Graig Nettles Should be in the Hall of Fame

Graig Nettles belongs in the baseball Hall of Fame — for 5 slam-dunk reasons:

  1. He was one of the top 3rd basemen of his era — the 1970’s thru the 1980’s — both offensively and defensively. This is supported by him having the 4th highest overall Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of ALL Major League Players in the 1970’s. The three best 3rd basemen of the 1970s thru 1980s were Mike Schmidt, Graig Nettles, and George Brett. That’s the short list. Schmidt and Brett are in the Hall of Fame, yet Nettles is not despite having a higher WAR in the 70’s than either of them (see chart below).
  2. He currently holds THE ALL TIME RECORD for most homeruns by a 3rd baseman in the American League, despite playing in a dead ball era!
  3. He was one of the best Defensive 3rd basemen of his era — winning 2 Gold Gloves — and should’ve won 10.
  4. He won a World Series with his defense — 1978.
  5. As of this writing, Graig is 33rd ALL TIME in games played — almost all at 3rd base — a tough position to play defensively. (When he retired, Nettles was 24th all time in games played.)

Nettles Holds Record for Homeruns by 3rd Baseman in AL

Nettles holds the All Time Record for Most homeruns by a 3rd baseman (319) — despite playing in the Dead Ball 1970s!!!

Nettles is 4th overall for Homers by a 3rd baseman, behind National Leaguers Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews and now Adrian Beltre — who played in both the NL and AL but in the jacked-up steroid era of lotsa longballs.

Nettles led the league once in homers (32 in ’76) and just missed once (37 in ’77), and perennially was amongst the top 5 to 7 in the league in homers, even though that number was generally in the twenties. His average was usually around .250. His lifetime average ended up being .248.

Before you dismiss those numbers, remember that the ball was dead — D E A D — dead in the 70s. It was so dead, they invented the designated hitter. It was so dead, they seriously thought about introducing orange baseballs at night games so the hitters could see the ball.

So Nettles’ .248 would probably be a .280 average in the 1990s thru 2000’s. And his 20-something homeruns would be 40-something every year today (with the lively baseball that is causing lots of homers and lots of strikeouts). And if he did that, how many career home runs would he have hit? As it was, he approached 400, finishing with 390. That’s a lot of homeruns for a player who played in the dead-ball 70’s.

Nettles Was Phenomenal Defensive 3rd Baseman

Like Brooks Robinson, Nettles was one of the great defensive third basemen of all time. Incredibly, he only won two gold gloves (the same amount that Wade Boggs won as a Yankee) — they used to give it to Buddy Bell every year in the late seventies and early eighties even though Nettles was at least his equal.

Nettles had cat-like reflexes at 3rd — and speared line drive after line drive with acrobatic, ballet dives to his left, or behind him to his right down the third base line. And then would come the perfect lob throw to first to always just nab the runner.

You always felt that Nettles could gun the ball to first to beat any runner by a mile, but was so good he’d toy with everyone — runners, fans, and George Steinbrenner alike — in casually launching his semi-arc to first, perfectly timed to just beat the runner by a stride, every time.

3rd Base Is an Underrated Position in HOF Voting

There are fewer 3rd basemen in the baseball Hall of Fame than any other position. The Hall of Fame is comprised of 346 elected members, including 273 former major league players, as well as 40 executives/pioneers, 23 managers and 10 umpires. By position, there are:

  • 84 pitchers,
  • 20 catchers,
  • 27 1st basemen,
  • 20 2nd basemen,
  • 19 3rd basemen,
  • 26 shortstops,
  • 23 left fielders,
  • 24 center fielders,
  • 27 right fielders,
  • 3 designated hitters.

The HOF 3rd basemen are:

  1. Frank Baker
  2. Adrian Beltre
  3. Wade Boggs
  4. George Brett
  5. Jimmy Collins
  6. Chipper Jones
  7. George Kell
  8. Freddie Lindstrom
  9. Eddie Mathews
  10. Paul Molitor
  11. Brooks Robinson
  12. Scott Rolen
  13. Ron Santo
  14. Mike Schmidt
  15. Pie Traynor
  16. Deacon White

Graig Nettles is clearly in the company of the players there. And note that 10 of those 3rd basemen were added in the last 15 years — when we wrote our original article pitching Nettles for the HOF in 2000 — there were only nine 3rd basemen in the Hall.

Nettles Had 4th Highest WAR of All Players in 1970s!

Further proof that 3rd base is an underrated DEFENSIVE position and that high offense at that position should be taken into account — is the fact that Nettles is 4th in WAR of ALL players of the 1970s!!!!!!

Ahead of Reggie Jackson. Ahead of Mike Schmidt. Ahead of Pete Rose!

Nettles Came Up Clutch — Won a World Series with His Defense

Like Robinson, Nettles won a World Series with his defense, although to much less fanfare. Robinson became a household name in 1970 for his defensive heroics in the World Series. Nettles’ heroics came in 1978.

Nettles Is 33rd All Time in Games Played — Almost All at 3rd!

He’s also currently 33rd all-time in games played with 2700. Think about that — of all the players to ever play major league baseball, only 32 have played more games than Nettles — and he played most of them at freakin’ 3rd base, the hot corner, playing great defense there to boot.

Comparison: Graig Nettles vs Tony Perez

In 2000, Tony Perez was inducted into the Hall of Fame. That should have opened up the door for Nettles. Perez was not more valuable than Nettles.  Tony Perez was a star first baseman. His job was to hit. He hit 379 homeruns to Nettles’ 390. Perez was mostly known as a big RBI man. He drove in 1,652 RBI on the big Red machine; Nettles 1,314. Perez hit .279 lifetime; Nettles .248. But Nettles played third, an important defensive position, and played it with style. No contest. No GM in the 1970’s would’ve traded away Nettles for Tony Perez.

Greatest Yankee 3rd Baseman Ever

In the early 2000’s, the Yankees organization announced their greatest team with best players at every position; they named Graig Nettles as their 3rd baseman. It can be argued that is still the case, even with Alex Rodriguez having played 3rd for the Yanks for 10 years, winning two MVP’s and the 2009 World Series! As we found out later, ARod had a little “help”. Nettles was once asked about steroids, and — always a man of honesty — said he would have certainly taken them if they were available in the 70’s. Imagine his numbers if he did!!

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