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Carlos Beltran’s power, speed a rare combo, but sign-stealing scandal complicates case

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Carlos Beltran exited the game on top. His story wasn’t quite finished, though.

Beltran enjoyed a dynamic 20-year career in Major League Baseball, reaching the postseason with five franchises and showing off a combination of power, speed and defense that puts him on a very short list of all-time five-tool players.

His candidacy for baseball’s Hall of Fame is awfully close to slam-dunk territory. But a post-career revelation will make his path to Cooperstown a bit more difficult than a layup.

Two years after Beltran eased into retirement after helping the Houston Astros win the 2017 World Series, his role as a ringleader in their rules-flouting sign-stealing scheme was revealed, throwing a twist into Hall candidacy that was borderline, but tilting toward induction.

Now, we will find out just how much the final chapter of his career will affect his permanent perch in the game’s lore.

USA TODAY Sports examines Beltran’s case:

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Why Beltran belongs in the Hall

Statistically or purely from an aesthetic standpoint, Beltran was one of the game’s most talented players, certainly within his era and by some measures of all time. Beltran hit 435 home runs and stole 312 bases, one of just five in the 400-300 club. The others are in the Hall or would be but for concerns of performance-enhancing drug use: Barry Bonds (762-514), Willie Mays (660-338), Andre Dawson (438-314) and Alex Rodriguez (696-329).

Beltran’s trophy case reflects that body of work.

He was a nine-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger winner, with two top 10 MVP finishes and three Gold Glove awards. While he started his career amid a woebegone era for the Kansas City Royals (where he won the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year award) Beltran soon became a harbinger of prosperity for several franchises.

A June 2004 trade from the rebuilding Royals to the Astros drove Houston all the way to Game 7 of the NLCS, thanks to Beltran’s eight home runs and 20 for 46 (.435) batting against the Braves and Cardinals. That set the stage for his first stab at free agency, resulting in a seven-year, $119 million contract with the New York Mets.

And he’d return in 2006 to Game 7 of the NLCS, this time getting frozen by an Adam Wainwright curveball as the Cardinals edged the Mets for the pennant. But Beltran hit 41 home runs with a .982 OPS that season,…

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