Robinson, who signed as a second baseman but was moved to third after 50 games in rookie ball, says, "It's much more difficult for a shortstop or second baseman to move to third than vice versa. At second and shortstop, you can position yourself after the ball is hit. You don't have time at third."
Says Oates, "I bet you could take any third baseman, let him play shortstop, and he'd do better as a shortstop than as a third baseman." Rader agrees: "When I played a little shortstop after playing third, it was cake." (It's not unanimous, however: Williams, who signed as a shortstop, claims it's much easier to move from shortstop to third base—and he's his own evidence.)
Malzone says, "It takes talent to play shortstop, but a talented shortstop will have an easier time there than at third. He knows what pitch is coming, because he can see the signs. He's not involved in bunt plays. There's more to playing third base than people think. It's not an active position, so you may go until the seventh inning without getting a ground ball, then get a real tough one. You have to concentrate on every pitch."
"People think the positions are similar, but they're not," says Ripken. "At shortstop there's a lot of responsibility, but it's structured responsibility. Depending on the hitter, you might shorten up a little, but there's not a wide range of positioning like at third. I feel as if I concentrate on every pitch at shortstop, but you have to do it more so at third. You have to make yourself ready for your own safety. On a ball hit to third you can't afford to take a step back. You have to be like a hockey goalie. There's some fear. There's no comfort zone. You're on edge. It's a highly stressful, anxious position."
"It's time that third basemen get the respect they deserve for their defensive skills and for what it takes to play there," says Petrocelli. "I think what we have to do is to make third base a more glamorous position."
Petrocelli pauses a moment, then says, "I don't know."