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As we continue our ongoing series in which we try to determine who the greatest players of all time were by crowdsourcing the task out to randomly googled websites, we now turn to the hot corner to find the best third basemen in history.

As with our previous rankings of shortstops, second basemen, starting pitchers, catchers, and relief pitchers, we used a Google search to check out the first ten top-10 lists of relievers we could find, based on the presumption that millions of clicks and links must mean these are somehow the “best” lists, according to the collective wisdom of internet surfers.

Each player’s rank on each list was then subtracted from 101, and then the total points were added up to get a score for just how “great” the internets collectively think that player was, on a scale from 0 to 1000. In other words, a #1 ranking on one list would be worth 100 points, a #2 ranking would be worth 99 points, etc., and a #1 ranking on all ten lists would be worth a perfect score of 1000 points.

Altogether 21 players were named to the top 10 on at least one of the ten lists. Here’s how the rankings shook out (once again, in cases of a tie, we used rankings on the lists naming more than ten players as tiebreakers):

(first place votes in parentheses, *=HOF)

1. *Mike Schmidt – 997 (8)
2. *George Brett – 980
3. *Eddie Matthews – 970 (1)
4. *Brooks Robinson – 872 (1)
5. *Wade Boggs – 866
6. Chipper Jones – 856
7. *Frank “Home Run” Baker – 750
8. Ron Santo – 661
9. Alex Rodriguez – 377
10. *Paul Molitor – 376

11. Scott Rolen – 374
12. *Jimmy Collins – 364
13. *Judy Johnson – 187
14. *Pie Traynor – 183.8
15. Stan Hack – 183.4
16. Buddy Bell – 94
17. *George Kell – 93
18. Greg Nettles – 92.62
19. *John McGraw – 92.58
20. *Freddy Lindstrom – 92.29
21. David Wright – 91

Although it was obvious that the top spot would go to Schmidt because of his combination of superlative offense with above-average defense, I must say I was a bit surprised that the #2 spot went to Brett, as I was almost certain that it would either go to Matthews (for his offense) or Robinson (for his defense), and indeed, both received a #1 ranking whereas Brett did not. But where as Matthews was up and down the rankings and Robinson got left off one list for lack of offense, just as he did at the plate during his career, Brett showed amazing consistency, because although he never ranked higher than #2, he also never ranked lower than #4 on any list.

Seeing Ron Santo a #8 on this list only further underscores the fact that he remains the biggest Hall of Fame snub of all time. Seven out of 10 lists considered him to be in the top 10 of all time, including all of the lists that based their rankings on advanced metrics. When you are widely considered to be in the top ten of all time at your position, you unquestionably deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

One interesting thing about this list is that there was general consensus about who the top 8 third basemen were, but then a huge dropoff after Santo and a very tight battle between four players for the 9th and 10th spots, with A-Rod and Molitor just squeaking in by a few points. I think A-Rod got left off of some ballots because confusion persists about whether he is best classified as a third baseman or a shortstop (or maybe both). However, given that he is going to wind up having spent far more time at third than at short, he definitely belongs on this list and I’m sure he will ultimately be ranked much higher when people make lists like this again in the future.

Molitor got left off lists for a different reason, which is that even though he entered the Hall of Fame as a third baseman, he spent more time as a DH. For this reason I feel he actually should not be on this list at all but rather on a separate list of the greatest DH’s, and I would much rather make room in the top 10 for Jimmy Collins (renowned for his glovework), or probably even more worthy, the oft-overlooked Negro Leagues legend Judy Johnson.

So what do you think? Agree with these rankings? Think they’re crazy? Let us know in the comments!

And finally, here are the ten top-10 lists I used to derive these rankings (again, these are the first 10 lists that came up in a Google search):

Top 50 Third Basemen of All-Time” (TheBaseballPage.com)
MLB’s 10 Greatest Third Baseman of All Time” (Bleacher Report)
Best Third Basemen in History” (Rate it all!)
Top Ten Third Basemen of All Time” (Associated Content)
ALL-TIME TOP 100s: Third Base” (Seth Speaks)
The path to Cooperstown through the hot corner” (The Hardball Times)
The Top Ten List: Third Basemen” (Ottawa Hockey League)
Top Ten MLB Players By Position – Round 2: Third Basemen” (Bleacher Report)
ALL TIME MLB POSITION RATINGS” (Kevin’s Blog)
my evolving 3B top 20 suggestions, help, etc.” (Baseball Fever)

7 Responses to “Crowdsourcing the Greats: The Greatest Third Basemen of All Time”

  1. Whaddya think, Nick? Rolen in the Hall someday?

  2. Nick Kapur says:

    Such an interesting question. You would think that if Rolen is ranked the 11th greatest at his position all time by what is actually turning out to be a fairly credible method, and was ranked in the top 10 all time on 4 out of 10 lists, then he should be a lock.

    But the thing is, 3Bs get horribly overlooked for the Hall because the voters tend to just look at offense and compare it to all other position players, and ignore things like positional scarcity, except when it comes to SS and C. I think there is something like 2x as many 1B in the Hall as 3B and 3B is the least represented of all position players.

    And the problem for Rolen is that his main argument for induction rests on his defensive reputation. While his offensive rate stats are good (124 OPS+), his cumulative offensive numbers just aren’t there, and are not likely to get there unless he can play about 5 more years at a high level offensively, which seems laughable, given his injury history and the fact that he is already 35 years old.

    Rolen does have 7 Gold Gloves, and his defensive stats on advanced metrics are basically off the charts, but is his defensive reputation among the hoi polloi enough to get him the Brooks Robinson exception for entry? Of course, Rolen’s offense was better than Robinson’s, but nobody mentions Rolen’s defense in the same breath as Robinson’s.

    So if you ask me if Rolen deserves to be in the Hall, I would say, yes. But if you ask me if he will ever get in, I say, it seems unlikely. I keep coming back to Ron Santo, but Santo was a top defender (5 gold gloves) who put up better cumulative numbers in a worse offensive era. If Ron Santo can’t get into the HOF, how will Rolen?

  3. LAprGuy says:

    Darrell Evans was a better 3B than many of those polled. Sort of invalidates the whole survey in my mind.

  4. LAprGuy says:

    (Not to troll and post – I did read the rest of the crowdsourced top 10. No real surprises.)

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    @LAprGuy – I agree with you that Darrell Evans deserves to be in the top 20. However, I only assert this method as valid for the top 10. I only include the rest for interest. If you believe Evans deserves to be in the top 10, then maybe the method is flawed. But he definitely does not make the top ten, in my view.

  6. patrick says:

    The only real choices are Robinson or Schmidt. Schmidt wih three MVP’s and 500 homers. Brooks with an MVP, World Series heroics & 16 gold gloves.

    I’d take Robinson.

  7. I agree with Patrick in regard to B. Robby or Schmidt should be #1, and #2. Brooks is and was, in my view, the greatest 3rd baseman ever and he was an above average hitter in his era. How can the best at the position be #4?!? Schmidt combined both fielding and hitting to be regarded as one of the best ever and regarded as so.

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