Baseball’s Greatest Players III: Second Base

This is the third in a series of articles dealing with baseball’s greatest players, position by position, culminating in an overall list of the greatest ever.  For the most part, they will be top-ten type lists — though they may be shorter (if there aren’t enough “great” players) or longer (if there is a logjam of “great” players).  I will say if the player is in the Hall of Fame, list any major awards the player won and provide their key stats.  All stats and awards were obtained from Baseball Reference. A couple of notes about the stats — they will include their total offensive numbers, not just stats for their main position (for example, Yogi Berra’s stats include his batting stats when he played left field and first base); any stats in italics mean they were the leader in that category out of the players in the list and players will be listed for the position they are most known for (for example, Pete Rose played the most games in the outfield as a whole, but he played the most games there in left , so he will be included there, however, Ernie Banks, though he played the most games at first, is recognized as a shortstop because that is where he had his best seasons).  At the end, I will then describe any reasoning behind my choices regarding their actual ranking.

Only two caveats to my lists:

  1. The players have to actually be retired.  They cannot be unsigned players who haven’t officially retired yet (i.e. Pedro, Bonds, Clemens etc).
  2. Sorry, but no Negro League players will be on these lists unless they had long-term MLB service (any records or stats from the Negro Leagues are “questionable” at best due to the record keeping: i.e. Josh Gibson’s HR totals).

We’ve covered the greatest catchers and the greatest first basemen, so this time it’s the second basemen’s turn.  At one time, a second baseman was expected to be great defensively and any offense was just gravy.  However, in today’s game, as like most positions; teams are more willing to overlook defensive deficiencies in lieu of offensive production.  The best players at any position are still the ones that bring that have are strong in each category.  There have been some truly outstanding second basemen in baseball’s history as you’ll see.  On to the rankings:Rogers Hornsby

  1. Rogers Hornsby: HOF, 2 MVPs (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 1 National League Batting Triple Crown, 1 Major League Batting Triple Crown, 2259 games, .358 batting average, .434 OBP, .577 Slugging %, 301 HRs, 1584 RBIs, 2930 Hits, 1579 Runs, 1038 BBs and 679 Ks.
  2. Joe Morgan: HOF, 2 MVPs (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 10 time all-star, 5 Gold Gloves, 1 Silver Slugger, 2649 games, .271 batting average, .392 OBP, .427 Slugging %, 268 HRs, 1133 RBIs, 2517 Hits, 1650 Runs, 1865 BBs and 1015Ks.
  3. Nap Lajoie: HOF, 1 American League Batting Triple Crown, 2480 games, .338 batting average, .380 OBP, .467 Slugging %, 83 HRs, 1599 RBIs, 3242 Hits, 1504 Runs, 516 BBs and 85 Ks.
  4. Rod Carew: HOF, 1 MVP (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 1 ROY, 18 time all-star, 2469 games, .328 batting average, .393 OBP, .429 Slugging %, 92 HRs, 1015 RBIs, 3053 Hits, 1424 Runs, 1018 BBs and 1028 Ks.
  5. Roberto Alomar Jr: 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 12 time all-star, 10 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, 2379 games, .300 batting average, .371 OBP, .443 Slugging %, 210 HRs, 1134 RBIs, 2724 Hits, 1508 Runs, 1032 BBs and 1140 Ks.
  6. Ryne Sandberg: HOF, 1 MVP (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 10 time all-star, 9 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, 2164 games, .285 batting average, .344 OBP, .452 Slugging %, 282 HRs, 1061 RBIs, 2386 Hits, 1318 Runs, 761 BBs and 1260 Ks.
  7. Nellie Fox: HOF, 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish), 12 time all-star, 3 Gold Gloves, 2367 games, .288 batting average, .348 OBP, .363 Slugging %, 35 HRs, 790 RBIs, 2663 Hits, 1279 Runs, 719 BBs and 216 Ks.

Honorable Mention: Craig Biggio, Eddie Collins, Bobby Doerr, Charlie Gehringer, Jeff Kent, Tony Lazzeri, Jackie Robinson and Lou Whitaker

Will/may be on this list someday:  Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley

Jackie-RobinsonDetermining the rankings for this position has been the toughest so far.  There are eight players listed as Honorable Mentions who could easily crack the top seven with the right person making their case.  There was a clear number one in Hornsby based on his superior offensive numbers, however, the problem began at deciding who number two was.

The remaining players (two through seven and the honorable mentions), all have weaknesses that had to be taken into account.  Such weaknesses are:

  • The era they played in (Lajoie’s entire career was pre-1920)
  • Playing multiple positions for their career while others on the list were strictly second basemen (this hurt Carew at second base, but may help him when the overall greatest player list is revealed later)
  • They were one-dimensional, which caused them to miss the list completely (Kent fell into this category due to being “just” a power hitter)
  • Or, while they did a great thing for the game of baseball overall, their play on the field just fell short (this is how Jackie Robinson finished as a honorable mention — what he did for integrating the game was fantastic, but his career stats and play on the field just missed)

 

If I did this list over again I’d probably come up with a different order each time.

So, what do you think?  Do you have a problem with the order?  Did I leave someone off?  If so, let me know.  Don’t just say “you left off so-and-so” — give me a good explanation of why they belong and where in the order they belong.  If you present a good enough case, I just might add them to the list.

Submitted 5/27/2009

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~~Comment: 

Don’t have time to make a case, but no Bill Mazeroski? Not even in the top 15? *Tom

~~ Reply From Rich

Maz’ defense was pretty good (8 Gold Gloves) and Pirates fans love him to death, however, offensively he is only known for 1 HR (World Series against the Yankees).  He had a bad batting average (.260), bad OBP (.299), less than 150 HRs, less than 900 RBIS, no top 5 MVP finishes etc.  If Maz’ defense was “best all time” like Ozzie Smith’s or Brooks Robinson you could overlook his run of the mill offense, but Alomar and Sandberg were better defenders in my opinion.  Maz would be top 20 all-time 2B, but not top 15.

 

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  1. He won’t make many top ten, or even top twenty, lists, and probably doesn’t belong on any if you look at this record… but… to me he was always a great one… one of my personal baseball favorites growing up (along with the Mick, of course).. & that’s Bobby Richardson.

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