Continuing our comparisons with MLB.com of the Greatest All Time Teams for each franchise, we now discuss third base. We agreed on 22 of the 30 (73%) picks. There are 8 of their picks we disagree with, here is our response to the differences.
MLB.com chose George Kell. A Sip of Sports chose Miguel Cabrera.
MLB.com did not put Cabrera at first base either. Our assumption is they are going to put him at designated hitter. Cabrera’s overall WAR with Detroit is 56.7 (Win Shares 282), Kell’s was 23.2 (Win Shares 129). Cabrera is going to make the team somewhere, the question is where? With Detroit he’s played 1,151 games at first base, only 324 at third, but his two MVP seasons were at third (154 games in 2012, 145 in 2013). If you add in his years in Florida he’s had 1,151 games at first, 697 at third, and 347 in the outfield. 52% at first, 32% at third, 16% in the outfield. That’s about five seasons as a third baseman. He wasn’t very good with the glove, but proved to be adequate. Here’s the rub, at first base he’s competing with Hank Greenberg (WAR 55.7, Win Shares 253), a competition that’s very close. In the outfield, it’s a different story. He’s competing with three players who were clearly better Sam Crawford (WAR 63.9, Win Shares 380), Ty Cobb (WAR 144.7, Win Shares 726), and Al Kaline (WAR 92.8, Win Shares 442). That leaves third base. George Kell’s in the Hall of Fame, but his WAR with Detroit was only 23.2 and Win Shares 129. His defense was good, but not great. His best finish in the MVP vote was 4th in 1950. Greenberg and Cabrera won two each. You can take two of the three, Greenberg, Kell, or Cabrera. Which two would you take? We stand by our pick.
MLB.com chose Gary Gaetti. A Sip of Sports chose Harmon Killebrew.
This is a very similar situation to the Tigers. Killebrew played 963 (43%) games at first base, 791 (36%) at third, and 471 (21%) in the outfield. He was pretty good defensively at first base (“B”), and pretty bad at third (“D”). His MVP year was at first, but his World Series appearance was at third. He played more games at third in his career than Pete Rose,791 (36%) to 629 (23%). Rose was not particularly good with the glove either (“C”). Both A Sip of Sports and MLB.com chose Rose at third base for the Reds. Gary Gaetti was excellent with the glove (“A-”), but not so with the bat. His WAR in Minnesota was 27.2, with 131 Win Shares. His competition to make the team is not Harmon Killebrew, but first baseman Joe Judge. Judge played a long time ago (1915-1932), but we’re going to have to discount him quite a bit to get to Gaetti. Judge leads in WAR 47.1 to 27.2 and Win Shares 277 to 131. This is not as one-sided as the Tigers, and again the defense is going to suffer, but we’re very confident we got it right.
Los Angeles Angels:
MLB.com chose Troy Glaus. A Sip of Sports chose Chone Figgins.
We covered the comparison between Glaus and Figgins in our Angels’ article. It’s very close between the two. We took Figgins, but Glaus is a reasonable pick.
MLB.com chose Sal Bando. A Sip of Sports chose “Home Run” Baker.
Another comparison we covered in our A’s article. We were surprised that it was as close as it was. If you think the timeline penalty should be higher than we made it, then Bando would be the choice. We concede this decision could go either way.
MLB.com chose Chipper Jones. A Sip of Sports chose Eddie Mathews.
Chipper Jones was a first ballot Hall of Fame selection, but there is no rating system out there that puts him ahead of Mathews. It’s not like Mathews played in the distant past. He was a long time teammate of Henry Aaron. Just think the MLB.com reporters let their bias towards players they saw play be decisive. Mathews is the correct choice.
MLB.com chose Ryan Zimmerman. A Sip of Sports chose Tim Wallach.
By the system we use, Wallach is the 4th best player in franchise history and Zimmerman is 5th. We moved Zimmerman to first because he was more valuable than any first baseman. Bill James grades Wallach an “A” for his defense. Zimmerman was okay, but not to that level. Zimmerman has played 29% of his games at first and made one of his two All Star games at that position. We’re very confident we got this one right. Zimmerman deserves to play first base and Wallach should be considered the best third baseman of the Nationals.
MLB.com chose Paul Molitor. A Sip of Sports chose Don Money.
This was our most problematic choice. Molitor was a second baseman for his first three seasons, the outfield for one, then he moved to third for his next six. They sort of moved him back to second for one season (60 games), and finally to first base and designated hitter for his last two seasons with the Brewers. He’s the second most valuable player in Brewer history so he has to play somewhere. We put him at second because we decided that Cecil Cooper (1st base) and Don Money (3rd base) were more valuable than Jim Gantner (2nd base). We still do, but with Money at third and Molitor at second the defense suffers. Defense at second base matters more than any position besides pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. Though we will stick with Money, we don’t have a problem with their choice, we concede they may be correct.
San Diego Padres:
MLB.com chose Ken Caminiti. A Sip of Sports chose Phil Nevin.
We covered this one in our Padres’ article. It’s basically a pick-em and we went with the one who didn’t take drugs.