Third basemen tend to be players with limited range, but quick reflexes and strong arms. Ever since Eddie Mathews hit the scene, third basemen have needed to possess some power in order to get noticed, with the exception of great OBP skills (Wade Boggs) or tremendous defense (Brooks Robinson). Third base is criminally underrepresented in the Hall of Fame with merely a dozen inductees. The median score for third basemen is 27782, which is between Robinson and Ron Santo. Let’s see how well some outsiders rank for potential Hall of Famers. Continue reading
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.
Year Inducted: 1999 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 488/497)
Kansas City has had a long baseball history. In the 1800’s, it was a hotbed for semi-pro teams, and then had one of the greatest Negro League teams of all-time, the Kansas City Monarchs. When the Philadelphia Athletics moved, they relocated to Kansas City as one of the furthest west teams in the game. In the 1960’s, the A’s relocated again to Oakland, leaving a city with a rich history without a team for the first time in nearly a century. Then, in 1969, the Kauffman family successfully petitioned the league to expand into Kansas City once again, and the Royals were born. So, to say that Kansas City doesn’t have many Hall of Famers isn’t really insulting, since they haven’t had their own franchise for very long. In fact, KC has only one Major League player wearing their insignia in the Hall. That would be the greatest player the Royals have ever had, George Brett.
Year Inducted: 2005 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 474/516)
The intentional walk, as an option for pitchers, is usually used to avoid giving a great hitter a mistake pitch, and just let him have first base rather than a hit. Most famously, Barry Bonds in his steroid-enhanced seasons would routinely get walked intentionally seemingly every game at least once. In 2004, Bonds was intentionally walked 120 times and he led the NL in intentional passes 12 times in his career, including in his last two seasons when he was limping around on really bad knees. Before him though, who was the major bat that was intentionally walked a lot? It wasn’t Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. It wasn’t even really a classic power hitter like Dale Murphy or Dave Kingman. No, the player most associated with the intentional pass before Bonds must be Wade Boggs, who led the AL in the stat for six consecutive years despite hitting a total of 53 homers (with 24 coming in one season).
Year Inducted: 1978 (BBWAA, ballot #5, 301/379)
To borrow a phrase from the Bible, it might be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than the BBWAA elect a third baseman to the Hall of Fame. At least, that was true until the 1970’s. From the opening of the Hall of Fame until 1977, the BBWAA had elected a total of one third baseman into the Hall of Fame, Pie Traynor in 1948. During that timespan, even the Veterans Committee didn’t elect many third baseman. The only ones to make it were Jimmy Collins (1945), Frank Baker (1955) and Freddie Lindstrom (1976). That all changed with the emergence of one man-Eddie Mathews.
Year Inducted: 2004 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 431/506)
A player historically would be slotted into the leadoff spot if they were very fast. Guys like Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Tris Speaker were great baserunners and were to use that speed at the top of the lineup to help generate runs. More recently, research has indicated that speed, while it is probably the second most important tool for a leadoff hitter, isn’t the most important attribute. The ability to get on base trumps the ability to steal a base most, if not all, of the time. So, what happens when a player with great speed but also a great batting eye and a quick bat is able to leadoff for a long time? It results in one of the best right handed hitters ever, Paul Molitor.
Year Inducted: 1983 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 344/374)
Great defenders and the Hall of Fame can make for interesting debates. Ozzie Smith, for example, was an easy selection for the BBWAA and got in as the best defensive shortstop ever. Other positions, like catcher and center field, are also considered to have a high defensive component to them, and the best defenders at those positions are inducted (or in Pudge Rodriguez’s case, going to be in the near future). Yet, defense does matter all over the diamond, even at easy positions like first base and left field. The fact that defense is important is why a player like Brooks Robinson got inducted with more than 90% of the vote on his first ballot.