“Any time you think you have the game conquered, it will turn around and punch you right in the nose” – Mike Schmidt
This is the first of a nine part series, detailing my personal opinion on the best players at each position in the “Modern Era” (1960’s – Present). First, third base.
Most Complete Hitter: Chipper Jones
- .930 career OPS is best ever among eligible 3B
- Had more walks (1512) than strikeouts (1409) in career
Arguably one of the three or four best switch hitters of all time as well, Chipper began his career as a promising young short stop, but eventually moved to third base, where he found a spot in the starting lineup for the Atlanta Braves. No easy task taking over for (1991 MVP) Terry Pendleton, but he made an immediate impact, hitting 23 home runs his rookie year. He didn’t hit as many Home Runs as Schmidt, nor did he drive in as many as Beltre, but his approach is what sets him apart. His patience, discipline, and ability to employ those from both sides of the plate makes him the most complete hitter on the list. Not to mention 8 All Star teams a World Series ring in 1995, and an MVP award in 1997.
- Honorable Mention: George Brett
- Closest active comparison: Kris Bryant
Best Defender: Brooks Robinson
- 3rd All-Time in Defensive WAR (at ANY position)
- 16 consecutive Gold Gloves is most at any position
“The Human Vacuum Cleaner”, or “Mr. Impossible” was the easy winner for this superlative, and it really wasn’t even close. Robinson’s dominance in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 70’s was so staggeringly consistent, that even though he finished first nearly every season in assists, putouts, and total chances at third base, he only ever finished one season with more than 20 errors. He complimented his legendary defensive status with a competent bat, giving him 18 All-Star selections, two World Series rings with the Orioles, and taking home World Series MVP in 1970.
- Honorable Mention: Mike Schmidt
- Closest Active Comparison: Nolan Arenado
Best Overall: Mike Schmidt
- 548 Home Runs leads all Third Basemen
- 10 Gold Glove awards 2nd all time
- Only 3B to achieve over 100 WAR for career
Ah yes, “Schmitty”. The man has built a pretty irrefutable case as the best to ever hold down the hot corner. The Hall of Famer propelled the Philadelphia Phillies to a world title in 1980 (while taking home World Series MVP honors) when times were good, and kept them afloat when times were bad (3 MVPs of his own, when let’s face it, the Phillies weren’t very good). Throughout his career, he had proven himself to be an elite offensive player, leading the league in Home Runs 8 times, RBI’s 4 times, and and Slugging percentage 5 times. Couple that with 12 All Star selections, and 10 Gold Gloves, then you, my friends, are looking at the all time greatest third basemen, and in this case, I would say of ANY era.
- Honorable Mention: Eddie Matthews
- Closest Active Comparison: Adrian Beltre