The 15 Best Third Basemen in MLB History

Dan PopoloskiContributor IIINovember 11, 2011

The 15 Best Third Basemen in MLB History

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    The hot corner is a key position for every baseball team. Third basemen need to be able to think and react quickly with hot hits and where to play the ball.

    Third basemen are also expected to bring a respectable amount of power to the plate while obviously getting on base. There have been a good amount of legends that have been born playing third base, from the early hitting of Lave Cross and Jimmy Collins, to the strong power in late 1900s by Mike Schmidt and Ron Santo.

    Here I list off who I feel are the 15 best third basemen of all time.

Honorable Mentions

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    Honorable mentions include Alex Rodriguez (too much time at shortstop), Al Rosen, Jimmie Collins, Bob Elliott, Dave Kingman, David Wright, Gary Gaetti, Tim Wallach, Evan Longoria, Buddy Bell, Bill Madlock and Lave Cross (who I really wanted on the list).

    I wanted to include Paul Molitor, but I decided otherwise. Tell me if I missed anyone.

15. George Kell

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    George Kell won the first spot on this list by hitting well and fielding cleanly. Kell played in 15 different seasons, and in those seasons had an impressive career batting average of .306 to go with 2,054 hits, 385 doubles, 78 homers, 870 RBI, 881 runs scored and 10 All-Star Game selections.

    He never played in the playoffs and was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1983.

14. Ken Boyer

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    Ken Boyer was a fantastic third basemen who played 15 seasons in the '50s and '60s. He was a great hitter, having a career slash line of .287/.349/.462 to complement his 282 home runs, 1,141 RBI and his 1,104 runs scored.

    Not only was he a great hitter, he was also one of the best fielders, winning five Gold Gloves and posting a career dWAR of 7.1. He was selected to seven All-Star Games, won a World Series ring with the Cardinals and won the MVP award in 1964.

    He could be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, as he's on the Veteran's Committee ballot, but might not since Ron Santo is also on it.

13. Freddie Lindstrom

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    Freddie Lindstrom was a great third baseman who played from 1924 to 1936. He could hit for solid power and he was able to make contact consistently.

    He posted a career .311 batting average with 103 home runs, 301 doubles and an .800 OPS. Lindstrom's best offensive year came in 1930, when he played in 148 games and laced 231 hits and 22 homers, all while posting a beautiful .379 batting average. 

    He wasn't a fantastic fielder but could hold his own on the defensive side of the game. He lost the two World Series he participated in, but he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1976.

12. Darrell Evans

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    Slides 12-10 were definitely the hardest to rank, as each player had his own major faults and big strengths, so bear with me as we make it through.

    Darrell Evans was an underrated third baseman in the '70s and '80s. He hit for great power, as he bashed 414 home runs supported by a solid .431 slugging percentage. Along with the great power, Evans was able to have a solid glove in the field, though he never won a Gold Glove award, as he was blocked by Mike Schmidt most of his career. He won a World Series with the Tigers in 1984 and was selected to participate in two All-Star Games.

11. Pie Traynor

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    Some people may get mad with a good Hall of Famer like Pie Traynor this low, but Traynor wasn't necessarily an elite player. He was a world-class batting average hitter, finishing with a .320 career average along with a solid .362 on-base percentage, but he was a terrible fielder, finishing his career with a -3.6 dWAR.

    Traynor recorded 2,416 hits in 17 seasons and also knocked 1,273 runs in while scoring 1,183 of his own. He won and lost one World Series apiece, both with the Pirates, and was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1948.

10. Graig Nettles

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    Many of you will be very mad to see Nettles this far up, but as previously stated, the 12-10 spots were extremely close. Nettles barely won out the first spot in the top 10 with great power and superb fielding.

    In Nettles's 22 season career, he hit 390 home runs, with 328 doubles, 1,314 RBI and 1,193 runs scored, which earned him six All-Star Game selections. However, it was his glove that really put him in this spot, as he was awarded two Gold Gloves with a career dWAR of 13.6.

    He won two of the five World Series he participated in. I'm not sure if he really has a case to be in the Hall of Fame, but he's a fantastic player nonetheless.

9. Scott Rolen

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    Scott Rolen was able to beat out Graig Nettles for this spot. If Rolen were to retire before next year, he would have played in only 16 seasons. In those 16 seasons, Rolen has flashed great power in bashing 500 doubles to complement 308 home runs.

    Along with the great power, Rolen has boasted a consistent bat, hitting .282 for his career so far and having a respectable .366 on-base percentage. But along with the menacing bat at the plate, Rolen has a fantastic glove, as he's won eight Gold Glove awards to put on his trophy case next to his Rookie of the Year award, and one Silver Slugger.

    He won one World Series with St. Louis back in 2006 and will most likely get inducted into the Hall of Fame when he's up for election.

8. Ron Santo

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    Ron Santo is easily the best third baseman not yet in the Hall of Fame. He was both a menacing hitter and solid fielder. In his 15 seasons as a player, Santo laced 2,254 hits, 342 of those home runs and 365 of those doubles, 1,331 RBI and 1,138 runs scored, finishing with a solid career slash line of .277/.363/.464.

    He was a great fielder too, being awarded five Gold Gloves to go along with his nine All-Star Game nods. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times and unfortunately never made the playoffs. He is on the Veteran's Committee ballot for 2012, and maybe he'll be inducted then, but until then, Santo's impressive credentials remain to be added to the hallowed halls.

7. Home Run Baker

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    It was difficult to pick between him and Santo since they played in two completely different time periods, but I decided to go with Frank "Home Run" Baker.

    As his nickname indicates, Baker was one of the premier power hitters in the 1910s, finishing in the top 10 in home runs nine different times, including leading the league four times in a row from 1911 to 1914. He also hit 315 doubles and 103 triples in only 13 seasons.

    Along with being a powerhouse, Baker recorded a career .307 batting average. He was able to go to six World Series, winning three and losing three. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1955.

6. Wade Boggs

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    It was painful putting Boggs this low on the list, but I couldn't place him much higher because of his one-dimensional game. He was primarily a high-average hitter, but he did extremely well in that aspect.

    Boggs recorded 3,010 hits and scored 1,513 runs with an incredible career .328 batting average. He was a solid hitter who could be constantly relied on to get on base, posting a career .415 on-base percentage. He won two Gold Glove awards, eight Silver Sluggers, 12 All-Star nods and one World Series ring. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

5. Eddie Mathews

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    Eddie Mathews is one of the premier power hitters of not only the '50s and early '60s but even of all time.

    Over the course of his illustrious 17-year career, Mathews slugged out a .267 batting average with 512 home runs and a career .509 slugging percentage while knocking in 1,453 runs.

    He was sent to nine All-Star Games and was runner-up to two MVP awards. He hit over 35 home runs six times and notched over 100 RBI five times. He helped win a World Series twice, once with the Tigers and one with the Braves. Mathews was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1978.

4. Brooks Robinson

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    Brooks Robinson was definitely the best fielding third baseman of all time and one of the best overall in MLB history. He constantly made amazing plays.

    Over his 23 seasons, all with the Orioles, he won a startling 16 Gold Gloves. Not only was he the best fielder, but he showed some solid hitting, having a career .267 batting average, 2,848 hits and 1,357 RBI.

    His best offensive year came in 1964, when he hit .317 with 28 home runs and 118 RBI on his way to his only MVP award. He helped lead his Orioles to four different World Series, winning two of them. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983 as a first-ballot selection.

3. Chipper Jones

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    Chipper Jones is a great player who displays great power along with a great average. If he retired before starting next season, Jones put up some great stats: .304 batting average, 2,615 hits, 1,516 RBI, .533 slugging percentage and 1,561 runs scored...not to mention 454 homers along with 526 doubles, showing his fantastic power.

    Jones has also played in 92 playoff games, in which he's hit .288 with 13 home runs and 47 RBI, showing that he can come though in big situations, which gives him great value. In his 18 seasons, Jones has been to seven All-Star Games, won two Silver Sluggers and claimed an MVP award (in 1999). When he retires, he will no doubt go into the Hall of Fame.

2. George Brett

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    George Brett was a fixture at third base for the Royals for 21 seasons.

    Over the course of those 21 years, Brett accumulated a fantastic .305 batting average, including one season where he hit .390. He finished with a whopping 3,154 hits, 1,583 runs and 1,596 RBI. He also brought some solid power to the table, hitting 665 doubles, 137 triples and 317 home runs to give him a career .487 slugging percentage.

    He went to 13 All-Star Games and won the MVP award in 1980, notching one Gold Glove and three Silver Sluggers. George Brett was a great all-around third baseman and led the Royals to seven different playoffs, including one World Series championship. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

1. Mike Schmidt

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    Mike Schmidt is the best third baseman of all time. Over his 18 seasons, Schmidt recorded a .267 batting average, knocked in 1,595 runs, scored 1,506 runs and hit 548 home runs.

    He led the league in home runs eight times, RBI four times and OPS five times. He earned three MVP awards, six Silver Sluggers and 12 All-Star Game appearances to go with a World Series ring with the Phillies in 1980. 

    Not only was he a menacing and feared hitter, Schmidt was an expert fielder, winning 10 Gold Gloves over the course of his career. Easily the best third baseman and one of the best overall players in baseball history, Schmidt was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.