At the Phillies official website, Todd Zolecki recently ranked the best third basemen in club history. I really shouldn’t have to tell you who was the top choice on that list, and after him came Dick Allen and Scott Rolen, who seem like good choices (Even if we look past Rolen being a whiner). The fourth spot went to Willie Jones, and although I know little about him, I thoroughly approve of putting a guy nicknamed Puddin’ Head on a list.
The fifth spot went to Placido Polanco, edging out Dave Hollins who was honorable mention. My initial thought was that the order should be reversed. Then, as I thought some more, I became less sure of that assessment. So let’s take a closer look.
A little backstory on each player:
Polanco had established himself as a solid, versatile infielder with the Cardinals when he came to the Phillies in exchange for the aforementioned Rolen in 2002. He spent that season at third base before shifting to second the next season to make way for free agent signee David Bell (who definitely did not make the list of top third basemen).
Polanco spent this stint with the Phillies generally doing Placido Polanco things: Batting second in the lineup, hitting for a good - if not elite - average, drawing some walks, hitting the occasional home run, and playing good defense.
Despite being a valuable contributor, Polanco drew ire from the Phillies fans at the start of the 2005 season because he was getting the majority of second base starts instead of a young, emerging star named Chase Utley. Many fans questioned why the team didn’t move Polanco back to third in favor of the disappointing Bell. Instead, they shipped him to Detroit for reserve infielder Ramon Martinez and Ugueth Urbina. (Getting a replacement-level infielder and a guy who’d eventually become a convicted felon was not a great return.)
After the 2009 season, the Phillies sought a new third baseman, and they brought back Polanco as a free agent. (The signing has drawn criticism because Adrian Beltre was also available.) Despite not being as prolific as Beltre, Polanco’s first two seasons with the team were strong (one All-Star selection), before breaking down with injuries in 2012.
OTD 2010: Placido Polanco (pic) becomes first @Phillies player with an Opening Day grand slam while setting a franchise Opening Day record with six RBIs in an 11-1 victory in Washington. @RoyHalladay earns his first win in a #Phillies uniform. pic.twitter.com/BVwlWkEYn6— PHILLIES BELL (@philliesbell) April 5, 2020
The Phillies chose Hollins in the Rule 5 draft before the 1990 season. He spent the entire ‘90 season with the Phillies, but didn’t contribute much. However, his five home runs (out of 21 total hits) hinted at his power potential. In 1991, he got a bit more playing time, and showed promise. The team decided to give him the starting third base job in 1992.
Hollins didn’t disappoint. He hit 27 home runs and was worth 6.1 bWAR in 1992. The following season, his numbers were down a bit, but he earned a spot in the All-Star Game for the National League champs.
Unfortunately, Hollins’ developed a mental block on defense. On routine ground balls, he would often double or triple clutch before throwing as hard as he could to first base. Sometimes those throws were accurate, sometimes they were not. It got to the point where he would be removed for a defensive sub late in games.
He was moved to first base for the 1995 season, but his offense declined, and the team eventually traded him in exchange for outfielder Mark Whiten. He eventually came back for a brief stint in 2002 when he basically served as manager Larry Bowa’s clubhouse enforcer.
'Member how Larry Bowa brought Dave Hollins onto Phillies in 2002 to motivate the soft lolligaggers and he almost died from spider bite?— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) January 25, 2012
The edge goes to...
It’s hard to properly analyze Polanco’s contributions as a third baseman, since he spent much of his time in Philadelphia at second base. His overall numbers were superior, but if we only include his numbers from the years he predominantly played third base (2002 and 2010-2012), he was worth 7.7 bWAR, compared to the 9.7 wins Hollins earned from 1991-1994.
Hollins was the superior offensive player, with far more power, and like many of his 1993 cohorts, he had a very good eye at the plate. But Polanco was far better on defense, and earned a Gold Glove in 2011. Hollins had a good NLCS in 1993, but Polanco was awful in his three postseason series with the Phillies. His 2-19 showing in the 2011 NLDS was particularly bad.
Overall, it’s hard to completely ignore Polanco’s numbers at second base. I think that ultimately gives him the edge.
What do you think?
Who was the better third baseman for the Phillies?
This poll is closed