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
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
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
Brett .373 .487 4
Boggs .420 .445 3
Schmidt .384 .527 1
Mathews .378 .509 2