Historically, shortstop has been a position where fielding reigns supreme. Cal Ripken Jr.'s career, however, changed that and moved shortstops in a direction where run production often took precedence over fielding ability.
To compare old-school shortstops defined by their gloves with new-age shortstops with their gaudy batting stats is difficult, but one must judge them based on their value to their teams during their given eras.
Thus, players with fewer home runs and RBI who played long ago might be ahead of modern players with more impressive statistics.
That said, shortstop has long been one of the most important positions on the diamond, and regardless of a shortstop's era, odds are he was a significant contributor to his team's success—or lack thereof.
Baltimore Orioles: Cal Ripken Jr.
Ripken revolutionized the shortstop position in MLB. Most known for his record for consecutive games played, “The Iron Man” is a 19-time All-Star and member of the 3,000-hit club. Ripken had 431 HRs and nearly 1,700 RBI in his 20-year playing career.
Boston Red Sox: Nomar Garciaparra
Garciaparra gets the slight edge over 1930s-era player-manager Joe Cronin because of his back-to-back batting titles and near-MVP season in 1998, when he hit .323 with 35 home runs and 122 RBI.
Injuries slowed the tail end of Garciaparra’s career, so his career numbers are not as high as many other players, but the first five years of Garciaparra’s career were among the best in Red Sox history.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter
Jeter is the face of one of the great eras of success for one of baseball’s great teams.
Jeter is an 11-time All-Star selection, five-time World Series champion (one-time MVP) and won the 1996 Rookie of the Year Award. Jeter has been the captain of the Yankees since 2003.
Tampa Bay Rays: Jason Bartlett
The Rays have only been around since 1998 and have not had a truly dynamic shortstop in that time.
Bartlett has a .281 career average with three of his six seasons coming with the Rays. Bartlett's mediocrity is the best any Rays shortstop has offered in their short history.
Toronto Blue Jays: Tony Fernandez
Fernandez helped the Blue Jays win the 1993 World Series by setting a record number for RBI in a World Series by a shortstop with nine.
He won four consecutive Gold Gloves in the late 1980s.
Chicago White Sox: Luke Appling
The ChiSox have had their share of great shortstops in their history, but even Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Guillen don’t quite measure up to the greatness of Luke Appling, the White Sox shortstop between 1930 and 1950.
Appling was the first shortstop to win a batting title when he hit .388 in 1936. That same year, he was second in the MVP voting.
Cleveland Indians: Lou Boudreau
In 1948, Lou Boudreau pulled the rarest of twofers: He won the MVP and managed the Indians to a World Series championship. The Indians have not won a championship since.
Boudreau began as player-manager at age 25 and went to eight All-Star Games in his career.
Although not renowned for his glove, Boudreau was known to make clutch defensive plays. When Boudreau was playing shortstop in one game, he made a barehanded stab and started a double play to throw Joe DiMaggio out at first, ending his 56-game hitting streak.
Detroit Tigers: Alan Trammell
A six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Trammell came in second in the MVP voting after a monster 1987 season, when he hit .343 with 28 home runs and 105 RBI.
Trammell and Lou Whitaker formed the longest continuous double play combination (19 years) in history. Trammell also won the 1984 World Series MVP when the Tigers beat the San Diego Padres.
Kansas City Royals: Freddie Patek
The Royals do not have a history of shortstops that one could describe as illustrious. Freddie Patek, more famed for his lack of height than his baseball ability (he was 5’5”), might have the most impressive résumé of the bunch.
Patek led the league in stolen bases in 1977 and was selected to three All-Star Games. When Patek was on the Royals, they won the American League West from 1976 through 1978.
Minnesota Twins: Zoilo Versalles
"Zorro," the 1965 American League MVP, was only an All-Star twice, and even in 1965 he hit only .273 with 19 home runs and 77 RBI.
While Versalles' ability with the bat was replaceable, his fielding ability (he won two Gold Gloves), baserunning and leadership all made him incredibly valuable to the Twins and allowed them to make the 1965 World Series.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jim Fregosi
In the Angels' first years of existence, it was Fregosi who became the team's face.
A six-time All-Star, Fregosi posted his biggest season in 1967, when he hit .290, won a Gold Glove and came in seventh in the MVP voting.
Fregosi, like most shortstops of the era, was more known for his glove than his stick. He led the league in double plays twice and saved a number of runs for the Angels.
Oakland Athletics: Bert Campaneris
Campaneris gets the nod over Miguel Tejada because of his role in the A's three World Series championships.
Campaneris accumulated 649 steals in his career, leading the league six times. He also made six All-Star teams.
Although he only hit more than eight home runs in a season once in his career, in 1970 he hit 22 long balls. He has played more games and accumulated more hits than anyone else in A's history.
Seattle Mariners: Alex Rodriguez
Had he stayed at shortstop for the entirety of his career, Rodriguez would likely have gone down as the greatest shortstop in history hands down.
In five full seasons with the Mariners, Rodriguez quickly established himself as one of the game's premier players, hitting over 40 home runs three times and leading the league in batting average at age 20.
He earned the highest contract in major league history based on his seasons in Seattle with the Texas Rangers.
Texas Rangers: Michael Young
A-Rod was only in Texas for three seasons, and while he was certainly more productive than Young in those seasons, A-Rod was more Seattle's shortstop than he would ever be Texas', so Young gets the nod here.
In 2005, Young led the league in batting average and hits, and he has made six All-Star Games. The 2008 Gold Glove winner is a career .300 hitter.
Atlanta Braves: Rabbit Maranville
Maranville retired after a record 23 seasons in the National League. This mark stood until Pete Rose broke it in the 1986 season. Maranville was another short shortstop, smooth with the glove and smart on the basepaths.
The star player of the 1914 Braves World Series champs, Maranville came in second in the MVP voting despite hitting .246. Maranville stole 291 bases and had over 2,600 hits for his career.
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez
Not only is Ramirez the greatest shortstop in the Marlins' short history, he is making a case to be their best overall player as well.
The runner-up in the 2009 NL MVP race has averaged 25 home runs and 39 steals since his 2006 Rookie of the Year campaign.
Although he is sometimes erratic in the field (he has had 20 errors in a season three times in his career), he has improved in recent years and only has 26 errors in the last two years combined.
New York Mets: Jose Reyes
Though Reyes has been hampered by injuries since 2009, his first four seasons with the Mets were remarkable. Couple that with the fact that the Mets have not had a truly great shortstop in their history, and Reyes gets the nod.
Reyes has stolen over 60 bases three times and led the league in hits in 2008. His blinding speed has allowed him to be a successful leadoff hitter despite sometimes being impatient at the plate.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
A few years ago, Larry Bowa probably would have represented the Phils on this list. Rollins' consistency throughout his career and eye-popping numbers have given him the edge.
The 2007 NL MVP has been a part of one of the great stretches in Phillies history. Rollins has a mix of fielding (three Gold Glove Awards), baserunning (led the league in steals early in his career) and run-scoring ability (led the league in runs in 2007) that allows him to be one of the most successful shortstops in the game.
Washington Nationals: Orlando Cabrera
Cabrera played most of his career in the shadows of Montreal but finally gained exposure as Nomar's replacement in Boston.
Although Cabrera has only won two Gold Gloves, he is an absolute wizard in the field. In addition, he is a smart baserunner and productive hitter who has 118 career home runs.
Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks
To pick anyone besides Mr. Cub would be a disgrace to the man who won back-to-back MVPs in the late 1950s and led the league in home runs and RBI twice.
The 11-time All-Star was a man before his time in the world of shortstops. No longer were shortstops pure fielders and poor hitters.
Banks paved the way for modern shortstops before people even thought about power hitting from a middle infielder.
Cincinnati Reds: Barry Larkin
The 1995 NL MVP was one of the most important members of the Reds' 1990 World Series championship team.
Larkin was one of the premier defensive shortstops in the game but also hit .295 for his career and stole 379 bases.
Houston Astros: Dickie Thon
Thon had a promising start to his career until he was beaned in 1984 by Mike Torrez. This completely altered his career.
Houston does not have a lot of great shortstops in its history, so the beginning of Thon's career were among the best years in Houston's history of shortstops.
Milwaukee Brewers: Robin Yount
Yount played all 20 years of his career with the Brewers and won the MVP twice—once in 1982 and once in 1989.
Yount had over 250 home runs and steals in his career, showing his versatility at the plate and on the basepaths. Yount also played center field for much of his career.
He was elected into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Honus Wagner
The eight-time batting champion was one of the first great baseball players in history and hit .323 for his career. He stole 723 bases and led the league in RBI five times.
Wagner was instrumental to the Pirates' 1909 World Series victory and defeated the only comparable hitter in the game, Ty Cobb, who once admitted Wagner might be the best star in baseball history.
St. Louis Cardinals: Ozzie Smith
Arguably the flashiest fielder in the history of the position, Smith won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves in his career.
Known for his trademark backflip when taking his position, Smith helped his team win the 1982 World Series and was involved in one of the Cardinals' most famous calls when his unlikely 1985 NLCS home run allowed St. Louis folks to go crazy.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Jay Bell
Bell played five seasons for the expansion Diamondbacks and was a key contributor to their 2001 World Series championship team. Bell hit 195 home runs in his career and hit .265.
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki
Although he has only played three-and-a-half seasons in Colorado, Tulowitzki has already exceeded expectations and has three seasons with at least 24 home runs and 90 RBI.
He also won the Gold Glove in 2010.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Pee Wee Reese
This 10-time All-Star lost three years of the prime of his career to World War II.
Reese might be best known for his friendship with Jackie Robinson, an unusual relationship for the time, but he was a ballplayer too.
With over 2,000 hits in his career, Reese was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984.
San Diego Padres: Garry Templeton
This three-time All-Star is best known as "what San Diego got for Ozzie Smith." Templeton made three All-Star Games in his career.
While Templeton is probably the best shortstop San Diego has had, he didn't compare to Smith, and the trade is considered one of the most lopsided in history.
San Francisco Giants: Travis Jackson
Jackson was the Giants shortstop in the 1920s and 1930s. He hit .291 for his career and hit 135 home runs.
He had 580 steals in his career and was solid in the field.