I started with a simple question: What team has had the best first basemen (or catchers, or shortstops) in its history? The following is my best answer to the question. See first post for full explanation.
10. Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins
George McBride, Roger Peckinpaugh, Joe Cronin, Cecil Travis, Pete Runnels, Zoilo Versalles, Leo Cardenas, Roy Smalley, Greg Gagne, Cristian Guzman
That’s a long list of fine players, but none of them save Cronin was really excellent.
9. New York Yankees
Kid Elberfeld, Roger Peckinpaugh, Frankie Crosetti, Phil Rizzuto, Gil McDougald, Tony Kubek, Bucky Dent, Derek Jeter
It’s surprising to see the Yankees rate this poorly (relatively speaking) for any position. But while there are a lot of capable players there, there’s no real excellence after Jeter (historically speaking). Plus, the last 50 years have produced only Jeter, Bucky Dent and … Rafael Santana?
8. Chicago Cubs
Ned Williamson, Bill Dahlen, Joe Tinker, Charlie Hollocher, Billy Jurges, Ernie Banks, Don Kessinger, Ivan DeJesus, Shawon Dunston
A couple of these guys are excellent, but that’s about it. Banks is great, of course, and the other excellent one is Bill Dahlen, one of the most overqualified players not yet inducted into the Hall of Fame. Joe Tinker, on the other hand, is one of the most underqualified players who has been inducted. And here again, the past 40 or 50 years haven’t been too kind.
7. Texas Rangers/Washington Senators
Ed Brinkman, Toby Harrah, Scott Fletcher, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Young
Ed Brinkman was a terrible hitter, but a fantastic glovesmith. Harrah was the exact opposite; terrific hitter, marginal fielder. A-Rod was great, of course, but was only with the team for three years. That’s a pretty good run, from 1961 to present.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers
Tommy Corcoran, Bill Dahlen, Pee Wee Reese, Maury Wills, Bill Russell, Jose Offerman, Cesar Izturis, Rafael Furcal
Ask me again, and I might rate these guys lower. But there are some really good players here, representing a lot of years.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Honus Wagner, Rabbit Maranville, Glenn Wright, Arky Vaughan, Dick Groat, Gene Alley, Frank Taveras, Jay Bell, Jack Wilson
Bill James ranked Wagner and Vaughan as, respectively, the #1 and #2 shortstops of all time. This alone gets the Pirates to the #5 slot, as the rest of the players aren’t so hot.
4. St. Louis Cardinals
Bobby Wallace, Leo Durocher, Marty Marion, Dick Groat, Dal Maxvill, Garry Templeton, Ozzie Smith, Edgar Renteria, David Eckstein
There are two Hall-of-Famers here, Wallace and Ozzie, plus some guys like Groat and Templeton who would make the Hall of Very Good.
3. Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Browns
Bobby Wallace, Wally Gerber, Vern Stephens, Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken, Mike Bordick, Miguel Tejada
To see the former St. Louis Browns rate highly at any position is a surprise. But they got off to a great start when Bobby Wallace jumped from the aforementioned Cardinals. Also, Vern Stephens is one of the best shortstops not in Cooperstown. Still, the Baltimore Orioles have had a remarkable run of shortstops. If I considered just the Orioles without the Browns attached, they would be #1.
2. New York/San Francisco Giants
John Montgomery Ward, George Davis, Bill Dahlen, Art Fletcher, Dave Bancroft, Travis Jackson, Dick Bartell, Alvin Dark, Chris Speier, Johnny LeMaster, Jose Uribe, Rich Aurilia, Omar Vizquel
There are four Hall-of-Famers here: Ward, Davis, Bancroft and Jackson. Dahlen should be in the Hall (if you haven’t noticed, he’s popped up three times on this top ten list), and Vizquel probably will be someday. With the possible exception of Speier, the Giants left all their really good shortstops behind in New York. Otherwise, they’d be an easy #1 pick.
1. Boston Red Sox
Freddie Parent, Everett Scott, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Vern Stephens, Rico Petrocelli, Luis Aparicio, Rick Burleson, John Valentin, Nomar Garciaparra
This list doesn’t have the eye-popping excellence of the Giants, but there’s also not much of a weak spot. Again, ask me tomorrow and I might change my mind. But guys like Pesky, Stephens, Petrocelli and Burleson are underrated. Cronin and Aparicio are in the Hall, and Nomar was headed there until he left Boston.
And just to round things out, here are my bottom three shortstop franchises:
28. Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals
Tim Foli, Chris Speier, Hubie Brooks, Mark Grudzielanek, Orlando Cabrera
All of these guys have their strong points. But the Expos have been around for 40 years and have only had two or three pretty good shortstops.
29. New York Mets
Bud Harrelson, Kevin Elster, Rey Ordonez, Jose Reyes
Harrelson was an occasional All-Star. Ordonez was a defensive whiz, and Reyes looked like a future megastar until he got hurt. I threw in Elster just to have somebody there to represent the 80’s.
30. Kansas City Royals
Freddie Patek, U L Washington, Kurt Stillwell, Greg Gagne, Angel Berroa
Next up: The Third Basemen