Among all players that have ever played for the Chicago Cubs, Ron Santo is considered among the best by teammates and fans. Aside from being a nine time All-Star during his tenure with the Cubs, he won five Gold Glove awards, and finally was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, posthumously, in 2012. He played with the North Siders for 14 seasons, and became a broadcaster from 1990 until his death.
Although Ron Santo may be thought of as easily the best third baseman in Chicago Cubs history he has a bit of competition. Stan Hack, who played his entire career for the Cubs from 1932-1947, had 7 seasons with 100+ runs and made the All-Star team 5 times for the team. His career OPS was .791, which is a bit lower than Santo’s .826, but with second most games played for Chicago Cubs third basemen (1938 to Santo’s 2243), he is at least worthy of mention.
The real competition comes from Aramis Ramirez, however. He came to the Chicago Cubs via trade 2003, and stayed a part of the team until the end of 2011. Despite playing 1124 games as a Cub, roughly half as many as Santo, Aramis Ramirez actually had one more 100+ RBI season for the organization than Ron Santo did. As of right now, before the start of the 2013 season, Aramis Ramirez and Ron Santo both have exactly 342 home runs in their careers, and Ramirez has 423 doubles to Santo’s 365.
As a matter of averages, Aramis Ramirez has a clear lead. His OPS as a part of the Chicago Cubs is a very impressive .887, good for fourth all-time among Chicago Cubs behind only Derrek Lee, steroid user Sammy Sosa, and Hack Wilson. Ron Santo is at 15th, with .838, which is a damn good number considering that he played in a relatively low offense era.
There are two key aspects that give Ron Santo the slight edge, though. The first of these is longevity: Ron Santo played almost twice as many games with the Cubs. The second of these is defense. Aramis Ramirez is a solid third baseman, who got better as the years went by, but Ron Santo had five Gold Gloves to Aramis Ramirez’s zero.
In the long run, Aramis Ramirez has the potential to pile up the career numbers to the point where he might be seen as a superior offensive player to Ron Santo in the long run, but the overall picture and the fact that Santo played so much longer with the team gives Ron Santo the slight edge as the best third baseman in team history. Aramis Ramirez is probably in the top twenty greatest Chicago Cubs players of all-time, but Ron Santo is certainly in the top ten, and is definitely the best third baseman in franchise history. If Aramis had come to the Chicago Cubs a few years earlier, or was still playing for the team now, the result may have gone the other way. Unfortunately, in today’s game, very few players stay with a single organization for as long as Ron Santo was with the Chicago Cubs.