The New York Yankees' Greatest Third Baseman? Alex Rodriguez, Not Graig Nettles

Harold FriendChief Writer IFebruary 25, 2011

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees works out during the second day of full teams workouts at Spring Training on February 21, 2011 at the George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The New York Yankees have had some fine third basemen, but no Yankees third baseman is in the Hall of Fame. Of course, that will change when, five years after he retires, the great Alex Rodriguez will be voted in.

When he joined the Yankees, Alex generously and magnanimously agreed to switch from his shortstop position to third base, since shortstop was and still is the exclusive property of Derek Jeter. A-Rod has played 992 games at third base.

Frank "Home Run" Baker (1916-22), Jumpin' Joe Dugan (1922-28), Red Rolfe (1934-42), Graig Nettles (1973-83), Wade Boggs (1993-97) and Scott Brosius (1998-2001) are the top Yankees' third basemen. Rolfe and Nettles are clearly the two best with respect to their Yankees' careers.

Rolfe played for the Yankees for 10 seasons. He hit .289 with a .360 on base average and a .413 slugging percentage. He helped the Yankees win the World Championship in 1936-39 and in 1941. Until Nettles came along, Rolfe was generally considered the Yankees' top third baseman.

The Yankees obtained Nettles on Nov. 27, 1972, along with catcher Jerry Moses, in exchange for first baseman Johnny Ellis, infielder Jerry Kenney, outfielder Charlie Spikes and outfielder Rusty Torres.

Nettles spent 11 seasons as the Yankees' third baseman. He never hit for much of an average, and his best on base average was .343 in 1978, but he had power.

Nettles led the league in home runs with 32 in 1976 and despite being a power threat, especially in Yankee Stadium, his best slugging average was .496 in 1977.

Nettles was one of the greatest defensive third basemen in Yankees' history. Many believe he was even better than Clete Boyer, whose defensive skills rivaled those of the great Brooks Robinson.

Boyer and Nettles each had one especially memorable defensive World Series game.

Boyer saved Whitey Ford in the first game of the 1961 Series, making a number of great plays. Nettles turned the 1978 Series around with his tremendous play in the third game to help the Yankees get their first win.

Although he was a better player, both offensively and defensively, at shortstop with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, there is little doubt that Alex Rodriguez was and is the Yankees' greatest third baseman.

A-Rod has played seven seasons at third base for the Yankees. He's batted .297 with a .396 on base average, and has slugged .557 (which is Mickey Mantle's career slugging average).

Rodriguez has averaged about 34 home runs a season strictly as the Yankees' third baseman, compared to about 38 home runs as a shortstop with Seattle and Texas.

The Yankees have had all-time greats at most positions. First baseman Lou Gehrig, second baseman Tony Lazzeri, shortstop Phil Rizzuto, outfielders Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle and catchers Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra are Hall of Famers .

A-Rod is taking care of third base.

Reference:

Baseball Reference

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