know," he said. "What I heard is they don't really like to negotiate during the season, so we didn't. I think I want to hear my options and see what's best for me and my family."
There's one line of thinking that Beltre, who has made Pasadena a permanent home and has been a successful investor in real estate ventures in Southern California, would favor a return to the West Coast. How strong a factor is the pull of home?
"I don't think it's a lot," he said. "I want to be with a team that has a good chance to win it, and this team has it. Even if I have to move to the East Coast, so be it. But it's something that I have to see what my options are and sit with my family and decide what's best for us."
Beltre said he has yet to sit down with agent Scott Boras, who last winter delivered a master stroke when he negotiated a one-year deal with Boston as an alternative to signing a three-year deal with Oakland, the idea being that Beltre would demonstrate his worth in 2010.
That plan has worked spectacularly. From a one-year salary of $9 million this season, Beltre's new price tag expects to be in the $12-15 million range for three or more years, and that might be conservative. The Tigers and Angels loom as two logical bidders for his services, the Athletics have money to spend, and there are surely other teams that will surface.
Put it this way: Beltre's soon-to-be daughter is assured of a very soft landing.
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.
14hMatt Walks, ESPN.com