Chipper Jones' Retirement: Where Does He Rank Among Best Third Basemen Ever?

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIMarch 23, 2012

Chipper Jones' Retirement: Where Does He Rank Among Best Third Basemen Ever?

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    Yesterday, a man who most baseball fans (with the possible exception of Mets fans) would consider one of the greatest third basemen of all time announced his intention to retire following the 2012 season. 

    Chipper Jones, the number one overall pick in the 1990 MLB Amateur Draft, will have played 19 major league seasons when the 2012 campaign concludes.

    He's a lock to make the Hall of Fame and that accomplishment will make him one of only 11 third baseman to gain induction to Cooperstown. Yes, only 11—as of now it's just 10. Chipper will join an elite club.

    Where will he rank within that elite club?

    Who are the ten greatest third basemen of all time?   

10: Ron Santo

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    In 15 seasons, Ron Santo made nine All-Star appearances and won five Gold Gloves. 

    Santo, who recently passed away in December of 2010, not only played all 15 years of his career as a member of the Chicago Cubs, but continued to be a crucial part of the Cubs' culture by entering the radio booth as an announcer after his retirement. 

    Santo was inducted into the Hall of Fame on December 5th, 2011, by the Veterans Committee. Unfortunately, Santo never got to witness his entry into the Hall. But as far as third basemen go, he's one of the all-time greats. 

9: Frank "Home Run" Baker

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    As it turns out, Frank "Home Run" Baker didn't really hit that many home runs. He hit a grand total of 96 over the course of his 13-year career. That's not exactly power personified, compared to modern baseball.

    Of course, Baker wasn't part of "modern baseball." Baker played from 1908 to 1922. A good portion of that was part of the "dead ball era," notorious for its lack of home runs. That's why Baker could lead the American League in home runs for three consecutive years from 1911-1913. His totals? Eleven, ten and twelve. Yes, Baker hit a grand total of 33 home runs over three seasons to earn the nickname "Home Run."

    For his time, Baker was dominant. The Hall of Fame veterans committee recognized that in 1955 when he was inducted into Cooperstown.

8: Pie Traynor

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    Another third baseman from the days of yore. 

    Pie Traynor played 17 seasons at third base as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played from 1920-1937, an era in which it would be nearly impossible to not play in the shadow of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Roger Hornsby. 

    That being the case, Traynor still managed to put up some impressive numbers. 

    He finished seven seasons with over 100 RBI. Six times, Traynor finished in the top 10 of MVP voting. Traynor was also known for a great glove, and ranks fifth all time in putouts among third baseman.

7: Chipper Jones

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    Where does Chipper Jones rank? 

    Pretty high apparently.

    On this list, only Eddie Mathews, Mike Schmidt and Alex Rodriguez have more home runs than Chipper's 454. That mark also places him third all time among switch hitters, behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. 

    Jones has spent his entire 18 year career in a Braves uniform. He's made seven All-Star teams, and in 1999 he was the National League's Most Valuable Player. 

    Jones has a career batting average of .304 and a career ops of .935. He's knocked in more than 100 runs in nine different seasons. 

    Jones hasn't been the best glove at third base, but he's always been solid. He's also played in the postseason 11 times, including winning a World Series with the Braves in 1995. 

    Chipper Jones is going to retire at the end of 2012, and he'll enter the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. 

6: Wade Boggs

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    Wade Boggs played professional baseball for 18 years. He was an All-Star for 12 of them. Boggs won five batting titles and hit over .360 four times. 

    In 1987 and 1988, Wade Boggs led the American League in OPS and batting average.

    Boggs would finish his career with over 3,000 hits, and has the highest career batting average and on-base percentage (.328/.415) of any third baseman currently in the Hall of Fame.

    The downside to Boggs' career is that he was just a slightly above-average fielder playing a position where the glove is crucial.

    Aside from that, it's hard to find too much wrong with Boggs' resume.  

5: Alex Rodriguez

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    By the time Alex Rodriguez finishes his career, he'll have played more games at third base than at the position he was originally slated to play when he arrived in the majors as an 18-year-old in 1994. He was supposed to play shortstop, and that's what he did as a member of the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. 

    Only after joining the New York Yankees before the 2004 season did Alex Rodriguez make the move to third. It was part of the agreement he had with the Yankees, who did not need a shortstop with future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter playing there. 

    Rodriguez has never been a great fielding third baseman, but his adjustment went fairly well considering that he was never really trained to play the hot corner.

    At the plate is where Rodriguez has made his mark.

    As a third baseman, Rodriguez has won two MVP Awards. He eclipsed 100 runs batted in seven times. That's just as a third baseman. As a shortstop, he won an additional MVP award and drove in over 100 runs an additional eight times. 

    Rodriguez's numbers, when all is said and done, will rank at the top of some of baseball's most hallowed offensive records.

    As a third baseman, he's not going be ranked as high as those that played their entire careers at the position, but he still ranks among the all-time greatest. 

4: Eddie Mathews

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    When Eddie Mathews arrived in the majors in 1952, third base wasn't known as a power hitter's position.

    Mathews changed that perception. Over the next 17 seasons, Mathews would hit over 500 home runs, the first third baseman in Major League history to accomplish such a feat. 

    He spent nearly his entire career as a member of the Braves, first in Milwaukee, and then in Atlanta when the team headed south following the 1965 season. Mathews finished his career with short stints in Detroit and Houston, but he's known as the third baseman for the Braves. 

    An eight-time All-Star, Mathews twice led the league in home runs and had four seasons of 40 or more round-trippers.

3: Brooks Robinson

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    If this slideshow was about who the best fielding third baseman of all time was, then Brooks Robinson would be at number one. 

    From 1960 through 1975, Robinson won every single Gold Glove awarded, 16 in all. He also made the All-Star team in 15 of those years.

    Robinson had good (but not great) offensive numbers, and yet five times he finished in the top five of AL Most Valuable Player voting, including winning the award in 1964. 

    Robinson never won a batting title and his career average of .267 is quite average, and yet there was nothing average about his career. 

    Baseball fans have and will continue to see plenty of third basemen who produce better offensive statistics, but it's not likely we will ever see another man play the position as well as Brooks Robinson.  

2: George Brett

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    No one has hit .400 since the great Ted Williams in 1941. 

    No one made a better run at .400 than George Brett in 1980. He was still flirting with the .400 mark as late as September 19th, but could not maintain the torrid pace needed, and finished at .390. 

    That was Brett's greatest season, but it was far from his only great season. Brett would go on to amass 3,154 hits, the most by any third baseman in major league history. It wasn't just hitting for average, as Brett hit over 300 home runs for his career and made annual All-Star appearances, 13 in all. 

    Wade Boggs had a higher career average, and Schmidt, Mathews, Jones and Rodriguez all had better power numbers, but no one had the all-around game that George Brett had. 

1: Mike Schmidt

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    Until one really looks over all the numbers, it's hard to fully appreciate just how good Mike Schmidt was.

    Consider this—eight times he led the National League in home runs, four times he led the league in runs batted in. 

    Schmidt won three MVP awards, ten Gold Gloves and made 12 All-Star teams. He played over 2,000 games at third base and was a regular at the hot corner right up until his retirement in 1989, at the age of 39. 

    He wasn't just one of the dominant third baseman of his era—he was one of the dominant players of his era. From 1972 through 1989, only one National League player won three MVP awards—Schmidt. He was the premier player of his era and the best third baseman in major league history.