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.

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