Thursday, May 17, 2012

MLB Top 10 Third Baseman - Post 1980

Continuing my MLB lists with the "Hot Corner", which includes some great pure hitters, a couple DH qualifiers and arguably the best pre-steroid power-hitter.  Current players on the outside with a chance crack this list in the future would be David Wright, who needs to stay healthy and Evan Longoria, who just needs a larger body of work.

10.  Terry Pendleton - With Pendleton, I feel the need to look beyond the usual stats, with only 140 career home runs and less than 1,000 RBI not jumping off the page.  The things I remember about him were leadership and reliability.  Pendleton tops this list with 5 World Series appearances, where he hit. 298 in 27 games in the Fall Classic.  Pendleton is also one of four players on the list with an MVP, taking the honor in 1991 when he led the NL in batting average and hit 22 home runs.

9.  Bobby Bonilla - Now this is an interesting career.  Bonilla was a 6-time All-Star in his first 10 seasons with his best years coming in a Pirate uniform.  In his 11th season, he had a semi-productive year for the Marlins, but more importantly got his World Series ring.  He hung around for 5 more years and contributed almost nothing to his teams during that time.  He played long enough to eclipse 2,000 hits and finished with 287 home runs.  He is still getting paid over $1 million a year by the Mets, which might be his greatest career accomplishment.

8. Scott Rolen - When trying to come up with a modern-day Brooks Robinson as a defensive third baseman, Rolen is probably the closest (yet not even close) comparison. He has also eclipsed 2,000 hits and 300 home runs since being named the 1997 Rookie of the Year. His 8 Gold Gloves are a testament to his defensive skills. Injuries and age have caught up to Rolen, but he has proven to be one of the top at the "hot corner" in our time.

7. Adrian Beltre - I was a little surprised that Beltre has over 2,000 hits and 300 home runs already. At age 33 and still a threat with the bat, those numbers should/could get to 2,500 and 400 before all is said and done. Beltre also has 6 Gold Gloves, so his fielding is not too shabby either. Even his .277 career batting average is a tick higher than I thought. 2004 was his best season, when as a Dodger he blasted 48 home runs and was 2nd in the NL MVP voting. The only knock is that he parlayed that season into a huge contract and four mediocre seasons with Seattle.

6.  Edgar Martinez - The first of two designated hitter eligibles, Martinez logged 564 games at third base before settling in as the primary DH in Seattle.  The poster-child for professional hitters, Edgar won two batting titles in his 18 year career and finished with a .312 career batting average.  Martinez collected 2,247 hits, including 309 that cleared the fences.  Martinez walked more times than he struck out over his career and achieved an impressive .418 career on-base percentage.  While he never flashed much as a glove man, his hitting prowess garners him this spot on the list.

5.  Paul Molitor - "The Ignitor" played all positions on the diamond besides pitcher and catcher, but his 791 games at third base were the most of any position.  Molitor finished his career with 3,319 hits and a .306 career batting average.  He led the league in hits for 3 different teams, once each for Milwaukee, Toronto and Minnesota.  Molitor finished with 234 career home runs but also flashed his speed with 504 career stolen bases.  He ranks high on the all-time lists in hits(9th), doubles(11th), runs scored(20th) and total bases(23rd).

4.  Wade Boggs - Another member of the 3,000 hit club, the chicken-loving Boggs amassed 3,010 career hits and finished with a lifetime batting average of .328, leading the league 5 times in his first 7 seasons in the bigs.  Wade hit over .300 in his first 10 seasons and 14 out of his first 15.  He was a 12-time all-star and 2-time Gold Glove winner.  His 1,412 walks to only 745 career strike outs make Edgar Martinez look like Rob Deer.

3.  George Brett - When I first started watching baseball, Brett was one of the games premier players.  His 1980 season is one of the best all-time and who can forget the pine tar incident.  I did miss his first 6 full seasons, which made my decisions between 2 and 3 a bit easier.  For his career, Brett had 3,154 hits, 317 home runs, 1,596 RBI and a career .305 batting average.  He was a 13-time all-star, 1980 AL MVP and won a World Series ring in 1985.  In 43 post-season games, Brett hit .337 with 10 home runs, proving he was also one of the great clutch hitters of our era.

2.  Chipper Jones - Born Larry Wayne Jones he is known to you as "Chipper" and he is also known to us as one of the best 3rd baseman of our time.  The 1999 NL MVP currently sits at 2,643 hits, 459 home runs, 1,584 RBI and a career .304 batting average (.402 on-base percentage).  Chipper has appeared in 92 post-season games and has one World Series ring.  Jones power numbers separate him from Boggs and Molitor, but he also joins the group of players who have walked (1,466) more than they have struck out (1,370).

1.  Mike Schmidt - Here is where I cannot penalize a player who played 8 full seasons before I watched...Michael Jack Schmidt is the greatest third baseman I have seen.  Before there were steroids, there was Mike Schmidt.  He finished with 548 career home runs and I still remember his funky dance after he hit #500.  He led the NL in home runs 8 times, including 5 after 1980.  He was the NL MVP in 1980, 1981 and 1986.  Oh by the way, he won 10 Gold Gloves.  He won a World Series ring in 1980.  He sits 15th on the all-time HR list, but trails 6 players known/suspected of using PED's.  Seems like a pretty darn good career to me.