Each and every player in the top 10 is an A + offensively and overall. But, I will also list a defensive letter grade with each player so you know where they stand in that category, the way I see it.
Here it is. Unblurring history. The way it really was.
10. Arky Vaughan (1940s) defensive rating: C +
He finished his career with a .318 BA and a .406 OB%. The guy could flat out hit and he was certainly one of the best pure hitting Shortstops in history.
He had at least a .300 BA in each of his first 10 seasons. And he could run the bases very well. He had at least 10 3B in each of his first six seasons.
He got the job done defensively, slightly above average.
11-20. Here are 10 more that gave Arky Vaughan a serious run for this 10th spot. I will list them in order, from oldest to newest: Herman Long (1890s), Ed McKean (1890s), Ray Chapman (1910s), Joe Sewell (1920s), Glenn Wright (1920s), Lou Boudreau (1940s), Alan Trammell (1980s), Cal Ripken (1990s), Derek Jeter (2000s) and Miguel Tejada (2000s).
9. Vern Stephens (1940s) defensive rating: B -
One of only two Shortstops in the top 10 that is not in the HOF (of those eligible). He was an eight-time All Star, but he quickly fell into oblivion after he played. It's always amazed me that he's not in the HOF. I've always believed that his career .286 BA kept him out of the HOF. It's a good BA, but not mind blowing. The fact is, he was a WAY better offensive player than his .286 BA.
When he had things going, he was brilliant. His 1948, 1949 and 1950 seasons: he had over 25 HR each season, had over 135 RBI each season and scored over 110 R each season. Those are the kind of seasons he could have, back to back to back.
He got the job done defensively too. Definitely above average.
8. Bill Dahlen (1900s) defensive rating: A +
The only other Shortstop on this list that is NOT in the HOF. It's almost mind boggling that Dahlen is not in the HOF. He was an A + across the board, offensively, defensively and length of career. It's his long career that makes it so surprising that he's not in the HOF. I'm not saying it should be the criteria, in fact, I'm one of the few historians that believe that length of career is way overrated. But, most love long careers and it makes it all the more surprising that he's not in the HOF with that long career. Even putting his length of career aside, he's an A + offensively and defensively. Put him in for that. Honus Wagner is the only other Shortstop ever that is an A +/A +, offensively/defensively, in my opinion. That's saying a lot. Shouldn't he be in just for that?
Dahlen was a brilliant base runner, to me it was his best offensive attribute. He had at least 20 SB in eight consecutive seasons, he had at least 10 3B in each of his first 6 seasons and he scored over 105 R in each of his first six seasons. A great base runner.
They didn't get much better than him defensively. An A + on defense.
7. Nomar Garciaparra (2000s) defensive rating: C -
Let's face it, the first half of his career is what puts him on this list. He hasn't been the same during the second half of his career and if he keeps it up, he could drop himself off of this list soon. We'll see if he turns it around.
A reminder what he did. His 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 seasons: had over a .305 BA each season, had over 20 HR each season and scored over 100 R each season.
The question is, will he ever do it again?
He gets the job done defensively, slightly below average.
6. George Davis (1900s) defensive rating: A -
A natural right-handed throwing switch-hitter. He could hit and run the bases. He had over 20 SB in each of his first 13 seasons. And he had over a .300 BA in nine consecutive seasons.
A great defensive Shortstop to go along with his incredible offensive abilities.
5. Joe Cronin (1930s) defensive rating: A
A career .301 BA. He was a great offensive player for a Shortstop and he was great at defense. What else can we say about Cronin. He was an A +/ A guy, offensively/defensively. It's why he's in the HOF.
4. Barry Larkin (1990s) defensive rating: A -
He did it all. An A +/A - guy, offensively/defensively. He should and probably will be a first ballot HOFer when he's eligible next year. You gotta love this guy, born in Cincy, played his entire career in Cincy. Don't see that much anymore, do you? The hometown kid playing for the hometown team. See tonight on the MLB network.
3. Hughie Jennnings (1900s) defensive rating: A
Had a career .312 BA and had over a .405 OB% in six consecutive seasons. He was part of those incredible mid-late 1890s Baltimore teams that historians bring up as arguably the best team in history. On those teams, he had John McGraw and Joe Kelley as teammates, to name a few.
He arguably had 2 of the best seasons in the history of MLB for a Shortstop. Here they are:
1895-.386 BA, .444 OB%, 53 SB, 159 R, 41 2B, 125 RBI and led the league in FA.
1896-.401 BA, .472 OB%, 70 SB, 125 R, 121 RBI and led the league in FA.
Not bad back to back seasons, huh?
A great defensive player, too.
2. Honus Wagner (1990s) defensive rating: A +
Most of us already know his numbers. But I'll refresh our memories. Had a career .328 BA. Had at least 20 SB in each of his first 19 seasons. Had at least a .300 BA in 15 consecutive seasons. Had over 10 3b in seven consecutive seasons. His 252 career 3B is 3rd all time. Had over a .405 OB% in seven consecutive seasons. Someone tell me to stop. I could go on and on with Wagner, he was an amazing offensive player.
And almost as amazing on defense. One of the 10 best defensive Shortstops ever.
1. Alex Rodriguez (2000s) defensive rating: C
I'll tell you right now, I'm not an A-Roid fan. But he's the best Shortstop ever, in my opinion. Of course, now we know that he did steroids. Where we he be without them, we'll never know. Maybe he'd still be first, maybe not. We'll never know.
Without being good or bad, gets the job done defensively.
There you go. History unblurred. The way it really was.