Where Have All the Good Outfielders Gone?

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2009

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 23:  Left fielder Matt Holiday #15, center fielder Colby Rasmus #28 and right fielder Ryan Ludwick #47 of the St. Louis Cardinals chat during a pitching change at Minute Maid Park on September 23, 2009 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 3-0 (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

It’s tough to rate the top outfielders in baseball today, as many of them are impressive hitters (Ryan Braun or Matt Holliday) who aren’t a plus in the field, while others are great defenders who can’t hit a lick.

Right now, we have the weakest group of outfielders than at any time in recent baseball history. I ask you, where have all the good outfielders gone?

The outfield position use to be your one-stop shopping for the game’s elite players. There use to a be a plethora of .300 hitters to choose from, as they would hit between 30-40 HRs, score a 100 runs, knock in 100 RBI and be fast enough to cover the gaps in the outfield.

Now, teams aren’t concern with defensive footwork, range, or agility as they were in years past. General Managers are more concern to maximize their lineup’s run-scoring ability by inserting a decent bat and sacrificing corner OF defense.

Remember, Albert Pujols began his career as an outfielder and the Marlins converted Miguel Cabrera from an outfielder to a third-baseman. It’s easier to overlook a player’s shortcomings in the outfield as long as they can hit.

In the past 20 years, there has been a noticeable shift of baseball being dominated by good-hitting infielders. It began with Cal Ripken Jr. and morphed into the Alex Rodriquez, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra era.

Teams are no longer looking for a .220-hitting infielder with a good glove. No, a transition has taken placed in baseball, and it would be hard to rate an outfielder as being one of the top 10 players in the sport. The quality of the game hasn’t diminished, but no position in baseball has been impacted more by the exodus of great athletes than the outfield position.  

It’s no secret that the majority of starting outfielders today aren’t playing in the prime of their careers. Injuries and age have hindered the talents of Manny Ramirez, Carlos Beltran and Ichiro. Individually, all still possess good talents but aren’t viewed as great players anymore.

Major league scouts should get out on the road and discover some outfielders for their respected teams, and if they’re lucky, they may find a troika that could play together for a long time. Then, the team might be way ahead of the current trend in the sport.