Every generation likes to believe that it is better than the one that came before it. Some would like to argue that in today’s game Willie Mays would be an average center fielder. Some would say that Babe Ruth who looked like a giant in his day would be nothing more than a bench player.
On Apr. 15 every year we celebrate the contributions of one of the legends of baseball. A contribution infinitely larger than a home run record, a contribution immeasurably bigger than a stolen base or base hit could ever be.
Jackie Robinson was that special individual that was not only physically gifted enough, but mentally tough enough to be the first African American to step over the color barrier and onto a Major League field.
He paved the way for generations of minorities on that day, Apr. 25, 1947. Not only that he paved way for all of us to just play ball. He allowed us to step forward out of the shadow of black and white and into world of color, where talent is the currency of the times.
He went on to win the MLB Rookie of the Year that year, become a six time All-star; he won the 1949 NL MVP and a 1955 World Series Champion. On this day when we celebrate a legend of the game, an iconic human being, let’s look at what the young men that now pivot the double play in the majors.
To look at those who he paved the way for regardless of whether they are black, white, japanese, jewish or christian.
We now deal in a world that is not perfect but ability trumps race, and the skills of the modern day second basemen are second to none.
Let’s start with the reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia. The Red Sox spark plug from Woodlands, California has managed to take the American League by storm. In two years in the big league Pedroia has managed a Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, an All-star Selection, a World Series win and an American League MVP trophy.
What Pedroia has managed in two season sounds like enough accolades for to describe a solid MLB career in most cases.
To go with all the hardware Pedroia boasts 398 hits, 99 doubles, three triples, 28 home runs, 140 RBI and 28 stolen bases. His career offensive line is .311/.368/.458.
In his MVP season, he batted .326 with 216 hits, 118 runs scored, 54 doubles and 20 stolen bases.
In 1949 Jackie batted .342 with 203 hits, 122 runs scored, 37 doubles and 37 stolen bases.
To follow the theme of great young second basemen in New York City, the Yankees have been cultivating a young superstar of their own. Robinson Cano wears 24 in the Bronx. The second-generation superstar was named after the baseball Legend and Cultural Icon.
So far, Cano has done the name proud 682 hits in his young career, he finished second in the 2005 voting and in 2006 won his first of looks to be several silver sluggers.
Then there is Aaron Hill, after back-to-back years of batting .291 he was side lined for most of 2008 with post concussion syndrome. But before that he smashed 17 homeruns, 47 doubles and produced a line of .291/.333/.495 in 657 at bats in 2007.
In Baltimore, the crafty veteran of the AL East at two bag is Brian Roberts. In 2004 Roberts announced his presence as a premier lead off man with 50 doubles and posting to that point career high .344 OBP. At 31 Roberts has now stolen 229 bases in 288 tries, while twice knocking out 50 plus doubles in a season.
This week we have seen two second basemen hit for the cycle. The first being the O-dog, quite possible the best defensive second basemen since Roberto Alomar. Hudson has been called “the best team mate I ever had.” By perennial Cy Young award contender Roy Halladay.
After the O-dog was let off the chain Ian Kinsler at 27 years old became the fourth Texas Ranger to hit for the cycle. He did it as part of a six for six effort where he managed two singles, two doubles, a triple and a home run. Kinsler also stole a base drove in four and scored five runs out of the lead off spot for the Rangers while wearing Robinson’s 42 on his special day.
Chase Utley is the kind of nose to the grind, no complaining no questions asked, put in the work athlete that every fan would be proud to call his own. Utley has cashed in on 20 plus home runs and more than 100 RBI each of the last four seasons. Chase is a three time Silver Slugger that has received MVP consideration in each of the last four years.
Take all of that talent and add in Dan Uggla, Howie Kendrick and Akinori Iwamura and you realize that the second base position is as deep as it has ever been.
He was never just a ball player, but I bet you he'd love to watch these guys patrol his spot. It is become he wasn't just a ball player that people like Orlando Hudson get to be.
I wonder Jackie would say if he could see the position played like this?
Cause I know what we would say to him if he were still alive at the age of 90. We’d simply say “Thank you Mr. Robinson.”