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Dodgers’ Top 5 third basemen: Gurnick's take

@kengurnick
April 13, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings

LOS ANGELES -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is our ranking of the top five third basemen in Dodgers history. Next week: shortstops.

1. Ron Cey, 1971-82
Key fact: Set a Major League record with 29 April RBIs in 1977.

Third base was a revolving door for the Dodgers until Ron Cey came along and stopped that, manning the hot corner in the 8 1/ 2-year run of the legendary infield with Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Bill Russell.

• Dodgers' All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B

“Penguin” was a six-time All-Star and tri-MVP when the Dodgers won the 1981 World Series, beaned by a 94-mph fastball from Goose Gossage in Game 5 but returning for the Game 6 clincher with two hits and a go-ahead RBI.

Overshadowed by Garvey, Cey was something of an ironman himself, playing in at least 150 games in eight of his nine full seasons in Los Angeles.

2. Justin Turner, 2014-present
Key fact: Has a .309 career batting average with runners in scoring position.

Non-tendered by the Mets in 2013, Justin Turner is arguably the Dodgers’ best free-agent signing since Kirk Gibson, with an .887 OPS over six seasons in LA, underrated solid defense, clutch production and clubhouse leadership.

Turner has a club-record 35 RBIs in the postseason, where his poise and professionalism set him apart.

3. Adrián Beltré, 1998-2004
Key fact: His 376 total bases in 2004 are most for the Dodgers since Duke Snider’s 378 in 1954.

Adrián Beltré would have topped this list had the Dodgers not let him leave as a free agent in 2004 just as he was entering the prime years of a career that is likely to put him in the Hall of Fame.

The Dodgers rushed him to the big leagues at age 19, and he struggled while learning on the job. But Beltré capped his steady improvement in LA with 48 homers, 121 RBIs and an MVP runner-up finish on his way out of town to make room on the payroll for J.D. Drew.

4 Jim Gilliam, 1953-66
Key fact: He’s the only non-Hall of Fame Dodger whose uniform number (19) is retired.

The versatile Jim Gilliam ranked third on our list for all-time Dodgers second basemen (where he played 1,046 games) and shows up fourth at the hot corner (where he played 761 games).

It was at third base where Gilliam shows up the most in Dodgers highlight films. In Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, best known for Sandy Koufax’s three-hit shutout against the Twins on two days’ rest, Gilliam made a diving, backhanded stop to rob American League MVP Zoilo Versalles of extra bases with one out in the fifth inning with runners on first and second while Don Drysdale was warming up in the bullpen.

5. Cookie Lavagetto, 1937-41, ’46-47
Key fact: One player on a Naval baseball team that Lavagetto managed was a young Stan Musial.

No telling how high Cookie Lavagetto would have ranked had he not missed four years of his prime (ages 29-32) after enlisting in the Navy during World War II. In each of the four seasons leading up to that service, he was an All-Star.

In Game 4 of the 1947 World Series, Lavagetto’s two-out pinch-hit double with two outs in the ninth inning broke up the no-hitter of Yankees pitcher Bill Bevens in a 3-2 Dodgers win. It was his last hit as a Major Leaguer.

“He enlisted the moment his brother, whom he had been supporting (along with a number of others) got a defense job. He felt morally called upon to give to the government his ability to fly a plane,” columnist Bob Considine wrote in 1942. “Anyway, my lid’s off to a good, game guy who, with a minimum of fanfare and under no compulsion, is doing his bit.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.