There have been generations of great players in Major League Baseball. Since the league’s official inception around 1869 there have been many different eras and changes to the game. It is difficult to place each great player against each other, but here is the CHEAP SEATS take on the greatest players, by position, the game has ever produced. In the last section Rogers Hornsby, Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and other great second basemen were noted. Now we move to their middle infield mates. (All stats are current of June 1, 2010)
Shortstop is the most important defensive position on the infield, due to more right-handed batters hitting in their area. Many leaders and team captains have played the position, with some of the great personalities the game being shortstops. Smaller, athletic players usually have manned the spot, and as a result of this it is the worst hitting position on the field in regards to power numbers. However, there have been some fine contact hitters and occasionally outstanding power bats to play there as well. Similarly to second base, it is traditionally known as a spot for fast players that can make trouble on the base paths. Of this group there are dynamic infielders who range from acclaim as the greatest defensive player in the history of the game, to a turn of the century great whose value on a baseball card almost outweighs his place in the history of the game. Almost.
1. Honus Wagner: Pittsburgh Pirates (1897-1917): 65.5 points
- .327 Avg. 101 HR, 1732 RBI, .390 OBP, 3415 Hits, 1736 Runs, 722 SB
- 0 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, 0 MVP, 0 ROY, 8 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 0 All-Star Games (Presumptive 12 awarded)
Considered to be one of the greatest all around players in the history of the game. The “Flying Dutchman” led the NL in stolen bases five times and stole home plate 27 times in his career. Hit .354 in 1908 versus a 2.35 league wide ERA. His 1909 T206 baseball card is currently valued at $2.8 million, due to its rarity since Wagner demanded his image be removed from the tobacco company’s set due to its promotion to children.
2. Cal Ripken, Jr: Baltimore Orioles (1981-2001): 52.5 points
- .267 Avg. 431 HR, 1695 RBI, .340 OBP, 3184 Hits, 1647 Runs, 36 SB
- 2 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, 2 MVPs, 1 ROY, 0 Batting Title, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 19 All-Star Games
At 6’4, he was one of the largest shortstops to ever play. Set the Major League record of consecutive games played with 2,632. Hit the most home runs ever at the position. His .996 fielding percentage in 1990 is the highest ever at shortstop.
3. Ozzie Smith: St. Louis Cardinals (1978-1996): 51.5 points
- .262 Avg. 28 HR, 783 RBI, .337 OBP, 2460 Hits, 1257 Runs, 580 SB
- 13 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, 0 MVP, 0 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 15 All-Star Games
The “Wizard” defines fielding greatness at the position, maybe at any. He won 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1980 to 1992. Led the 1980’s Cardinals to 3 World Series in the decade.
4. Derek Jeter: New York Yankees (1995-Present): 48.5 points
- .316 Avg. 229 HR, 1099 RBI, .387 OBP, 2817 Hits, 1609 Runs, 311 SB
- 4 Gold Gloves, 5 World Series, 0 MVP, 0 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 11 All-Star Games
Has the most hits in Yankee history and most hits while playing shortstop. Has a record 175 postseason hits and is the only player to win both the All-Star Game and World Series MVP awards in the same season.
5. Ernie Banks: Chicago Cubs (1953-1971): 47.5 points
- .274 Avg. 512 HR, 1636 RBI, .330 OBP, 2583 Hits, 1305 Runs, 50 SB
- 1 Gold Glove, 0 World Series, 2 MVPs, 0 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 2 HR Titles, 11 All-Star Games
“Mr. Cub” was the first shortstop to win back-to-back MVP awards. One of the first true power hitters at the position, his 277 home runs as a shortstop were the most ever when he retired.
6. Barry Larkin: Cincinnati Reds (1986-2004): 41 points
- .295 Avg. 197 HR, 960 RBI, .371 OBP, 2340 Hits, 1329 Runs, 379 SB
- 3 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, 1 MVP, 0 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 12 All-Star Games
First shortstop to ever hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. One of the most complete hitters of his era at shortstop, only surpassed by Ripken, he won 9 Silver Slugger Awards as premier offensive player at the position.
7. Robin Yount: Milwaukee Brewers (1974-1993): 39.5 points
- .285 Avg. 251 HR, 1406 RBI, .342 OBP, 3142 Hits, 1632 Runs, 271 SB
- 1 Gold Gloves, 0 World Series, 2 MVPs, 0 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 3 All-Star Games
One of four players to win MVP at two positions (center field as well). He had more hits than any player during the 1980’s. Twice led the American League in doubles and triples.
8. Luis Aparicio: Chicago White Sox (1956-1973): 37 points
- .262 Avg. 83 HR, 791 RBI, .311 OBP, 2677 Hits, 1335 Runs, 506 SB
- 9 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, 0 MVP, 1 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 10 All-Star Games
A pioneering defender whose career spanned three decades. When he retired he was the all-time leader in games played at shortstop, as well as double plays and assists.
9. Arky Vaughan: New York Yankees (1932-1948): 36 points
- .318 Avg. 96 HR, 926 RBI, .406 OBP, 2103 Hits, 1173 Runs, 118 SB
- 0 Gold Gloves, 0 World Series, 0 MVPs, 0 ROY, 1 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 0 Home Run Title, 9 All-Star Games
As a worthy successor to Honus Wagner as Pirates shortstop, he hit .385 in 1935, a single season shortstop record. Hit .300 or better in 12 of his 14 seasons. Hit two home runs in the 1941 All-Star game.
10. Joe Cronin: Boston Red Sox (1926-1945): 35 points
- .301 Avg. 170 HR, 1424 RBI, .390 OBP, 2285 Hits, 1233 Runs, 87 SB
- 0 Gold Gloves, 0 World Series, 0 MVP, 0 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 7 All-Star Games
Hit .300 or better eight times as well as surpassed 100 RBI eight times as well. Won over 1,200 games as a manager as well and reached two World Series in that capacity.
Left on deck: Lou Boudreau, Pee Wee Reece, Omar Vizquel
See past posts for scoring rubric for rankings.