French's Best: Best ever at Third Base

With a lot of craziness and transition in my life right now, I have been winding down watching a lot of baseball from my childhood. While I don't keep up with baseball as well now, something about the pastoral nature of the game and the way it has mirrored recent American history gives it a continuity which is comforting. Football has changed much more rapidly. Where the baseball of my childhood has changed in some ways (primarily being the Moneyball philosophy around batting and the lack of adeptness at moving the runner or going the other way), the game is much more similar to the game of my childhood than the football of my childhood and the current product.

Also, I love talking the history of baseball. I graduated from dinosaur books to Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller, and Roberto Clemente stories at my school library. Football came later.

So, as a conversation starter as much of anything, I am going to write some thoughts about my dream teams. Keep in mind, my most intense consumption of baseball started in 1986, and was waning by the time of the 90s Yankees dynasty. Feel free to get me up to speed on the current product if a player warrants mention. For the first topic, I will start with my Mount Rushmore of third basemen.

1) George Brett- Brett was an interesting test case. His prime was before I started watching, and other than the Cardinals of my childhood, no team adapted their game to their home stadium more than the Royals. I didn't have cable, so my exposure to Brett came in All Star Games, the NBC Game of the Week, and highlight videos I rented from the video store. In those high profile moments, Brett was a terrific contact hitter who hit to all fields, and watching footage of Brett in the late 70s/early 80s, he was the primary source of power with little protection in the lineup. I don't remember much about his defense, but when the emergence of Kevin Seitzer moved Brett over to first base, he didn't look bad. And, he was so clutch. As a Yankees fan (primarily because so much of baseball historical narrative in books for kids my age focused on the Yankees), I saw a lot of footage of the pine tar game and Brett's other battles with Yankees like Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, and Tommy John. He won a ton of those battles.

2) Mike Schmidt- The Phillies were on the down slide when I started to watch in 1986. Schmidt was had two full good seasons left. As a kid, I valued batting average and contact over power, and saw Schmidt as more of a one dimension hitter (the same reason I never got into the Bash Brothers in 1987.) Schmidt's glove was spectacular, and because I didn't get to see him play much on TV, I didn't get to see his consistency as a power and RBI hitter. Now, going back and watching his team lose to the Reds and Dodgers in the playoffs before the 1980 breakthrough, Schmidt was always delivering in big spots despite his teammates falling through.

3) Chris Sabo- This may be a weird one. However, the four third basemen I saw the most times on television were Mike Pagliarulo (who was terrible), Wade Boggs (who was my Skelator because he was beating out He-Man Don Mattingly for batting titles- again my favorite stat line), Buddy Bell, and Chris Sabo. Bell and Sabo played for the Reds, and we got Reds baseball with Thom Brennaman and Johnny Bench on WETO channel 39. Bell was an excellent defensive player, but Sabo was a clutch hitter who was so distinctive in his Rec Specs. While I didn't have glasses, I (a terrible Little Leaguer) tried to wear the safety goggles for weed whacking when I went up to bat. From 88 to 90, he was the most reliable third baseman in the NL.

4) Wade Boggs- I can't leave off Boggs, even though I detested him with a passion. He was solid defensively, and the best contact hitter east of Tony Gwynn in the game. He is fourth because he never seemed to deliver that big hit in big games (my first MLB playoffs was 1986, which was the fall of Marty Barrett and Dave Henderson if Buckner could have fielded a ground ball.) Boggs is probably someone I like (he loves fishing and the outdoors), but I will never forgive him for beating out Mattingly for batting titles, even when Mattingly was winning the MVP, tying the record for grand slams in a season, or hitting homers eight games in a row.

Honorable Mention: Terry Pendleton, Kelly Gruber, Carney Lansford, Chipper Jones, Anthony Rendon, Buddy Bell, Greg Nettles, Scott Rolen

Who is your list? If your area of interest goes beyond this time frame, share it. Share stories. Let's talk the game.

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Comments

This didn't go where I hoped it would when I clicked the title.

ESPN. The coverage is excellent, you'd be surprised at how much you can pick up.

my thoughts exactly

I guess a robust discussion about Eddie Matthews was out of the question?

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I don't know.

MC Serch

No gas face for you but Prime Minister Pete Nice was underrated.

Well there was this one girl...

Wait, nevermind.

El. Psy. Kongroo.

Is this a bandcamp story?

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
β€œI served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

I didn't know RocketHokie13 was self-producing music and releasing it independently

Lol, I was tempted to crack a band camp joke

El. Psy. Kongroo.

If I'm picking my Mount Rushmore of Third Baseman, I'm going with:
Brooks Robinson - like a hoover vacuum at third
Chipper Jones - one of the best switch hitters of all time
George Brett - professional hitter
Nolan Arenado - does everything, and I mean everything, phenomenally

There is nothing wrong with Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Adrian Beltre or Wade Boggs. But my four are above. I don't believe that people today fully appreciate how good Nolan Arenado is.

My under-appreciated Mount Rushmore of Third Basemen is Graig Nettles, Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen and Anthony Rendon.

Druckenmiller the shotgun snap, fakes short, fires it deep into the end zone it is....caught! It is caught for a touchdown by Jermaine Holmes with 47 seconds left!

I second Graig Nettles. If im not mistaken his WAR numbers stack up solidly compared the top 15 HOF third basemen's numbers.

My wife takes the kids and leaves the house while I watch my Hokie games.........nuff said

I second Chipper Jones. If Mickey Mantle played 3rd base, they would have been soooo twinning.

Leonard. Duh.

Chipper, Brett, Schmidt and Boggs get my pick. Haven't seen many games in the last 10 to 15 years, so Arenado has my curiosity. Love that under-appreciated list too.

Hokie fan | W&M grad

Brooks Robinson was the man and was a hoover on 3rd, got a signed ball from him- lost our practice baseball on the farm one day as a kid, and guess who had to pull out the signed brooks robinson baseball to replace it. I still look back and laugh about this.

Schmidt with 10 gold gloves and 500+ HRs is first by a wide margin.

Robinson/Brett are 2/3 depending on whether you favor bats or gloves.

Jones is 4th with 450+ HRs. Like Brett, he stole a gold glove.

Boggs is in the HoF, Nettles isn't. Boggs gets 5th.

If Arenado keeps it up, he'll be at or near the top.

Chipper Jones never won a Gold Glove. The one season when he should have won it, David Wright stole it.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

my mistake

In a "what could have been..." honorable mention, I would add David Wright. Dude was a stud for a while on terrible Mets teams who should have been more productive in his 30s if not for his spinal stenosis.

My list (which is just a personal list):

Cal Ripken - somewhat of a cheat, since he only played 3B in his twilight, but he was my favorite player as a kid. Loved watching his last all star game . The whole getting to start at SS with Arod deferring so he could set the record for most AS games starting at SS. The HR. It was fun.

Anthony Rendon - I think what I like most about Rendon, besides being the 3B on the Nats when they won the WS, is his demeanor. It was best exemplified in the WS game 6 debacle where Trea Turner was hit in the back by a throw from the catcher and after a long conference and the Nats bench getting super worked up and Davy Martinez getting thrown out over a terrible rule call, Rendon comes up and hits a HR to take the lead and win the game. In his post game interview, he said, he liked the delay, it allowed him to sit down and rest. He is in his own chill world, where he just vibes and rakes at the plate.

Fernando Tatis (Sr) - he wasn't elite, but when I was dorky HS kid playing fantasy baseball, he was a gem. I wasn't watching the game, but I remember watching the ESPN stats upload (and re-upload) to "watch" him hit two grand slams in one inning. His son is really fun to watch too.

Ryan Zimmerman - I've been a fan of the Nats since the day MLB elected to move the Expos to DC. Zimmerman is everything Nationals. When Nats Park opened up for the first game in 2008, my wife and I got tickets by getting in line at 8 or 9 AM for tickets that were to go on sale at 2PM. President Bush threw the first pitch. Zim hit a walk-off HR to win the game. It was a fun game. So glad I got to experience that part of history.

πŸ¦ƒ πŸ¦ƒ πŸ¦ƒ

I was thinking Cal, too, but purely because he's always been a favorite of mine. He did play 3B his first year when he won ROY but only about half a season. Probably would've been considered one of the best if he stayed, but I can't argue moving him to SS

good call. His offensive numbers wouldn't have been viewed as good for a 3B, but his Ironman legacy would remain the same, for sure.

πŸ¦ƒ πŸ¦ƒ πŸ¦ƒ

You guys beat me to it.

Got a story about the Ripkins.
On my first ship (stationed in Japan), there was a guy that was a Red Sox fan. He had a Red Sox hat and used to taunt me all the time.
My Dad ran into Cal one day. Told him the story. He had Dad drop by the house sometime.
Next time Dad was in the area, he did. Cal and billy and Cal Sr. wasn't there but their Mom was. She listened to Dad's story and remember Cal talking about that and he had a rejoinder ready for it. She went got one of their winter wool baseball caps that Cal had signed and addressed to me.

Dad forwarded it and I got the one-up on the Boston guy because they did not sell the winter hats so between the signed hat not available to the public and hand written note specifically mentioning giving the Red Sox fan a hard time, it was a great morale boost after being away from home and family for several years.

They are a great family by the way.

This is going to be great for the ACC.

Wow, that's an awesome story.

I don't have any cool Ripken stories, but of the two "keepsake" documents I got from my grandfather after he passed and have one display, one was a copy of the special edition of the Baltimore Sun published the night Cal broke Gehrig's record. The other is the August 8th, 1969 edition of LIFE magazine published after Apollo 11.

El. Psy. Kongroo.

I remember the season he announced his retirement. I immediately looked at the schedule and almost bought tickets at Yankees stadium because that's where his last game was supposed to be (I wasn't long after college and didn't think I would be able to swing the total price tag of that trip). At the same time, my best friend bought me tickets to the O's game on my birthday (Sep 15). This happened to be 2001, Sept 11th happened and the games the weekend on my birthday got pushed to the end of the season. I ended up getting a ticket for his final game for (would've been the Sep 16th game) and ended up going to his final two games. It was a great experience during a really difficult time.

I got to see cal break gehrig's record, game 2161 . he did a lap around the whole stadium waving to the crowd and hit a home run that night. Special night of baseball

Adrian Beltre

  • could hit a home run from his knee
  • played 3rd without a cup on
  • repeatedly ruined on-field celebrations of his accomplishments because he got mad about someone touching his head
  • 5 time gold glove, 4 time silver slugger

He may never make it into the hall of fame, but he will always be one of the greats to me.

I don't know how someone with 3000 hits doesn't get in if he isn't tied into the PED scandal. Beltre has to get in. I just didn't watch him enough to put him on my list.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I could certainly be wrong, but I've generally felt like he doesn't have the name recognition that other surefire hall of fame have... The kind of transcendence in which people outside the sphere of baseball know his name. Unfortunately, hall of fame voting sometimes feels like a popularity contest.

on the other hand, BBWAA as a whole is notoriously choosy and curmudgeonly -- exactly the kind of organization that would pride itself on Adrian Beltre being a first ballot HOF with a low Q rating, so to speak.

he is absolutely a lock to get in
https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/jaws_3B.shtml

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Today is Brooks Robinson's 83rd birthday. Put some respect on that name.

Yeah, Brooks on third and Mark Belanger at SS.
An infield hit within grasp of that side of the infield was an automatic out.

When Mark retired, Cal went to SS. Talk about a strong position for decades.

This is going to be great for the ACC.

belanger, boog on first for the scoop, brook's brother frank robinson, albumbry- the pride of king george co. , don baylor, andy etchebaron and the best pitching staff ever assembled. also the best manager ever in baseball- the man the legend the dude who used stats more than anyone and was ahead of his time, the hell with bunts- hit home runs, i never saw an umpire i wouldn't argue with- EARLLLLL WEAVERRRRRR.

Yeah, Earl Weaver was the man.

This is going to be great for the ACC.

Happy Birthday Brooks!!!!!

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

That's a whole heaping lot of gold... Brooks was one of my childhood heroes.

"Don't go to, go through"

Got to agree with you about Brooksie being at least in the Top 5 of 3rd basemen. When you win that many Golden Gloves (16), that alone would place you in the top 10, and since he was so great in the field, his hitting was often overlooked, and he was so clutch in big games. Growing up an Orioles fan outside Baltimore, everybody emulated Brooks on the playgrounds.

I got a Ripken story. Played high school baseball in the same county league as the Ripkens. Was on the JV baseball team my sophomore year, and was told during tryouts that if someone went down on the varsity early in the season, I'd probably get moved up. Like the 2nd week in the season, we were going to be playing Aberdeen, where Cal went to school and was tearing it up as a pitcher and infielder on a team that I believe was a MD state champion team that year and the year prior. One of our crazy varsity players got suspended from school for jumping out of a 2nd floor window on a dare, so he got the boot from the varsity just a few days before the Aberdeen game, so I got elevated to the varsity starting that game, and for the remainder of the season. I was scared to death anyway, playing only like my 3rd or 4th high school game, and 1st with the varsity, and to top that we're playing one of the best teams in the state, with Cal, Jr. on the team and Cal, Sr. a regular in the stands. Coach throws me in at CF to start the game, and we were home, starting in the field. 1st inning, Cal was like the 3rd hitter up, with at least one guy on base, and he hits a shot between me and the right-fielder, actually much closer to the right-fielder, but he wasn't very mobile, and all I remember him saying was "you got it, you got it". I made a head-long diving attempt for the catch, trapping it under my body, but couldn't find the ball right away, so by the time I recovered and got the ball in, Cal was on 3rd with a triple. Our team wasn't very good, being a new school with our first varsity team, and I'm pretty sure we lost something like 12-1 . That story seems hard to believe, which is probably why it is so easy to remember. Being a huge fan growing up, I also went to Cal's 2,130 game (tying Gehrig's record), so that was pretty cool.

Also played against Cal's younger brother, Billy, but he was nothing like Cal in terms of dominating a game. Billy got the benefit of the doubt based on his name, and if he wasn't named Ripken, he would have never been drafted (he wasn't even the best player in the county) and gone onto the majors, imho.

Fun times, indeed.

"That man was violating a city ordinance, and I was just doing my duty to enforce it." - Mike Curtis

Quite simply, Brooks. The glove and the bat. A lifelong Orioles fan, and Brooks is Mr. Baltimore. Literally, a cornerstone of the O's dynasty from 69 to 71, and his unbelievable field plays in the '70 World Series win over the Big Red Machine. Just a genuinely nice and humble Arkansas kid. An iconic black and white baseball photo is Brooks leaping in elation after the '66 World Series win over Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers. Also, a great.announcer for the O's for many years. Honorable Mention: George "Pine Tar" Brett; Mike Schmidt and Chipper .

As a kid I was a Reds fan, and no one frustrated me more than Brooks Robinson. Much respect. Best I ever saw.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

Brooks by a landslide, then Brett, Schmidt, Jones

HH4455

Brooks Robinson

A-Rod dont @ me

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

No Scott Brosius?

/sss

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Best 3B Yankee is and will likely always will be Greg Nettles.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

so great you called him Greg and not Graig

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Hard to give him credit because he was a Juicer but AROID was an all time at SS and 3rd even if he is a despicable Human Being

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
β€œI served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

Corked Bat Chris Sabo?

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

I am really surprised there have not been more calls for Terry Pendleton. One of the best clutch players of my lifetime.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I love TP, but he's not in the same tier as the others listed here.

Hokie fan | W&M grad

Terry Pendleton must not care about the spirit of Ut Prosim because his name anagrams to Pylon Deterrent.

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Except in the playoffs

Pendleton was my favorite Brave when I first started watching baseball, and I was hyped when he won MVP over Barry Bonds in '91 and started the '92 All-Star Game over Gary Sheffield.

But, putting my tomahawk on the shelf, I've seen several 3B who were way better than him since then.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

He will never make an alltime list because his attitude has gotten terrible, but defensively, Manny Machado is probably the best at 3B in a long time. His range, glove, and laser beam throws have to put him at or near the top of any player list in modern baseball. He's still no Brooks though!

Plus now he plays shortstop for SD

Matt Chapman is easily best defensive 3B in the game now.

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Brooks Robinson.. mic drop. No other discussion.

Orioles fan here.

1) Mike Schmidt - 500 HRs when it actually meant something, a great glove, decent speed. There's a reason he's top 20 in WAR.
2) Brooks Robinson - Greatest glove, solid hitter in a fairly deadball era, off the charts baseball "instincts"
3) Eddie Matthews
4) Boggs, Brett, Jones

It's hard to call guys like A-Rod or Ernie Banks 3rd basemen.

Most underrated? Ron Santo. Career was cut a little short due to bad diabetes (he ended up losing both legs) or his numbers would have been even better. Even then, it's ridiculous he didn't get elected into the HOF in his lifetime. If he'd played for the Yankees instead of the Cubs, he would have made it 30 years earlier.

I'm glad to see Eddie Mathews on your list. He was only the seventh guy in MLB history to hit 500 home runs, putting him in VERY exclusive company at that time.

Fun Fact: Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron hold the record for most combined home runs between two teammates (863). Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are second on the list with 859 and Willie Mays/Willie McCovey are third with 801.

we got Reds baseball with Thom Brennaman and Johnny Bench on WETO channel 39

I believe your memory is a little rusty, Thom's father Marty Brennaman and former Red's pitcher Joe Nuxhall were the broadcast team for the Reds for the Sabo days

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.