No third baseman ever has done what Chris Johnson is doing this year as Chipper Jones’ replacement with the Atlanta Braves.
Oh, third basemen have fielded better and hit for higher averages and certainly for more power.
But for the purposes of this post I’m looking solely at what third basemen have accomplished following a Hall of Famer. That, of course, assumes Jones is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I think most fans think Jones will make it and he’s a possible first-ballot selection.
He will become the 12th third basemen enshrined in Cooperstown. Of the players who followed Hall of Fame third basemen not one has done as well as Fort Myers’ Chris Johnson has so far this season.
Of the 11 third basemen now in the Hall of Fame, only George Brett, Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt spent their entire careers with one team. Jones will be the fourth.
Following such legends is likely more difficult than succeeding third basemen such as Wade Boggs and George Kell who were traded during their careers not at the end of career-long storied decades with one franchise.
Here, then, is my ranking of third basemen replacing Hall of Famers. This is based solely on the first season and does not reflect career value.
- 1. Chris Johnson follows Chipper Jones
Jones retired following the 2012 after spending his entire career with the Braves, from 1993 to 2012. He was the face of the franchise and hit .303 with 468 homers.
The Braves acquired Johnson and at this writing on Aug. 2 he’s leading the National League in hitting at .346, 16 points ahead of the nearest competitor, Yadier Molina at .330.
If Johnson goes 0-for-50 his average will still be .300. He has six homers and 39 RBI.
- 2. Jumping Joe Dugan follows Home Run Baker
Alas, there are no players now named Home Run or Jumping Joe. …
Baker played for the Philadelphia A’s earlier in his career but in the middle of his career he was with the Yankees. In his final year, 1922, with the Yankees, he hit .278 with two homers and 71 RBI
Jumping Joe replaced him in 1923 and hit .283 with seven homers and 67 RBI. He led the league with 644 at-bats and was third in the league in putouts and assists.
- 3. Clete Boyer follows Eddie Mathews
Interesting that the Braves pop up twice on this list. I believe Mathews is the only player to play with the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. He was a Brave from 1952 through 1966 and then played two more years, splitting his time between the Astros and Tigers.
He was replaced in Atlanta in 1967 by former Yankee Clete Boyer, who was an outstanding defensive player. He hit .245 with 26 homers and 96 RBI in 1967. His 26 homers were seventh in the NL.
- 4. Bill Madlock replaces Ron Santo
Santo was one of the most popular in Cubs history. I didn’t remember this until I looked it up but after playing for the Cubs from 1960 to 1973 he went across town and played for the White Sox in 1974.
He was replaced with the Cubs in 1974 by Madlock, who hit .313 with nine homers and 54 RBI. Madlock went on to win batting titles in 1975 and 1976 while with the Cubs. If this little exercise was based on career value instead of just one year Madlock would rate higher.
- 5. Doug DeCinces replaces Brooks Robinson
Robinson was a legend in Baltimore, one of the team’s signature players ever. It was a tough act to follow but DeCinces was a good player and hit .259 with 19 homers and 69 RBI in 1977, his first full year as Baltimore’s third baseman in the post-Brooks era.
6. Scott Cooper follows Wade Boggs
Boggs’ best seasons were in Boston, where he won five batting titles between 1983 and 1988, posting these averages: .361, .367, .357, .363 and .366. In 1992, he slumped to .259 and then he became a Yankee.
Still it was a tough act to follow but somebody had to do it and that somebody was Scott Cooper, who hit .279 with nine homers and 63 RBI in 1993 as the third baseman after Boggs in Boston.
- 7. Gary Gaetti follows George Brett
Brett was the greatest player in Royals history, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who won three batting titles between 1973 and 1993.
Gary Gaetti followed him and hit .287 with 12 homers and 57 RBI in 90 games in a strike-shortened season.
8. Charlie Hayes replaces Mike Schmidt
Schmidt spent his entire career with the Phillies and is in the discussion for greatest third baseman of all time. By 1989, his final year, he was a part-time player limited to 42 games.
Hayes played 84 games at third that year for the Phillies and hit .258 with eight homers and 42 RBI. In 1990, Hayes hit .258 with 10 homers and 57 RBI. He was no Mike Schmidt but was a serviceable big-league player.
9. Harry Lord follows Jimmy Collins
Collins was a Hall of Famer, a player born in 1870 who played from 1895 to 1908. His best years were with the Red Sox from 1901 to 1907.
In 1908, Harry Lord replaced him and hit .259 with two homes and 37 RBI.
10. Johnny Vergez follows Freddie Lindstrom
The bulk of Lindstrom’s career was spent with the Giants from 1924 to 1932 but he later played for the Pirates, Cubs and Dodgers.
Johnny Vergez replaced Lindstrom with the Giants in 1933 and hit .271 with 16 homers and 72 RBI.
11. Fred Hatfield follows George Kell
Kell played for five teams between 1943 and 1957 but his best years were with the Tigers. He won the 1949 A.L. batting title and twice led the league in doubles.
He was replaced as Detroit’s full-time third baseman in 1952 by Hatfield, who hit .236 with two homers and 25 RBI.
12. Tommy Thevenow replaces Pie Traynor
Pie Traynor’s last full year with the Pirates was 1934, when he hit .309 in 119 games.
He was replaced in 1935 by Thevenow, who hit .238 with no homers and 47 RBI in 110 games.