Archive | December, 2011

Jorge Posada to the Phils? Rays? O’s? Jorge – hang it up!

30 Dec

Believe it or not, aside from Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada has been one of the most offensively potent catchers to play the game in the 90’s and 00’s. Posada hit for power, drove in runs, served as a switch hitting situational pitching killer and he hit for enough of an average to not be black hole. As a hitter, Posada was not a bad guy to have in your lineup. As an actual catcher, the defensive end of the game, he was a waste. He didn’t block balls well. He didn’t throw particularly well, although he did have a decent season or two in that area. He didn’t handle pitchers at all well. That didn’t matter much though – he hit and that was what was being looked for.

The Yankees had veteran pitchers for the most part that were fully capable of calling their own game. They scored enough runs that they could forgive some hustle runs created by Jorge’s inability to manage the opposition’s running game. It was a trade off. it was on that worked well, because the Yankees took 4 WS titles with Jorge behind the plate. Actually, it was more like 3 1/2, but why nitpick? Now those years are over.

if you believe the rumors, Jorge is being courted by several teams. The rays, Phillies and Orioles have been somewhat open about it. The rest are pretty much mystery teams. Who knows what the actual interest in a 40 something ex-catcher that takes exception to the DH role is. Let’s look at what makes sense, what doesn’t and why Jorge just needs to quietly retire.

The Phillies make no sense. No NL team makes any sense. Aside from being a DH for interleague play and maybe a third string catcher, Posada has no business in the NL. No matter how bad a team’s situation may be, Jorge is not the answer. He’s going to be too expensive to fill that Interleague DH/Pinch hitter/Emergency defensive player role. Beyond the money issue, his ego can’t handle that. Any rumor of an NL team should just be disregarded. Signing him would be conceding a roster slot.

The Rays are not a good fir either. They could use an extra veteran catcher hanging around, but Jorge? He offers nothing in regard to maturing young pitchers. He wouldn’t DH for the Yankees for $13m/year, so why would he for the rays at maybe – in bizarro world – $3m tops for the Rays? He can’t play first well enough to be a legit backup there. I doubt he could catch more than 45 “quality” games if his life depended on it at this point. So what is the logic behind signing him? getting a name brand – even if the product is expired? The Rays are shrewder than that. Toss this rumor under the bus.

The orioles are intriguing. The orioles need help all over the place. Posada wouldn’t be much help though. Wieters is not going to be replaced by Posada. Period. For the remaining reasons he won’t work, see everything listed with the Rays. That doesn’t mean it may not happen though. They will overpay for his services if anyone will. Right field at Camden could be his friend. He may draw a few fans for a few weeks – he’s still a minor name.

I can understand not wanting to let it all go and retire. But Jorge, you’ve made tens of millions of dollars. You have nothing left to prove. You will never be a starter again unless it is as a DH, and then only until a better option arrives. Your skills have deteriorated massively. You are considered a clubhouse cancer by many, just overly passionate by others. It is time to stop.

Retire.

Go back to Yankee Stadium for hip hip Jorge day.

Throw out a first pitch.

Play at old timer’s games.

Show up for spring training as an instructor.

Just let it go.

Playing for another team at this time with those diminished skills is npt going to achieve anything. You may think it is giving the Steinbrenner’s the finger, but in reality it is giving the fans that supported you for years the finger. Supported you when you were wrong. Supported you when you whined. Supported you when you refused to play. Supported you in 2011 when you played like crap on toast all year. Don’t give us the finger – if you do you will never be cheered in Yankee Stadium.

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Albert Pujols and big contracts – Are owners rockin’ the ganja?

28 Dec

I love to watch Albert Pujols play just as much as the next person, but is it possible I’m the only one that thinks his new contract is flat out batshit crazy? Is there reason enough to believe, evidenced by said deal, that Arte Moreno is rockin’ the ganja? This isn’t another pointless rant about high salaries, owners that make no sense or how the game used to be. I am all for players getting what they can – and Albert would be nuts to turn down the bank he just jacked. What I am against is players getting those big deals when they make little sense.

I don’t think there is a better hitter in the game than Pujols. Not for power or average or the intimidation factor he carries when he steps into the box. Albert is the complete package. Albert plays the field well. He’s not great defensively, and let’s not kid ourselves about that – but who cares? he is the best offensive weapon in baseball. That is what he is paid for. Ozzie Smith was the best defensive infielder I ever saw. Gary Maddox or maybe Paul Blair was the best defensive outfielder I ever saw. If they were playing today, neither would get Albert money because defense is secondary in today’s game. Ladies love the long ball.

The thing is, when I look at Albert he is 31. A 10 year deal carries him until he is 41. Players do not tend to peak in this portion of their career – no matter how naturally great they are. Pujols may have 3, likely 4 strong seasons in him before the inevitable slide begins. How bad that slide is going to be is anyone’s guess. He may taper off slowly. he may start a slow taper and then just crash. Speculation is a part of the game, but there is no speculation in that fact. Players age and their skills declines. It’s why they retire. How does a guy that has been as cheap as Arte has been give such a sweetheart deal to Pujols who we know is on the downward arc side of his career?

It’s the A-Rod principle. What he is being locked in for now may be a bargain in 5 years or possibly ten even with his reduced production. What Albert can offer a team in terms of merchandising, ticket sales, various transmission rights and assorted other cash grabbing vehicles is huge. Albert signed and the Angels suddenly became a popular ticket. that is fact. Albert signed and demand for his Angels jersey was more than was expected. that is a fact. When it comes time for Arte to negotiate radio broadcast rights etc.. Albert means more money. Period. It is the same logic used to legitimize the A-Rod signing – except he turned out to be a roided up fraud that is a 120 game player at best.

The value a player has to a team is not limited to what they do on the field. it may be driven by that, but merchandising is key. A player like Albert allows an owner like Arte to Always Be Converting. The question is whether Arte can convert Albert enough to make the deal fiscally responsible. The answer to that is no. The Yankees who have the biggest platform in the sporting world could not make a pre-flop A-Rod a fiscally sound investment in the way Arte Will need to do with Albert. The Yankees can absorb tens of millions of dollars of losses on contracts every year and not bat an eye. Arte can do that three or four years before he is screwed. As rich as Arte is, he doesn’t have Steinbrenner family money. From that standpoint, it makes no sense.

It makes no sense because now that the deal is inked, Albert has nowhere else to go. Moreno will never be able to trade Pujols without eating a huge portion of that guaranteed money. Ask Tom Hicks about how hard it actually was to trade A-Rod at the top of his game with the same basic deal Pujols has now – and A-Rod was younger than Albert is now. Hicks had to eat what amounted to 1/3 of that deal to move A-Rod – about $8 million/year to NOT play for the Rangers. Pujols would present the same problem. Factor in that Pujols is now proving to be more susceptible to injury and it is a tougher sell. Everyone has injuries at some point, but Albert is having those chronic nagging type of issues pop up. That is scary.

What about history? A-Rod got a big chunk of money on his last deal based on breaking the career home run record – assuming he can still do it. With 134 to go, it seems like he’ll make it and fans will fill the seats to watch it happen, but what about Albert? What will his history based draws be? Albert needs under 1,00 hits to reach 3,000, so that seems like a lock. As awesome as that is, it’s doubtful it will put butts in the seats weeks on end to work up to it or peel panties of the fannies of female fans. it’s a massive achievement, it’s just a kinda boring one.If he reaches 4,000, that will be worth watching!

He needs 318 homers to reach the current career record. I never say never, but how about saying highly unlikely? If he can continue to average 42 homers a season for the next 10 years – no problemo! The thing is, he won’t. Even averaging 32 per year is a stretch. he will have to retain his power, his eye, stay healthy enough to play 140 games plus every year and be lucky on top of all that. It always takes a little luck.

Pujols and A-Rod are different types of players and people – no argument. What you need to look at though is that A-Rod was about 32 when health issues began popping up – like Albert, he played through them. The next year, he missed 20 games more than his average rest for a season. by the time he hit 36, he was in under a 100 games and the goal is to just manage to get his bat in 120 games a season somehow – likely by DH’ing 30 or 40 of those appearances. I bring this up because only a few years ago, the idea that A-Rod would go down like Griffey Jr. did was unthinkable. We say it is unthinkable for the same thing to happen to Albert, but is it really? 5 years ago, A-Rod hit 54 homers. Each of the following three seasons he hit 30 or more. Last year he dropped to 16. Time takes a toll on everyone – no exceptions. Except for Barry Bonds…and Roger Clemens.

I’m happy for Pujols to get paid. I’m happy to see Moreno spend money. I’m happy to see Texas had an “oh shit!” moment when Albert went to their main division rival. it’s good for baseball. Based on what other guys are making and ho they are performing, Albert is worth the money. But let’s be real – as good as Albert is, over the lifetime of the deal, it is a loser for Moreno and the Angels and it is going to cost them dearly. They better win now, because with that deal hanging over them, winning later is a slim option.

 

How to define the most valuable player in baseball

27 Dec

The voting for MVP has always been quite subjective. In early years it seems as though voters prized the total package of a player, the intangibles if you will along with statistical output. In the modern era it seems as though it’s all numbers and nothing else matters.

While argument against my theory can be made I point to the past so we can move forward. We seem to hold the belief that it is all about the numbers but the award was initially to be awarded by the following guidelines: “The Trophy Committee was formed to “honor the baseball player who is of greatest all-round service to his club and credit to the sport during each season; to recognize and reward uncommon skill and ability when exercised by a player for the best interests of his team, and to perpetuate his memory.” This leaves a lot of gray area but it does plainly point to the all around greatest service to his club. What does greatest service to the club mean? This is what we call the intangibles; leadership, the ability to be the glue that holds the team together and elevate the play of those around him. Someone that is willing to sacrifice their own personal achievements for that of the teams success. Being a credit to the sport would point to a player that conducts himself within the confines of the rules, presents them self as a gentleman and role model, and does nothing to bring discredit to them self or the sport.

In the early era of the sport when this code was more fully in force players such as Roger Peckinpaugh, Frank McCormick, Joe Gordon, Jim Bottemly, Bob O’Farrrel, and George Burns took MVP honors. Now these weren’t players that were statistically the best by any stretch of the imagination. They didn’t do amazing things in those years. What they did was perform solidly and help lead their teams to greatness while conducting themselves in a professional manner. The year Joe Gordon won the MVP Ted Williams won the triple crown. Statistically Williams was more deserving, however Gordon was considered pivotal to his teams success. Granted Williams was hated by the press and more deserving, these rules were applied to justify Gordon’s nod. No one said the writers aren’t full of shit sometimes.

In modern days, we will say the last 30 years for simplicity, the award has taken a drastic turn. Players that have great years on teams going nowhere have by and far dominated the winners. Rod Carew, Don Baylor, George Bell, Terry Pendleton, Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Mo Vaughn, Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, Jeff Bagwell, Ken Griffey Jr., and Larry Walker have all won the award on unsuccessful teams. Some would argue that there individually gaudy statistical years are so overwhelming they are deserving regardless of how their teams performed. Now it may sound as though I’m arguing you have to win the ring to win the award but it is far from that. My question is did these players elevate their teams to good seasons? No, in some cases these were guys on teams with losing records. Did they conduct them self in the professional manner outlined in the award criteria? In some case blatantly no. I won’t argue the greatness of a player or season they had, but could you see Phil Rizzutto winning an MVP against these statistical monsters based primarily on his intangibles? How about Zoilo Versailles, Bobby Shantz, Nellie Fox, or Jim Konstanty? Probably not. They had strong statistical years but not eye popping.

Is the old way better or the new? Who is to say. The game is different, it’s much more a business now than ever and the “Sexy” stats bring in the dollars. I do think there needs to be more emphasis on the intangibles. I certainly believe a guy like Derek Jeter has earned the award although he has never won one. Based on past recipients it seems so. I believe it’s a good thing to recognize greatness a player displays even on a bad team, but as defined by the framers of the awards voting standards many of today’s MVP’s just don’t make the cut.

The best catchers in the history of baseball

26 Dec

When we talk about the best catchers in the history of baseball we are discussing a rather elite group of highly specialized players. Great offense alone doesn’t make for a great catcher, in fact it is less than half of the battle. Calling a good game is paramount along with being able to play strong defense and be physically durable. This is evidenced by the fact that when we discuss the greatest catchers in the history of baseball guys like Mike Piazza or Carlton Fisk are referred to as “great hitting catchers” by most, not great catchers as they were not known for their great work behind the plate, especially in the case of Piazza. What follows are my picks for the greatest all-time catchers in no particular order.

Johnny Bench was the force behind the Big Red Machine with his stellar defense, laser guided throws, and a bat that just would not stop. Bench took the defensive aspect of catching to a whole new level and actually changed the way future generations of catchers positioned them self behind the plate. He set low and offered a big target while protecting his throwing hand behind his back rather than behind his glove as was the norm for decades. It may seem small but countless injuries have been saved by this change.

As a Rookie of the year, two time MVP, World Series MVP, fourteen time All-Star, and two-time World Series winner Bench did everything and did it all well. With over 2,000 hits and 389 homers to complement 1,376 runs batted in and ten consecutive gold gloves Bench was the catcher of a generation. There may have guys who did a thing or two better during the era, but none was the complete package Bench Was. Bench was a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and is cited as an influence on the position by almost every modern day catcher that saw him play. Simply put Bench is the benchmark modern catchers are measured against.

Peter Lawrence “Yogi” Berra is without doubt one of the greatest catchers ever. With three MVP awards, ten world series championships, and almost every accolade you can imagine showered upon him Berra had only one true peer during his era, Roy Campanella. Berra was more than just a Yankee or even baseball great, he was an is to this day an American icon. He was Mr. October before Reggie Jackson even entered junior high school. He is the single winningest player in World Series history with his record ten championship teams likely being a record that will stand for all time. By the numbers he collected 2,150 hits, 358 homers, 1,430 ribbies, 1,175 runs, and a .285 career average and eighteen All-Star game appearances. Yogi also caught some of the best pitchers of the era and the only perfect game in World Series history. Berra did everything and he did it all exceptionally well. If you look for records held by a catcher Berra likely holds or held it at the time of his retirement. He is an undisputed legend.

Another Yankee makes the list and that man is Bill Dickey, Hall of Famer, and one of the three great catchers of his era. While Dickey had his peers behind the plate in Hartnett and Cochrane, at the plate he was far superior. Making a gaudy eight world series appearances with seven wins Dickey was a post-season winner. Individually his four consecutive seasons with 20 homers, 100 or more RBI’s, a .300 or better average and 80 or more runs scored went unmatched by any catcher until Yankee Thurman Munson matched the mark forty years later. He was also a lifetime .313 hitter with elven All-Star appearances to his credit. Dickey did more than that however as he consistently called the shots for an ever changing pitching staff that was always in the hunt for a championship run if not the championship itself. On a team chock full of legends Dickey was the all too often overlooked hero and glue that brought it all together.

Gabby Hartnett strung together a twenty year career exemplified by smart work behind the plate, a cannon arm, and offensive prowess that made him one of the three best catchers of the era. With 1,912 hits, 236 homers, 1,179 ribbies, and a .297 career average Gabby was a machine that seemingly had no off switch. He played the game one way which was all out all the time. Those above detailed statistics were all records for a catcher when he retired which demonstrates how utterly dominant he was at the dish which is a testament to his longevity. He was consistent to the point of boredom as some put it. Even so he was still considered one of if not the greatest catcher in the National League the first half of the century. His mask and Glove were the first artifacts the newly opened Baseball Hall of Fame acquired to display in 1938. A casual fan may not know his name but in baseball circles he is a legend not only among catchers but all players.

Dodgers great Roy Campanella may have even been better than Berra in some regards but a tragic auto accident which paralyzed this titan stops us from ever knowing for sure. Most people that saw “Campy” and Berra play say it was too close to call, each was a phenomenal talent with a different style. The main knock against Campy was his penchant for being a feast or famine hitter, some years he was the best, another he would barely hit his weight. Since Campanella didn’t make it to the MLB until he was over 25 years old and spent years (Since age fifteen) in the Negro and Mexican leagues he lost time which is why many analysts give Campy a big edge over Berra. Learning his trade under legendary Negro League catcher Biz Mackey Campy was a master behind the plate and a monster at it. Three MVP awards, seven seasons with a minimum of 20 homers, 1,161 hits, and 856 runs batted in during only eleven seasons are all proof enough he was elite. The only question surrounding Campanella’s game is we can only wonder what if?

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez now with the Astros but best remembered with Texas may very well go down as the best complete cacher ever, and at only 37 he has time to pad his stats even more. His hit total may just wind up over 3,000, something no catcher has ever done in the history of the game. Currently standing on 294 homers with over 1,200 runs scored and driven in even he has already established himself as one of the most offensively gifted catchers ever. With each game he plays more landmarks are on their way to falling. His arm is beyond legendary, even Johnny Bench supporters often agree Pudge may have the edge in this aspect of the game. His durability is amazing to the point of nearly being unbelievable, and his thirteen gold gloves lead all catchers in the history of the game. Add in a World Series title and fourteen All-Star appearances, Pudge is a legend playing before our eyes. When he takes off his gear for the last time don’t be surprised to see him as a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and a holder of many of the offensive an defensive records for the position.

Josh Gibson must be given his due. Gibson’s stats will never be settled, it is all speculation as leagues kept poor records and many have been lost over time. Many that do exist are argued over as legitimacy is an issue as scoring standards weren’t always the same in foreign leagues in which Gibson played many of his games. What is known is he is a Hall of Famer, maybe the greatest hitting catcher ever, maybe one of the best hitters in baseball history ever. As my dad once told me, to see Josh Gibson hit was to see near perfection, like Babe Ruth only stronger and in better shape. His skills behind the plate were unquestioned although again we can’t really statistically measure them, we just have to accept the word of those that saw and played against him. We never have appreciated him as much as he deserves due to segregation which is our loss. Statistical proof or not Josh Gibson may have been the best catcher of them all.

There are plenty of other greats, Mickey Cochrane, Carlton Fisk (At least he hung around to hit homers for 24 years), the tragically lost Thurman Munson, and to a degree Mike Piazza although he was never a good defensive catcher he hit like no other. Of course this is my assessment of the best catchers ever and anyone is free to disagree, that is after all the beauty of baseball.

The best base stealers in baseball history

21 Dec

When it comes to detrmining the greatest base stealers of all time in Major League Baseball (MLB) there are three schools of thought. One relies on the percentage of success, another on the sheer volume, and another a combination of these factors along with the impact on the game the players ability to steal had. Regardless of which school of thought one subscribes to the top handful of thieves in MLB history are almost unarguable in stark contrast to lists of many of baseballs other statistical categories.

Rickey Henderson is almost universally accepted as the single greatest base stealer of all time. His 1,406 career swipes make him not only the only man to ever steal over 1,000 bases, but also put him 368 thefts ahead of his nearest competition by virtue of averaging 56 steals per year over his 25 year career. His 130 steals in 1982 also made him the single season leader in regards to stolen bases. Amazingly enough Henderson was only caught stealing 335 times for a career average of only 13.4 times per year. He led the league in steals twelve times, at one point for seven years in a row, and somehow managed to do this with an eighteen year spread between his first and last time leading the league in the category. On the feild Henderson’s ability to steal at will changed the way teams had to approach him at all times and was at the very least disruptive to pitchers. Any way you slice it, when it comes to steals, Henderson is the king.

Lou Brock ranks second all time on the steals list and is also second in most peoples opinion in regards to ranking this category. Until Henderson came along Brock held the single season and career steals records with 118 and 938 respectively. His rate of success is too close to Hendersons to say either has a true edge, and over Brocks’ 19 year career he averaged about 16.1 picks per year. Certainly a respectable number. Henderson takes the edge over Brock in all regards definitively as Brock only stole over 100 bases one time as opposed to Henderson’s three trips over the century marker and only swiped over seventy on one other occasion. Brock led the league eight times and while remarkably consistent, was never as feared on the base paths as Henderson.

Here is where the real debate comes into play as I place the number four all time thief Ty Cobb at number three among my list of baseball’s best base stealers. Cobb finished his twenty four year career with 892 thefts for an average of about 37 per season. While that average may not seem impressive Cobb did steal 96 sacks one year and passed the 70 theft milestone three times. Considering he only stole 90 bases in his last seven seasons combined, it shows what a threat Cobb was when younger. It is said Cobb may have been not only one of the smartest players ever when swiping a base, but also the most physically brutal with his trademark spikes high slide.

Number four on my list is Tim Raines with 808 career steals which ranks him number five on the all time career leaders list. Raines averaged just over 35 steals a season over his 23 year career but was only caught a shockingly low 146 times to average a mere 6.3 failures per year. While Raines only managed to lead the league in steals four times he stole seventy or more bases six times, once surpassing 90. Only Rickey Henderson has surpassed this feat and shows Raines was not just prolific and highly successful in his trade, but remarkably consistent.

Weighing in as my number five on baseball’s all time greatest base stealers list is the number three man on MLB’s all time list Billy Hamilton with his 912 career thefts. Hamilton is credited with doing this in just fourteen years, three of which he appeared in near or below less than half the games his team played. He is also credited as being the only one of two players to steal over 100 bases in a season three times along with Henderson. While I would have liked to include Maury Wills here as Hamilton’s statistics are regarded to some as cloudy due to his career spanning 1888-1901 an era statistics often fall under some suspicion, it cannot be argued he was the supreme base stealer of his era. Even if inflated slightly, his numbers are still very impressive.

Of course there will always be debate on this topic and that’s what makes baseball great. However it is extremely hard to argue that in some order these are not the five greatest base stealers in baseball history and as they span almost the entire history of the MLB it can be seen how invaluable the stolen base has been and remains to be today.

The oldest professional baseball player in history

20 Dec

Figuring out who the oldest professional baseball player in history is no easy task. Granted a simple biopic would be no problem, but the problem is nobody is truly sure who the oldest player ever was. Some purists say it is Nick Altrock who at age 56 pinch hit for the Washington Senators in 1933. Others say it was Minnie Minoso, and others swear it is Leroy “Satchel” Paige. The problem lies in birth certificates. Paige and Minoso either no longer had or declined to present them which makes their true ages unknown whereas Altrock was confirmed.

Still even if we accept (Which most historians do) that Minoso and Paige were older than Altrock as lying about being older at that point in their lives is contrary to conventional logic we still don’t know which was actually older. Paige and Minoso were also motivated to lie about their age as they began careers when baseball was segregated. Paige played his last game in 1965 for the Kansas City A’s at the believed age of 59. Many people generally believe he could have been as old as 65. Paige was commonly known to dodge issues of age, in part because he wanted to be considered younger and therefor more “signable” when intergration entered the world of Major League Baseball. His own mother stated he was three years older than he claimed but Paige maintained she was in her nineties and forgetful when she stated that. However any way you slice it Paige was at the least 59.

Minnie Minoso was a position player making his final appearance for the Chicago White Sox in 1980 at the believed age of 57 although like Paige it is commonly accepted he lied about his age to appear younger at the time of his signing in 1948 by Cleveland. Even at the time of his last appearnace reports of his age are conflicted as some sources listed him as 54, others 57, and yet another as 58. Quite frankly it was anybodies guess. His official year of birth is listed as 1925 however that was a year he supplied, not one taken from an official document.

Where this gets cloudy is that in 2003 Minoso drew a walk at the age of 77 as per his possible 1925 birthdate for the Independent minor league team the St. Paul Saints. He was paid for the game, however this was something like his 1976, 1980, and 1990 one to three day contracts with the Chicago White Sox which were purely promotional. Again some argue as Minoso did not appear in an Actual MLB gane his appearance with the Saints does not count.

So you have your pick of the oldest player. Nick Altrock is the oldest validated by birth certificate player to appear in an MLB game. Minnie Minoso is the oldest known player to appear at any professional level, at least in the United States. Satchel Paige is however likely the oldest player to regularly appear in a game and any doubt about his age shouldn’t be about whether he was younger, but older. Even though his appearance was purely staged as he spent his time in the bullpen being tended to by a “nurse” he did pitch against Boston for three innings and whether it was a one game contract or not, he is in my opinion the oldest player in baseball history, well at least Major League baseball History.

The best third basemen in the history of baseball

19 Dec

The hot corner has been manned by some legendary players dating back so far as anyone living can recall so picking just a few men as being the best third baseman in the history of baseball is no easy task. The ideal third baseman is an offensive weapon with a slick glove and cannon arm the shows no fear moving up and crowding the line during bunt situations even though a screaming line drive may come his way. While many have exhibited one of these attributes very few have put the full package of skills together and these men, the men that have distinguished them self as elite follow in my assessment of the greatest third basemen in baseball history, in no particular order of course.

Brooks Robinson is the standard all third basemen are compared to when it comes to defense. Over a twenty three year career, all with the Orioles Brooks posted many great numbers and achieved greatness, but the one thing that in my mind stands out among all others is his sixteen consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960-1975. Imagine being that dominant at a position that during an entire era, almost your whole career, the record book reflects you as the single best defender at the hot corner. Robinson’s glove is where many seemingly guaranteed hits went to die.

He made the impossible look ordinary. His skills weren’t limited to the infield, Robinson was a gifted hitter as well making his way to eighteen All-Star rosters while picking up an AL, ML, and World Series MVP award as well as being one of the most durable men in the game at a physically demanding position which helped the orioles go 2-2 in World Series during his tenure. When Brooks left the game for the final time he had compiled an impressive, 2,848 hits, a .267 average, 268 homeruns, with 1,232 runs scored and an additional 1,357 driven in. For offense and defensive domination Brooks is hard to beat, in fact it is possible we may never see another third baseman approach his sixteen total Gold Gloves, much less sixteen in a row. It is easy to see why he was a 1983 Hall of Fame inductee.

Michael Jack Schmidt was one of the consummate sluggers in baseball history and an often forgotten outstanding defensive player. In an eighteen year career all played with the Phillies, Schmidt not only slugged 548 career homers , he grabbed a World Series ring, three MVP Awards as well as a World Series MVP, and ten Gold Gloves. Schmidt was a twelve time All-Star with six Silver Slugger awards fueled by leading the league in homers eight times, and RBI’s four times.

To truly appreciate his offensive prowess consider he hit thirty or more homeruns thirteen times, nine seasons in a row, surpassing forty three times while maintaining a .267 career average and piling up 2,234 hits, 1,506 runs scored and 1,595 driven in. Schmidt may be remembered by most as a slugger, but he was a true all around player that anchored his team as one of the top defenders at his position and one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Mike was a 1995 Hall of Fame inductee with this more than impressive reume and one of the greatest third basemen ever.

George Brett was a hitting machine and a better defender than many people give him credit for. While many people think of Brett and recall the infamous pine tar game, it would be better to recall his monumental chase for the .400 batting average in which he just fell short hitting .390. Brett hit .305 for his career but did something very rare in winning a batting crown in three different decades. Brett was an MVP with three Silver Sluggers, a gold glove and thirteen consecutive All-Star game appearances to accompnay his World Series ring and three batting titles. When his final game was played Brett had amassed a stat line worthy of his Hall of Fame acceptance which included 3,154 hits, 201 stolen bases, 317 homers, and just shy of 1,600 runs scored and driven in. Brett was not just a great third baseman but a legendary player.

A player sometimes overlooked in the discussion of great third basemen is amazingly enough 1978 Hall of Fame inductee and holder of 512 career homers Eddie Matthews. Matthews lived in the huge shadow cast by teammate Hank Aaron playing with the Braves over almost his entire career in Milwaukee where the press wasn’t that of a large market team. Still Matthews put together a career which deserves great respect and distinction which included twelve All-Star game appearances and two homerun titles, no easy feat when hitting next to Aaron.

His team won two of the three World Series they played in, while Matthews quietly played above average defense and worked his way to four top ten MVP balloting finishes, a pair in which he was runner up. Matthews did more than just hit homers, he drove in over 1,400 runs and scored better than 1,500 more while maintaining a .271 average. Matthews was one of the great third basemen of his era and baseball history even if we often forget that today.

Frank ‘Home run” Baker played his thirteen seasons between 1908 and 1922 with Phildelphian and the Yankees. Although he is a Hall of Famer he is one of the most forgotten if not the most forgotten of all great third basemen. Baker wasn’t a home run hitter like we think of today even though he led the league four consecutive years. He only hit a season high of twelve homers reaching ten or more four times, but the game was very different then and the homer was a rare commodity.

Baker wasn’t a great fielder by todays standards either, but in his era he was actually considered slightly above average. All told baker hit 96 homers with a .307 average, 235 stolen bases, and 1,838 hits to accompany 887 runs scored and another 987 driven in. It is important to remember that given his era he was an offensive standout with three top ten finishes in MVP balloting which earned him his inclusion to the Hall of Fame in 1955.

Of today’s players the great third baseman and almost certain first ballot Hall of Fame inductee is Alex Rodriguez. Although he has more games as a shortstop right now he will soon surpass that total at third and likely be remembered by most as a third baseman when his career ends which is why I include him here. Whether you love or hate Arod his talent is undisputed and he may perhaps go down as one of the three greatest players in baseball history when his playing days are over. At only 33 years old Rodriguez already has a Hall of Fame career in place including eleven consecutive All-Star appearances, nine Silver Slugger’s, two Gold Gloves, three MVP awards and three more Major League Player of the Year awards.

He’s led the league in batting once, runs scored five times, RBI’s twice, and Home runs five times, three instances in which he hit over 50! As of writing, Alex has 545 homers, 2,368 hits, a .306 average, 281 steals, 1,577 runs scored and another 1,575 driven in. His resume grows everyday. it is almost a given he will eventually become the all time home run leader and there is serious discussion he may even reach 4,000 hits and make a run at Rose’s record as well. In only fifteen season with nine more he is under contract for Rodriguez will likely re-write the record books and establish himself as not just the greatest third baseman ever, but one of the elite players of all the greats in baseball history.

While I am sure people wonder why players like Al Rosen aren’t here the fact is there is only room for so many people to keep the list truly exclusive. It is not a slight against anyone, and in the case of fresher players like David Wright and Eric Chavez only time will tell. They are great talents that will likely find their way here in the future. This is my take on the greatest third baseman in baseball history and not all may agree but that is what makes debating baseball great.