The most-deserving players not in the Hall of Fame: Third basemen

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I don’t know if Adrian Beltre is smart or lucky. What I do know is there’s no way the Beltre in the photo above would’ve made the Hall of Fame playing out his career in Los Angeles, or his subsequent home, Seattle. At the end of 2009, after 12 seasons between both teams, Beltre owned a .270 lifetime batting average, due in part to the Dodgers and Mariners playing in two of the worst hitters’ parks in baseball.

But then Beltre signed with the Red Sox and then, following a brief stint in Boston, the Rangers. Playing in two of baseball’s best hitters’ parks, the rest is, as the saying goes, history. Beltre hit .307 over his final nine seasons, finished with 3,166 hits and 477 home runs, and he’ll more than likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Today, Beltre heads up his position for a survey I fielded recently, asking 425 respondents to rank 10 players at each position, from 1 for most-deserving of induction to 10 for least-deserving. Having previously presented results for pitcherscatchers, first basemen and second basemen, today focuses on third base.

Q5 – Rank the following third basemen, ranging from 1 for most-deserving of Hall of Fame induction to 10 for least-deserving

PlayerAverage ranking
Adrian Beltre3.07
Miguel Cabrera3.50
Alex Rodriguez3.67
Pete Rose4.55
Dick Allen5.05
Scott Rolen5.63
Graig Nettles7.13
Buddy Bell7.35
Ken Boyer7.39
Darrell Evans7.65

[From a survey of 425 respondents, fielded via Qualtrics]

As always, lots to unpack here. I’ll start by explaining the presence of a few players in the results. Alex Rodriguez technically played more games at shortstop and racked up more WAR at the position. But he was last an everyday shortstop in 2003 and spent more years as a third baseman. So it seemed more appropriate to me to put him at third base for this. I realized after voting started that it would’ve been interesting to have Rodriguez and Derek Jeter face off at shortstop. Oh well.

I maybe should’ve employed the same logic I used with Rodriguez with Dick Allen, who had a few superb years at third base early in his career before transitioning to first base. Still, space was tight on the ballot for first base so Allen wound up here. As for Pete Rose, who played a bunch of different positions, he had to go somewhere for this project and had some fine years in the mid-1970s at third base.

One interesting and probably unsurprising thing to note about Rose and Rodriguez is that they each drew far more first-place votes than Beltre or second-place finisher for this position, Miguel Cabrera. But Rose and Rodriguez each drew so many ninth and tenth-place votes that it dragged down their averages.

A more detailed breakdown of the voting is as follows:


12345678910
Allen2231446485795323186
Bell241117375382917157
Beltre46126124723087831
Boyer231018325576988447
Cabrera409311986362081058
Evans10716265772859962
Nettles45523437486716054
Rodriguez1727627281566114044
Rolen5164474986829253333
Rose1317134272356312113
Total425425425425425425425425425425

Via filters from the survey website Qualtrics, we can dig into the numbers a little more. A few fun things to note:

  • The 131 voters who rated Rose first gave Rodriguez an average ranking of 4.82.
  • The 172 voters who rated Rodriguez first gave Rose an average ranking of 5.20.
  • The 113 voters who rated Rose last gave Rodriguez an average ranking of 4.16.
  • The 44 voters who rated Rodriguez last gave Rose an average ranking of 2.77.

I’m struck by the relatively strong showing for Scott Rolen. Perhaps as Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera are inducted in the years to come, Rolen can improve his numbers on the writers’ ballot. Rolen rose to 17.2 percent in his second year on the ballot and has eight more years to attempt an against-the-odds climb to 75 percent.

Other thoughts: There’s a pretty clear divide in the results after Rolen, though it wouldn’t be an awful day for Cooperstown if ever Graig Nettles, Buddy Bell, Ken Boyer, or Darrell Evans is enshrined. I wouldn’t be stunned to see Nettles or Boyer get inducted at some point, but Bell and Evans probably have long-term spots locked down in these sorts of projects.

It’d be nice to get more third basemen on the ballot in the future. Robin Ventura has a reasonably good case sabermetrically. So does Ron Cey. Bill Madlock doesn’t have the advanced stats to bolster his case, but he won four batting titles. Then there’s Clete Boyer, one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball history. At some point, Nolan Arenado might deserve a spot, too.

Anyhow, I’ll share results for shortstop tomorrow. Thanks again to everyone for reading so far.

Just getting caught up? Check out results for pitcherscatchers, first basemen, and second basemen. Stay tuned in the days to come for results of the other four positions.

One thought on “The most-deserving players not in the Hall of Fame: Third basemen”

  1. Among third baseman with at least 40 rWAR, here’s the top ten eligible third basemen by rWAR per 650 PA:

    1 Scott Rolen 70.0 5.3
    2 Dick Allen 58.7 5.2
    3 Adrian Beltre 95.6 5.1
    4 Ken Boyer 62.8 4.9
    5 Sal Bando 61.4 4.8
    6 David Wright 49.9 4.7
    7 Heinie Groh 48.2 4.5
    8 Robin Ventura 55.9 4.4
    9 Graig Nettles 68.0 4.3
    10 Buddy Bell 66.1 4.3

    There’s only two active players that would be on this list. Evan Longoria is at 5.0, and Josh Donaldson is at 6.4! I have A-Rod at SS, Cabrera at 1B. Rose is ineligible, but he’s at 3.2 thanks to a dragged-out back end of his career. And Darrell Evans comes in at 3.5 – he has the same career value as Allen, but it took him 3400 more PA to do it.

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