I started with a simple question: What team has had the best third basemen (or catchers, or shortstops) in its history? The following is my best answer to the question. See the first post in the series for a full explanation.
10. Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Browns
Jimmy Austin, Harlond Clift, George Kell, Brooks Robinson, Doug DeCinces, Cal Ripken, Melvin Mora
This is a nice array of talent. What puts it over the top is 6 years of Cal Ripken and 23 years of Brooks Robinson.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
Tommy Harper, Don Money, Sal Bando, Paul Molitor, Jeff Cirillo
The Brewers don’t have the big names that the O’s have, but they too have had a long run of top-notch work at the hot corner.
8. Washington Senators/Texas Rangers
Ken McMullen, Toby Harrah, Buddy Bell, Steve Buechele, Dean Palmer, Hank Blalock, Michael Young
There are no Hall-of-Famers here, but this is a great run of excellence over 50 years.
7. Chicago Cubs
Ned Williamson, Harry Steinfeldt, Heinie Zimmerman, Charlie Deal, Stan Hack, Randy Jackson, Ron Santo, Bill Madlock, Ron Cey, Steve Buechele, Aramis Ramirez
No Hall-of-Famers here, although Santo belongs (and Stan Hack, possibly). But the Hall of Very Good is well-represented, thanks to Steinfeldt, Madlock and Cey.
6. St. Louis Cardinals
Arlie Latham, Milt Stock, Les Bell, Whitey Kurowski, Ken Boyer, Joe Torre, Ken Reitz, Terry Pendleton, Todd Zeile, Gary Gaetti, Placido Polanco, Scott Rolen
Again, there are no Hall-of-Famers here – at least until Rolen retires.
5. San Francisco Giants
George Davis, Art Devlin, Heinie Zimmerman, Heinie Groh, Freddie Lindstrom, Hank Thompson, Jim Davenport, Jim Ray Hart, Darrell Evans, Matt Williams, Bill Mueller, Edgardo Alfonzo
Have I mentioned yet that there aren’t many third basemen in the Hall? Davis is the only one on this list who’s been enshrined*, and he was primarily a shortstop. Should the Hall decide to induct one or two third sackers, they could do a lot worse than to start with Darrell Evans.
* – My mistake. I forgot that Freddie Lindstrom is in Cooperstown. We should try to forget this.
4. Boston Red Sox
Jimmy Collins, Larry Gardner, Billy Werber, Johnny Pesky, George Kell, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Carney Lansford, Wade Boggs, John Valentin, Bill Mueller, Mike Lowell
Among third basemen, the difference between the Sox and Yankees is quite small. Boston fans may feel that I’ve shorted them, but read on:
3. New York Yankees
Frank Baker, Joe Dugan, Joe Sewell, Red Rolfe, Clete Boyer, Graig Nettles, Mike Pagliarulo, Wade Boggs, Scott Brosius, Robin Ventura, Alex Rodriguez
Finally, we have Hall-of-Famers in abundance: Baker, Sewell and Boggs are in, and A-Rod surely will be someday. The Yanks’ third basemen typically haven’t been their “superstars,” at least until very recently.
2. Cleveland Indians
Bill Bradley, Terry Turner, Larry Gardner, Joe Sewell, Willie Kamm, Ken Keltner, Al Rosen, Graig Nettles, Buddy Bell, Toby Harrah, Brook Jacoby, Jim Thome, Travis Fryman, Casey Blake
The Indians only have one Hall-of-Famer (Sewell) to the Yankees’ three, but their list is much longer and their depth at the hot corner is fantastic. The only thing that could top this is …
1. Atlanta Braves
Billy Nash, Jimmy Collins, Bob Elliott, Eddie Mathews, Clete Boyer, Darrell Evans, Bob Horner, Terry Pendleton, Chipper Jones
All of Chipper Jones'’s career and almost all of Eddie Mathews’s career is enough to put the Braves right at the top. Also, Collins is a Hall-of-Famer, and Evans probably should be. And the Hall of Very Good is well-represented by Elliott, Boyer and Pendleton.
From the highs to the lows, here are the worst franchises for third basemen:
28. Houston Astros
Bob Aspromonte, Doug Rader, Enos Cabell, Phil Garner, Ken Caminiti, Morgan Ensberg
These guys aren’t bad, but they just don’t stack up. Garner was done by the time he made it to Houston, Caminiti’s best season came in San Diego, and Ensberg only had one or two big years before he fell off the map.
29. Seattle Mariners
Jim Presley, Edgar Martinez, Russ Davis, Adrian Beltre
Edgar was only at third for a few years before becoming a full-time DH. So it’s Adrian Beltre who almost single-handedly saves the M’s from last place.
30. Chicago White Sox
Lee Tannehill, Buck Weaver, Willie Kamm, Jimmy Dykes, Pete Ward, Bill Melton, Robin Ventura, Joe Crede
The White Sox’ historic inability to develop a third baseman between Kamm (debuted 1923) and Ventura (debuted 1989) has been noted before. Guys like Ward and Melton had some good seasons with the club, but didn’t last. Dykes was good, but basically washed up by the time he left the A’s.
Next Up: The Left Fielders