In honor of Ron Santo, I’ll skip ahead to third basemen.
1. Mike Schmidt 1972-1989 2404G, 548HR, 1595RBIs, .267BA, 147 OPS+
I’m not sure people realize how good Mike Schmidt was. I think partially this is because he played in the “deadball” era of the 70s and 80s, wasn’t flashy, and because he had a low batting average usually, he seemed like just another muscle bound home run hitter. But Schmidt actually hit 15-20 points above the league average in most years. He also stole 174 bases and won 10 gold gloves. He really had very few flaws.
2. Eddie Mathews 1952-1968 2391G, 512HR. 1453 RBIs, .271BA, 143 OPS+
Take a look at Ed Mathew’s baseball cards year by year. He just seems to age before your eyes.. turning into an old man before the age of 35. After 1960, his production entered a steep decline.. had he been able to squeeze out 5 or so more productive years he might have challenged Ruth’s record before Aaron.
3. Chipper Jones 1993-2012 2499G, 468HR, 1623 RBIs, .303BA, 141 OPS+
Had Jones been a better fielder he migh be number one on this list. But a fine career, all with one team, nonetheless.
4. George Brett 1973-1993 2707G, 317 HR, 1596 RBIs, .305BA, 135 OPS+
Brett only played 1692 games at 3rd. Most people might be surprised at that, But those were his best years.
5. Brooks Robinson 1955-1977 2896G, 268HR, 1357 RBI, .267BA, 104 OPS+
Robinson of course gets most of his value from being the finest defensive 3rd baseman of all time.
6. Wade Boggs 1982-1999 2440G, 118 HR, 1014 RBIs, .328 BA, 131 OPS+
It’s hard to describe Wade Boggs to someone today.. average looking guy with a 19th century mustache who posted batting averages that also looked like they were from 100 years ago.. but while also drawing huge numbers of walks.. I don’t really know another guy with that high average/large walks combo.
7. Ron Santo 1960-1974 2243G, 342 HR, 1331 RBIs, .277BA, 125 OPS+
It’s really a crime Santo was overlooked by the hall of fame for so many years. He should have been a shoo in. But he was somewhat unassuming.. regionally popular, and had a somewhat short career due to diabetes, leaving at the age of just 34.
8. Frank Baker 1908-1922 1575G, 96 HR, 987 RBIs, .307BA, 135 OPS+
I don’t really have a whole lot to say about Home Run Baker.. On Jun13/14 1921 on consecutive days Baker hit home runs at the Polo Grounds while playing with the Yankees against the Tigers. On both days Babe Ruth hit two home runs as well. Kind of sums up Baker I suppose.. always being overshadowed by other players.
9. Ron Cey 1971-1987 2073G, 316HR, 1139 RBIs, .261BA, 121 OPS+
Bet you didn’t see this one.. 6 time all star, and one of the best defensive players never to win a gold glove (thanks to Schmidt).
10. Stan Hack 1932-1947 1938G, 57 HR, 642 RBIs, .301 BA, 119 OPS+
Hack isn’t thought of too much these days.. but he was the best 3rd baseman in either league for at least ten years.. I think that deserves a HOF nod.. but I doubt it will happen.
Honorable Mention (and why I didn’t pick them)
Dick Allen – too few games at 3rd. I could say a lot about Allen, since he won’t appear on any of these lists.. but he’s one of the most gifted athletes/players to ever set foot on a baseball field. Unfortunately injuries and attitude took their toll.
Pie Traynor – Up until the 1980s virtually every all time list you’d ever see had Pie Traynor as the greatest 3rd baseman of all time. Looked at in a modern sense.. his statistics just don’t look that good.
Graig Nettles – always sort of saw him as a poor man’s Mike Schmidt – He hit for power.. but not as much as Schmidt, was a great fielder, but not quite as good as Schmidt.. drew 1088 walks.. but not as many as Schmidt. Was a worse baserunner than Schmidt.. I just couldn’t see him in the top ten.
Alex Rodriguez – I kind of limited the list to 1500 games played at 3rd.. If you relaxed that a bit you could plop A-Rod in 5th or 6th place.. but we’ll see how he winds up his career.
George Kell – I hated Kell as a HOF choice.. there just were, and still are better candidates. His stats just don’t quite measure up other than batting average.
Ken Boyer – If Graig Nettles is a poor man’s Mike Schmidt Boyer is a poor man’s Ron Santo. Unlike Nettles I could see Boyer in the Hall of Fame. But I don’t think he quite belongs in the top ten.
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