Happy birthday to former Texas Rangers third baseman Buddy Bell, who turns 71 today.
You may know from some of my previous ramblings that Bell was my favorite player as a kid. He was, like the young AJM, a third baseman, and from the time he arrived in Texas, he was the best player on the team. He was acquired in exchange for Toby Harrah — my previous favorite player — in December, 1978, and spent his peak years for some Rangers teams that had some promise, but were ultimately disappointing.
Bell was an elite defensive third baseman who also had a solid all-around offensive game — think Scott Rolen, if Rolen had played in the offensive environment of the 70s and 80s rather than the 90s and 00s. Bell hit for average, drew more walks than Ks in his career, and had gap power. He finished 10th in the MVP balloting in 1979, his first season with the Rangers, and got MVP votes in five of his six full seasons with the Rangers.
Bell, whose father, Gus, was an outfielder for years with the Reds, went to Moeller High School in Cincinnati, which also produced Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey, Jr. Bell ended up getting dealt to his hometown Reds in 1985 for Duane Walker and Jeff Russell — a deal that, in retrospect, was a big win for the Rangers.
Buddy Bell got virtually no Hall of Fame consideration — he dropped off the ballot after one year after getting 1.7% of the vote. That said, he has a 66.3 career bWAR, which is in the Hall of Fame range, and which is the 13th highest among third basemen of all time. Part of the problem is that back issues shortened his career — his age 35 season was his last year as a regular. Bell finished his career with 2514 hits — he had a chance at 3000 for his career, but the injury issues cut that opportunity short.
Bell has stayed in baseball as a coach and as a major league manager, and his sons, David and Mike, had major league careers, with David now the manager of the Reds.