Year Inducted: 1995 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 444/460)
An all-star selection is typically for a player who has had a great season, but as happens every year, the best team in the league tends to have the most amount of all-stars, whether the players deserve it or not. Occasionally, an iconic player will get a lot of all-star votes in his final season, like Cal Ripken, Jr did back in 2001. However, like with the Gold Glove, sometimes a vote is made more due to the player’s fame rather than how great he is. In 1989, the leading vote getter for NL third basemen was hitting only .203/.297/.372 in roughly 40 games. How did this player not only make, but get the vote for starting the All-Star Game? Because that player was Mike Schmidt, who opted to retire after that 40-game stretch and people did it to honor him as the truly great player he was.
Schmidt spent his entire 18-year career in Philadelphia, where he hit .267/.380/.527 with a wRC+ of 147. Schmidt was one of the most dominating right handed hitters of all-time, and one of the most consistent as well. In his first full season (1973), Schmidt hit 18 homers. He wouldn’t see a total that small again until 1988, his penultimate season, when he hit 12 homers. His 52 RBI in 1973 were his lowest until that aborted 1989 campaign, when he only managed 28. Schmidt spent a lot of time tormenting NL pitchers, and for most of his career he was the heart of the Phillie lineup, and teamed with Steve Carlton to form a great nucleus of talent.
Schmidt’s long consistency saw him finish his career with astounding totals across the board. He retired with 408 doubles, 59 triples and 548 homers. His homerun total at the end of his career ranked 7th all-time, and well ahead of Eddie Mathews’ previous high for third basemen of 512. With over 1000 extra base hits, it’s no surprise that even on a Phillie team that was mostly mediocre (despite the 1980 World Series championship team), Schmidt generated a lot of runs with his bat. After nine seasons of 100 or more RBI, Schmidt ended his career with 1595 runs, in addition to 1506 runs scored. A big slugging man, Schmidt was a slightly below average baserunner, stealing 174 bases while being worth -1.1 runs on the basepaths.
What sets Schmidt apart from the other third basemen in the Hall of Fame wasn’t just his bat, but his glove as well. Despite his size, Schmidt was one of the best defenders of all-time at third base, where he was worth more than 150 defensive runs, and he won 10 gold gloves at the position. While not quite as dominant with the glove as Brooks Robinson, he was still elite at the hot corner.
Despite the last glimpses of Schmidt being a shell of his former self, he was still a slam dunk pick for induction on his first ballot. It isn’t hyperbolic to state that Schmitty was the finest third baseman of all-time, and it is likely to be a title that he holds for a long time. Schmidt is the only true third baseman with a career fWAR over 100 (A-Rod does too, but a lot of that is from his time at shortstop), and the next closest active player (Adrian Beltre) is more than 20 fWAR away from him. Schmidt was a dynamic player, and well worthy of the Hall of Fame.
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