Monday, August 30, 2010

All Time Team: Shortstops

We here at Start Wedman are often times opinionated, and ignorant but we are most consistently lazy. As a testament to our overall sloth, I've heard Cooly describe how the world should accept a 30 hour day so he can sleep for 15 hours each day. (I was also around when he enacted his plans, regardless of class schedule and social norms). With this being said it should come as no surprise to any of you that our segment All Time Team has lasted approximately 1.5 years, and we are barely half way through. In this update of our biannual post we will bring you the Shortstops.

Shortstop is the one position on the field that you can stick an all-defensive player into and not be completely castrated when he bats below the Mendoza line. Just look at all of the shitty shortstops from 1930-1980. You know why you won't find any of them on this list? Well, they sucked. A lot. In fact, I can name only one of them - Phil Rizzuto, one of the most undeserving HOFs in my book. The dude got in due to the Yankees bias that rules all decisions of the baseball media because we all know that his 1588 career hits weren't a good argument to be enshrined. In fact, I think his .273 batting average is the highest of any shortstop during the dreadful fifty year stretch I previously mentioned. God, shortstops sucked at doing anything other than fielding grounders back in the day.

Then the God known as Ozzie Smith came along. Now that man could field a ground with some flair and remind us all of Keri Strug in the process.What else could you ask for in a ball player? Yes, I know that The Wizard of Oz was not necessarily the most gifted offensive player, which I just dogged Rizzuto for. But he did at least rack up 2460 hits in his career. That's not too shabby. Plus, one of his greatest moments ever did actually involve him hitting a dinger. (Enjoy only looking at that photo since Bud Selig in his infinite wisdom thinks that allowing me to view that moment on youtube is a travesty against humanity) There really isn't much else to say about Ozzie since everything you know about him being a great shortstop had to be viewed - he fielded the shortstop, a heavily defensive position, to perfection. Words and numbers doesn't help much in describing his greatness. So let's just sit back and watch... Oh right, we can't. Fuck you Selig!

Even though I have always known Cal Ripken Jr. as a third baseman, I suppose that history will remember him as a shortstop first. I have heard stories about how Ripken used to field groundballs up hills in the snow both ways, slide into bases even though the infield dirt used to literally be gravel and shards of broken beer bottles, and hit home runs over 50 foot walls that were 600 feet away. Supposedly he was a good shortstop at one time, not an old graying third baseman who rivaled Greg Maddux in the "most looks like any normal kid's dad" category of ballplayers. His numbers in 16 years at shortstop stack up there as some of, if not the, best in history with 353 HR/ 2549 H/ .345 OBP to go along with 14 All Star appearances, 8 Silver Sluggers, 2 MVPs (including a nuts-o butts-o 11.0 WAR in 1981), and a Rookie of the Year award. Oh yeah, and he had that streak thing or whatever.

Zach: Ripken was one of my brothers favorite players growing up. Being the younger brother, and idolizing him to a fault (even when him and his friends decided to play 3 on 1 basketball, guess who was the 1?). This juvenile misjudgement in idols caused me to emulate his batting stance, which he was mimicking Ripken's stance. Basically this got me a lot of funny looks, and I didn't get any hits from ages 8-10. However, things like this and non stop conversations about Ripken's fielding, hitting, and general hard ass-ness will always invoke fond memories for me of Cal. Not only was my brother a huge fan of Cal, but my college roommate's boy hood hero was Cal. Basically, I've spent 19 years of my life sharing a room with people that would not shut up about Cal. For us to not acknowledge him as the greatest shortstop of all time, may lead to severe ass beatings.

This is about the time of the piece where you would expect me to mention Derek Jeter. If you were expecting me to do that please leave the website and never talk to me again. Jeter fucking sucks at baseball, and bringing his name into this post hurts the very core of my being.

The person that this argument begins and ends with is Honus Wagner. Some of you may dismiss him simply because he played baseball somewhere between the Midevil Times and the Industrial Revolution. For those of you who are thinking that, check these numbers out:

21 seasons, 3,415 Hits, 101 HRs, 1,736 Runs, 1,732 RBIs, 722 SBs, .327 AVG, .391 OBP (Re check Cal's numbers and look at these again). He also posted a 9+ WAR in 8 seasons, topping out at a 12.9 WAR in 1908. Let me repeat a 12.9 WAR. So, your argument may be that stats across eras are hard to judge, especially when the training levels of modern players and those of the 1900's were so different. With that in mind, let's compare Wagner to others of his generation. The only true way to do this is by individual awards (metrics like WAR do factor in the average player of that year). Honus Wagner won 8 batting titles (tied only by Tony Gwynn), lead the league in slugging 6 times, and in stolen bases 6 times. If that is not an all around player, I do not know what is.

Clearly, none of us have witnessed Honus play, not in person or on film, and unless we invent a time machine, which I am working on currently, I don't think I'll ever get to watch him play. However, that is the beauty of baseball. It's a numbers game. While myths and legends have prevailed through generations, numbers tell just as vivid a story as the wisest literary craftsman.

Zach's Best: Honus Wagner (though my favorite to watch is Ozzie Smith)
Zach's Worst: Jose Hernandez (favorite juiced SS: Jose Valentin)

Cooly's Best: Honus Wagner, but only for his awesomely huge nose
Cooly's Worst: Ceasar Salad

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