The Top Players Used to Play the ‘Hot Corner’: The Sad State of Third Base in 2012
Monday March. 12, 2012
Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth (Baseball Writer): When I was a kid, the best players in the game of baseball all seemed to play Third or First Base. Think back to the mid-eighties, where George Brett, Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt, Howard Johnson, Terry Pendleton and Paul Molitor were some of the better players in the game. Even Bobby Bonilla broke into the Majors at third base. The next wave of third baseman were impressive too, guys like: Chipper Jones, Ken Caminiti, a young Scott Rolen, Vinny Castilla and Robin Ventura. As little as five years ago, there was Alex Rodriguez and David Wright both being top-5 players in baseball. When you added Miguel Cabrera and Mike Lowell to the mix, it was a pretty formidable bunch of players at the Hot Corner.
All of a sudden, the position is becoming one of the weakest in all of baseball for offensive production. This year, the “newest” third baseman Miguel Cabrera will potentially put up Triple Crown numbers. But after him… there are a lot question marks. I like Adrian Beltre to keep clicking along, however it might just not be at MVP caliber type numbers. How much left in the tank is there for future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones? Will Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright be able to stay healthy enough to qualify for the batting title for their respective teams? I certainly wouldn’t put money on that. Despite having great potential, how is Hanley Ramirez going to make the transition to third base for the Marlins? Will he carry his defensive woes into the batter’s box? How about Evan Longoria only hitting for an average of .244 to heavily bring down his 31 home runs? Mark Reynolds seems to see his average go down every year, almost excusing the fact he is still a good fit on the Orioles with his 35 home run power. Then you have the aging players having another look at a decline- I am talking of course, about Placido Polanco and Kevin Youkilis. I am not worried about these players because they are grinders. If you watch them closely, they do all of the little things right, so they could help you with some of the necessary intangibles without putting up gaudy offensive numbers.
We all get to watch Brett Lawrie for a full season at the hot corner. This may become a major talking point with the baseball brass in Toronto, who may decide ultimately that the young Canadian slugger is better suited to play a different position. Seattle, they have big-time bust Chone Figgins beginning the year at third. I don’t think he is going to turn into the Angels version of himself and contend for a batting title and a .400 OBP like he did 5 years ago, just because he is the new lead-off hitter. Does the tandem of Juan Uribe and Jerry Hairston Jr. scare you in LA? Are the Cubs dreaming if they think that Ian Stewart can come close to imitating Aramis Ramírez? Scott Rolen will provide solid defense in Cincinnati. But seriously though, how many years can he battle his ailing shoulders? Jack Hannahan might be one of the coolest dudes out there, but he is not going to confuse anyone with A-Rod in his prime.
Casey Blake couldn’t cut it for the Dodgers, so maybe a little thin air at Coors Field will help spike his offensive numbers up. Houston, I am not mentioning their proposed guy because it is likely not many of us have even heard of him. The San Diego Padres have the same problem as Houston. Oakland’s #1 guy on the depth chart is currently on the 60-day DL. How is that for an omen Oakland? The Twins have Danny Valencia penciled in at the top of their depth chart… really? You can see why the White Sox invited Dallas McPherson onto their roster when they have Brent Morel listed as the opening day third baseman. All of a sudden Alberto Callaspo doesn’t look half bad for the LA Angels of Anaheim. Or even Mark Trumbo, if he can make the transition to the hot corner. The Milwaukee Brewers might have landed a key-off season acquisition IF Aramis Ramírez and his 2012 numbers resemble anything like the back of his baseball card says.
This leads me to the last teams. I may just go on record here and say that the Miami Marlins and San Francisco Giants might just contend for the playoffs, just based on having the two best third baseman in the NL this year. The Giants look to Pablo Sandoval in building on his bounce back 2011 season. If he does, it will go along way in punching a ticket to the NL Post Season Dance Card. I like David Freese helping out St. Louis if he can stay healthy. The Cards are in a good position as the best free agent players all flocked to the American League this year and notably out of their own division. The D’backs will look to Ryan Roberts to improve on his decent 2011 campaign. His bat will be needed in the tough pitching NL West. If Pedro Alvarez can just take that step forward as an everyday player in the Majors, then we may have a .500 season or better for the Pirates. Again I am not rushing to bet on this either.
So have I left out any teams? Actually, yes I have. Get ready for it… Kansas City might have one of the best offenses in the Major Leagues again this season, despite losing Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants when they traded the outfielder for Jonathan Sanchez. This was a good move. Super prospect Mike Moustakas had a great September, hitting .352 with 4 home runs and 12 RBIs. If he can be a threat at the plate, I believe KC might also challenge .500 or above for a change.
This leads me to believe that whoever has the top 3rd basemen in the game this year is probably going to have a good shot at making the playoffs. I think A-Rod will be steady enough to bounce back. No one person will have as much pressure on him this year as A-Rod. Last year was the first time in 14 seasons that he did not hit 30 Home Runs and add 100 RBIs. If Rodriguez doesn’t pass Willie Mays this year for fourth all time in Home Runs this season, I am going to be disappointed. This will mean fewer than 30 Home Runs from the Yankee slugger. An encouraging sign was the man hitting a Home Run in his very first AB this spring. The Yankees will go as far as #13 does. The one year he hit everything, the Yankees won. Without him being clutch in the 2010 and 2011 playoffs, the team faded out in the October cold. All the Yankees fans can hope for is that the special treatment he received overseas this past offseason helped him heal properly. I project Miguel Cabrera to have the best offensive numbers for the position. Yet somehow, I don’t think we will be giving him full credit for the position because I think he will see numerous ABs as a DH as well.
Bring back 1987 again please. A memo to all dads and moms: If you are coaching your sons in baseball- advise them to play third base… right now!
*** Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Douglas “Chuck” Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Chuck’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book” please click here ***
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Posted on March 12, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged alex rodriguez, aramis ramirez, baseball, david wright, doug booth, evan longoria, fastest 30 ballgames, george brett, howard johnson, miguel cabrera, mike schmidt, mlb, ryan zimmerman, scott rolen, wade boggs. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.