Third base

My take on the third basemen. There wasn't really that much doubt. Schmidt was the man. Before Schmidt and Brett came up, there was no dominant third baseman in baseball history. People voted for Mathews, a clutch and beloved slugger, or Traynor, a proficient singles hitter, or Brooksie, the minister of defense. Now, I think there's no question that Schmidt is the best on a list of the hall of fame's most neglected position.

It is easy to decide between Schmidt and Mathews. They were exactly the same kind of player. Mathews was a true great, but everything he did, Schmidt did somewhat better, and with a slicker glove to back it up. It is possible to say that Brett achieved the highest peak, and hit 665 lifetime doubles and 317 homers among his 3154 hits, but Schmidt clearly held the dominant position over a career, and let the NL in homers eight times. Total Baseball's rating system says that he was the best player in the NL seven different years, and was also proficient with the leather. Total Baseball ranks five third basemen among the top 50 non-pitchers of all time. By their calculations, Schmidt is the 12th best player of all time, Mathews 22nd, Boggs 31st, Ron Santo 45th, Brett 49th.

Boggs was a great player in 1987, but there is a great gap between that and his next best year. He slugged .588 that year, but his second best year (.490) is no better than the career averages of the other three guys listed below. Boggs demonstrated flukish power that year, with 24 homers - atypical for him. He hit 8 the previous year, and five the subsequent year. I suppose the greatest fluke home run year of all time was Brady Anderson hitting 50 homers in between a 16 and an 18.

Other thoughts: Mathews was a genuinely great player, only a hair behind Schmidt, although he is now unjustly forgotten. His lifetime OBP and slugging are both higher than Brett's. (Mathews drew a ton of walks) Could Brett hit? Whitey Herzog once said that his biggest mistake was to forget one of the three simple things you have to remember in baseball. (1)when the ball is hit to you, catch it (2) when the ball is pitched to you, hit it (3) when the game is on the line and first base is open, don't pitch to George Brett.

Unless I've missed someone, no third baseman has ever hit 50 homers in a season. Schmidt peaked at 48, Mathews at 47, Castilla at 46. (Kevin Mitchell hit 47 the year he switched to the outfield, but never came close as a third baseman.)

Apart from the stats, which argue otherwise, but from my own personal observation, Brooksie was the best defensive player I ever saw. Maybe I never watched Mays, Clemente, Ozzie and Mazeroski when they had their best moments, but it seemed like Robinson was a wizard every time I saw him. He certainly made the big plays at the right time of year!

Santo is not in the Hall of Fame. I generally hate Hall of Fame arguments because they always hinge on comparisons to guys who are in and shouldn't be - therefore arguing to put in another undeserving soul because he's just like or better than someone already in - but it seems to me that Santo is one of the all-time top ten at his position, possibly top five, and I don't see how you can justify excluding him.

At their peaks:
            OBP    Slug  Rank
Brett       .461   .664    1
Boggs       .467   .588    3
Schmidt     .439   .644    2
Mathews     .428   .603    4
Career summary:
             OBP    Slug
Brett       .373   .487    4 
Boggs       .420   .445    3 
Schmidt     .384   .527    1 
Mathews     .378   .509    2
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