Chipper Jones and the 10 Greatest Third Basemen of All Time

Shale BriskinContributor IIIOctober 10, 2012

Chipper Jones and the 10 Greatest Third Basemen of All Time

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    On October 5, the illustrious career of Larry "Chipper" Jones came to an end following the Atlanta Braves' disappointing loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2012 NL Wild Card Game.

    After 19 seasons, the 40-year-old Jones finished with a lifetime .303 average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI. He is without question going to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in a matter of years, and most likely in his first year of eligibility.

    Although the pitching of former teammates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz gave the Braves of the 1990s and early 2000s their most prominent identity, Jones has been the team's offensive identity for his entire career. He spent every year he had with the Braves and was very successful, especially as a switch-hitter.

    With Jones' career now over, how would he compare to the greatest third basemen of all time? Here are the updated top 10 all time third basemen rankings.

Honorable Mentions

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    Quite a few third basemen did not make the cut, but should still be recognized nonetheless.

    Hall of Fame players George Kell, Freddie Lindstrom and Pie Traynor all had successful careers overall, but did not particularly stand out as much compared to the other Hall of Fame third basemen.

    Darrell Evans, Howard Johnson and Graig Nettles were all power hitters during their respective careers, but none of them hit for a high enough average to be considered a top-10 third baseman, or even a Hall of Fame player.

    Some of today's star third basemen, such as David Wright and Evan Longoria, could definitely be considered some of the best ever in the years to come, but their careers are far from being over.

10. Scott Rolen

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    As he nears the final years of his long career, Scott Rolen has arguably been one of the best third basemen in the last 20 years. He has been both a great hitter and a standout defensive third baseman and could very well get inducted into the Hall of Fame down the road.

    Rolen now has a .281 lifetime average with 316 home runs and 1,286 RBI. He also has 1,211 runs scored, 2,077 hits, 517 doubles and a lifetime .855 OPS across 17 seasons. He won the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year Award, is a seven-time All-Star and an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner.

    Rolen's career season was in 2004 as a member of the Cardinals. As he helped lead his team to the World Series that year, he posted career highs in average (.314), home runs (34) and RBI (124). He was one of baseball's best overall third basemen from 1997-2006 and won his only World Series ring in 2006 with the Cardinals.

    After departing from the Cardinals following the 2007 season, his numbers declined until he had a resurgent year in 2010. In recent years, though, Rolen has been hampered with injuries, which limited him to just 65 games in 2011 and 92 games this year.

    Rolen will be a free agent this offseason, but is not likely to re-sign with the Reds. It will be interesting to see if Rolen retires or tries to play for another year or two. Regardless, he is likely to become a Hall of Fame player in the future and was one of the best third basemen from the late 1990s through the 2000s.

9. Frank Baker

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    Frank "Home Run" Baker was one of the best hitters in the early 1900s and is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In an era when not as many power hitters existed, Baker only had 96 career home runs, but managed to drive in 987 RBI in 13 seasons.

    Baker's best season occurred in 1913 when he led the league with 12 home runs and 130 RBI. Both were career highs to go along with a .337 average. Baker was a lifetime .307 hitter with 1,838 hits and 103 triples to add to his resume.

    Baker's numbers are obviously not as good as some of the more modern players, but still quite good for his era.

8. Wade Boggs

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    By far one of the best hitters in the league in the 1980s and early 1990s was Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs.

    Boggs played 11 seasons with the Red Sox from 1982-1992. Aside from his .259 average in 1992 and his .302 average in 1990, he never hit below .325 in any of his other nine seasons in Boston. He won the AL batting title five times in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988. He also lead the league in OBP six times in his career.

    Boggs' best season in his career was in 1987 when he batted .363 with 24 home runs and 89 RBI. He never came close to those home run and RBI totals ever again. This was because Boggs was primarily a singles and doubles hitter who got on base a lot.

    Boggs played for the Yankees from 1993-1997 and won his only World Series ring in 1996. He then spent the last two seasons of his career with the expansion Devil Rays before retiring after the 1999 season.

    Boggs finished his career with a lifetime .328 average, a remarkable career .415 OBP, 1,513 runs scored, 3,010 hits and 578 doubles. His 118 career home runs and 1,014 RBI were both not particularly strong, but his average and OBP numbers were certainly good enough for the home runs and RBI to get overlooked.

    Boggs was an All-Star for 12 consecutive seasons from 1985-1996 and got inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. He was as good of a hitter as anyone in the 1980s and early 1990s, but his lack of power and run production prevented him from being higher on the rankings.

7. Ron Santo

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    The late Ron Santo of the Cubs is next and was one of the best third basemen in the 1960s. He later became a beloved Cubs announcer after retiring and is as synonymous with the Cubs' history as anyone. The nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner spent 14 years with the Cubs and retired after just one season with the crosstown White Sox.

    Santo had a .277 lifetime average and a .362 OBP with 342 home runs and 1,331 RBI. He also scored 1,138 runs and got 2,254 hits. None of his seasons really stand out compared to the rest, but his numbers were always consistent and he was always healthy as well. As a Cub, Santo played in at least 154 games in all but two seasons.

    Santo finally got inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year through the Veteran's Committee. It was long overdue for the late Cubs' icon. Santo's wife and children accepted the plaque on his behalf.

    Ron Santo was not the biggest superstar in baseball during his career, but he was as consistent as anyone during his time.

6. Eddie Mathews

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    One of the most feared power hitters in the 1950s and 1960s, Eddie Mathews was not even the best hitter on the Braves teams he played for. That was because Hank Aaron was his longtime teammate.

    Over a 17-year career, Mathews batted .271 with 512 home runs, 1,453 RBI, 1,509 runs scored, 2,315 hits, a .376 OBP and a .509 slugging percentage. He was a nine-time All-Star and was the 1953 and 1959 AL MVP runner-up.

    Mathews eclipsed 40 home runs four times in his career and drove in over 100 RBI five times. He also won two World Series rings. The first was with the Braves in 1957 and the second occurred in 1968 with the Tigers. After retiring, he became the Braves' manager from 1972-1974. Four years later, he got inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    While Mathews was not as legendary defensively, he was one of baseball's best hitters in his career and certainly one of the best to ever play third base.

5. Alex Rodriguez

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    He may have played shortstop for the first eight years of his career, but Alex Rodriguez has now spent more time at third base and should be considered more of a third baseman.

    The 19-year veteran spent the first seven years of his career with the Mariners before signing a 10-year contract with the Rangers before the 2001 season. However, the Rangers ended up trading Rodriguez to the Yankees after the 2003 season. He has remained a Yankee ever since.

    The 14-time All-Star and three-time AL MVP has a lifetime .300 average so far with 647 home runs, 1,950 RBI, 1,898 runs scored, 2,901 hits, 512 doubles, 318 stolen bases and a .945 OPS. Defensively, he won two Gold Glove Awards at shortstop in 2002 and 2003, but has held his own at third base since 2004.

    Rodriguez's numbers, though, are tainted in a way due to his usage of steroids from 2001-2003. As far as an induction to the Hall of Fame goes, his fate is yet to be determined. Nonetheless, he is still one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. Had he played third base for his entire career, he would have likely been at the top of this list.

4. Brooks Robinson

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    Orioles legend Brooks Robinson is another one of the greatest third basemen ever, and arguably the best defensive third baseman of all time with his record 16 Gold Glove Awards.

    Robinson had a 23-year career and spent every one of them with the Orioles from 1955-1977. He batted .267 for his career with 268 home runs, 1,357 RBI, 1,232 runs scored, 2,848 hits, 482 doubles and a .322 OBP. He also won two World Series rings in 1966 and 1970. He was named the 1970 World Series MVP as well.

    In addition to his 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1960-1975, Robinson was a 15-time All-Star and represented the American League from 1960-1974. His career season came in 1964 when he set career highs with a .317 average, 28 home runs and 118 RBI. His .368 OBP and .521 slugging percentage that year were by far career highs as well. Not surprisingly, he won the 1964 AL MVP Award.

    Robinson earned a well deserved induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1983.

3. George Brett

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    Like Wade Boggs, George Brett was another one of the premier contact hitters in the 1980s, although he was also more of a run producer than Boggs.

    Through his entire 21-year career with the Royals, Brett had a .305 average, 317 home runs, 1,596 RBI, 1,583 runs scored, 3,154 hits, 665 doubles, 137 triples, 1,096 walks and a .369 OBP. He was a 13-time All-Star, the 1980 AL MVP, a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner and a Gold Glove Award winner in 1985.

    Brett's best season was his MVP year in 1980. He batted a career best .390, with a remarkable .454 OBP, 24 home runs, 118 RBI and a 1.118 OPS. In 1985, he led the Royals to winning their only World Series title in franchise history.

    Arguably the greatest player in Royals history, Brett was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

2. Chipper Jones

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    The recently retired Chipper Jones comes in second and is by far the greatest switch-hitting third baseman of all time.

    Jones finished his career with a .303 average, 468 home runs, 1,623 RBI, 1,619 runs scored, 2,726 hits, 549 doubles, 150 stolen bases, 1,512 walks and a .930 OPS. The eight-time All-Star won two Silver Slugger Awards in 1999 and 2000, as well as the 1999 NL MVP Award.

    In his best career season in 1999, Jones batted .319 with a career high 45 home runs, 110 RBI, a .441 OBP and a remarkable .639 slugging percentage.

    In 2008, Jones won the NL batting title by hitting .364 that year. He also had a career best .470 OBP that season.

    Jones won his only World Series ring during his rookie season in 1995, although the Braves went to the postseason in 14 seasons during Jones' career and only got to the World Series three times in that span. Jones' postseason statistics include a .287 average, 13 home runs and 47 RBI.

    Jones is sure to be inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, which will be in 2017.

1. Mike Schmidt

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    There have been quite a few great third basemen in baseball history, but none can compare to the all-time standard at the hot corner—that would be the legendary Mike Schmidt, who is the greatest third baseman of all time.

    Schmidt spent his entire 18-year career with the Phillies. He had a lifetime .267 average, 548 home runs, 1,595 RBI, 1,506 runs scored, 2,234 hits, 408 doubles, 174 stolen bases and a .908 OPS.

    The 12-time All-Star won three NL MVP Awards in 1980, 1981 and 1986. He led the National League eight times in home runs, four times in RBI, and five times in OPS. His best season was in 1980 when he led the Phillies to winning the World Series for the first time in franchise history. That year, Schmidt hit a career high 48 home runs and drove in 121 RBI. For his offensive success, Schmidt won six Silver Slugger Awards as well.

    Schmidt was mostly known for his power and run production, but he excelled defensively as well. He won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1976-1984 and a tenth in 1986. His defense is really what puts him even more over the top as the best third baseman ever.

    Schmidt has remained very loyal to the Phillies since retiring and got inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995. Four years later, he was elected onto the MLB All-Century Team.

    Thanks to his career home run and RBI totals, plus his ten Gold Glove Awards, Schmidt is without question the greatest player in baseball history to ever play third base. Time will tell whether another third baseman in the future will ever have a better career than him.