Derek Jeter and the Top 10 Shortstops of All-Time
In 2010, Derek Jeter is playing his 16th season at shortstop for the New York Yankees.
He is already the Yankees' all-time leader in hits, he already has five World Series championships, and he has won four Gold Gloves.
Soon, Jeter will sign what will likely be the final contract of his illustrious career, reach the 3,000 hit plateau, and begin to move up the all time leader board in career hits and runs.
So, naturally, the question arises: where does Derek Jeter rank amongst the all time great shortstops?
10. Luis Aparicio (1956-1973)
Aparicio won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1956 and then preceded to win nine Gold Gloves with the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
Aparicio also managed to lead the AL in stolen bases in each of his first nine seasons in the league.
Aparicio scored over 1300 runs during his career, stole over 500 bases, and hit 92 triples.
9. Barry Larkin (1986-2004)
Barry Larkin is incredibly underrated as a result of having starred in the era of baseball immediately preceding the A-Rod-Nomar-Jeter-Tejada era.
Larkin was, however, an offensive force in his own right, winning the NL MVP in 1995 with 15 homeruns, 51 stolen bases, and a .319 batting average.
Larkin then went out in 1996 and went 30-30.
Larkin would have won more Gold Gloves than the three he came away with if not for being a near-contemporary of Ozzie Smith.
8. Luke Appling (1930-1950)
Appling is one of the most underrated players in baseball history.
Obviously, that is a tough case to make for a guy who is the Hall of Fame, but Appling's name is rarely mentioned in the Greatest Shortstops conversation.
Appling was a two-time batting champ, had a remarkable strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1302-to-528, scored over 1300 runs and 1100 RBI despite hitting only 45 career homeruns, and had a career on-base percentage of .399.
Appling once drove in 128 RBI despite only six homeruns, once struck out only 24 times in a full season, and hit .301 with an .833 OPS at the age of 42.
And, if not for missing all but 18 games from 1944-1945 due to World War II, Appling almost certainly would have finished his career with 3,000 hits; as it was, he finished with 2749.
7. Derek Jeter (1996-present)
There was a time when Mr. November was merely the third-best shortstop in his own league.
Ten years later, with Nomar Garciaparra long out of the league and Alex Rodriguez moved over to third base, Jeter remains a shortstop.
Jeter's offensive contributions are very impressive, if not as valuable as a Ernie Banks, Alex Rodriguez, Arky Vaughan, or Honus Wagner.
Jeter will easily get to 3,000 hits and is probably the first player with a legitimate shot at 4,000 hits since Pete Rose.
Jeter may also one day be the career record holder for runs scored.
6. Ernie Banks (1953-1961)
Truth be told, Banks spent just over half his career at first base, but it was his shortstop seasons that were most notable.
A two-time NL MVP, Banks had four straight 40-plus homerun seasons at a time when it was unheard of for any player to accomplish such a feat, let alone a shortstop.
Banks finished his career with over 500 homeruns at a time when that actually meant something, and did things on offense that no shortstop did for thirty years before him or 30 years after.
5. Arky Vaughan (1932-1943, 1947-1948)
Arky Vaughan is often the forgotten man on most people's shortstop list.
On the other hand, Bill James ranks him as the second best shortstop of all time.
Vaughan was, no doubt, a hitter without peer; from Honus Wagner in the nineteen-teens to Ernie Banks in the 1950s, no other National League shortstop put up even above-average offensive numbers, yet Vaughan was an elite hitter.
His career high for strikeouts was 38, his career batting average was .318, and in 1935 he led the NL in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS while walking a National League high 97 times and striking out only 18 times.
4a. Joe Cronin (1926-1945)
How underrated is Joe Cronin? So underrated that I forgot to include him in my original Top Ten and have to place him, after the fact, in slot "4a."
Cronin put up some of the most gawdy shortstop numbers of all time - a four time member of the 100-plus Clubs, Cronin had 1400 RBI and 1200 runs while batting .301 and putting up an OBP of .390. Of course, Cronin spent the first half of his career in the offense-crazed late-1920s and early 1930s, and then got traded to offense-crazed Fenway Park in 1935, so we take his numbers with a grain of salt.
Plus, he once made 62 errors in 143 games, which is a post-deadball era record.
4. Cal Ripken, Jr. (1981-2001)
The Iron Man was no Silent Cal.
Ripken was the prototype for the modern shortstop, giving rise to guys like Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, and Nomar Garciaparra. Ripken showed people that you could be big and play short, and that it was okay for the shortstop to be one of the best hitters on the team.
Ripken finished his career with over 3,000 hits, 400 homeruns, 1600 runs and 1600 RBI, plus two AL MVP Awards, a Rookie of the Year Award, and a World Series title.
Oh, and there was also the matter of breaking Lou Gehrig's unbreakable record for most consecutive games played while playing one of the two most demanding positions in baseball.
3. Ozzie Smith (1978-1996)
The Wizard of Oz is one of the greatest defensive players in the history of baseball at any position, and the standard bearer for the defensive shortstop.
Ozzie won 16 Gold Gloves during his career, and appeared in three World Series.
Never an offensive force, Ozzie was nevertheless an efficient offensive player; he stole 580 bases while being caught only 148 times, and he walked almost twice as much as he struck out (1072 vs. 589.)
2. Alex Rodriguez (1994-2003)
There will come a day—in roughly two more seasons—when A-Rod will have played more games at third base than at shortstop, but for now he must be considered a shortstop first.
During his eight full seasons at shortstop, he was arguably the best hitter in the American League, he won two Gold Gloves in an era in which Omar Vizquel was almost impossible to steal a Gold Glove from, and he won an AL MVP.
He also led the AL in home runs for three straight years, which very few players have ever done, let alone shortstops.
1. Honus Wagner (1897-1917)
Very few players period —let alone shortstops —have dominated their leagues the way Wagner did.
Eight batting titles, eight OPS titles, 723 career stolen bases, 150 career OPS+, 3420 hits, and 1700 runs and RBI.
Wagner was the best player in the National League for most of his 21 seasons.
No other shortstop even comes close.