The shortstop position is the most arduous in baseball. Generally, shortstops see the most action defensively because there are more right handed batters than left. Most hitters pull the ball, so the shortstop receives the most balls in play. Historically, shortstop was not considered an offensive position. However, that has changed over the last 30 years or so. Nowadays, a shortstop can be as dangerous an offensive threat as any player on the field. The following are the top 10 shortstops in baseball history.
1. Honus Wagner: Honus Wagner tops every list for a reason. There is a chasm separating Wagner from every other shortstop in history. Shortstop was not a major offensive position for most of baseball history. Despite this, Wagner accumulated eight batting crowns and six slugging titles. He hit .328 for his career with 3,420 hits, 643 doubles, 252 triples, 101 home runs, 1,733 RBI, and .858 OPS. Some consider his 1908 campaign the greatest in history. In 1936, Wagner received the second highest vote total behind Ty Cobb for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
2. Cal Ripken: Shortstop was typically a light hitting position played by smaller players. Cal Ripken revolutionized the position opening the door for guys like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. On top of this, only Honus Wagner tops Ripken in career WAR. Beyond that, he played in 2,632 consecutive games, hit 431 home runs, knocked in 1,695 runs, scored 1,647 times, accumulated 3,184 hits, and hit .276. Additionally, he appeared in 19 All Star Games, won 8 Silver Sluggers, 2 Gold Gloves, two MVPs, the 1982 Rookie of the Year, two All Star Game MVPs, and caught the final out in Baltimore's 1983 world championship,.
3. Ernie Banks: In the seventies, people always mentioned Honus Wagner and Ernie Banks when talking about the greatest shortstops in history. Luke Appling, Luis Aparicio, and Pee Wee Reese sometimes snuck into the conversation. Banks played short for the first nine years of his career before moving to first base. During his time at short, he clubbed 20 or more home runs seven times and topped 40 on five occasions. Banks led the league in home runs twice, RBI twice, and slugging and total bases once. Mr. Cub also won two MVP trophies for bad Cubs teams. Overall, he appeared in 14 All Star Games, won a Gold Glove at short, and clubbed 512 home runs. Like Ripken, Banks made the MLB All Century Team.
4. Luke Appling: Shortstops weren't supposed to win batting titles in Luke Appling's day. Despite this, Appling led the league in batting twice. He hit .388 in 1936 and .328 in 1943 to pace the American League. The White Sox great hit .310 for his career with 2,749 hits, 440 doubles, 102 triples, and .399 OBP. In 1982, the 75-year-old homered off Warren Spahn in an Old Timer's game.
5. Robin Yount: Robin Yount debuted at the age of 18 in 1974. He was a solid shortstop for his first six seasons before breaking out in 1980.That season, Yount became an offensive force and an All Star. Two years later, Yount led Milwaukee to the pennant with his first MVP campaign. In 1982, Yount led the league in hits (210), doubles (46), slugging (.578), OPS (.957), and total bases (367). He also hit .331. The shortstop moved to centerfield in 1985. Four years later, Yount won another MVP. However, his time at short helped transform the position from a light hitting defensive oriented spot.
6. Arky Vaughan: Arky Vaughan was an on base machine. He topped a .400 OBP four times, led the league three times, and walked over 650 times more than he struck out (937-276). Vaughan topped 100 walks twice and led the league three times. The shortstop also hit .318 for his career, topped .300 eleven times, and led the league in hitting in 1935 (.385). At various points in his 14 year career, Vaughan also led the league in runs, triples, stolen bases, slugging, and OPS.
7. Alex Rodriguez: PED usage makes Rodriguez a difficult character to quantify. Based on his statistics alone, he is second or third all time. However, his murky association with performance enhancing drugs undercuts his credibility. He played his first ten seasons at shortstop and his last ten at third base. As a shortstop, he hit 20 or more home runs eight times, 30 or more nine times, 40 or more six times, and topped 50 twice. He also knocked in over 100 runs seven times, won seven Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and the 2003 AL MVP. A-Rod continued the titanic production at third base for the Yankees and accumulated two more MVP awards and a World Series title. However, everything he accomplished is tarnished and must be taken with a grain of salt.
8. Derek Jeter: When Derek Jeter announced his retirement, baseball experts chimed in on his legacy in the game including his place amongst the great shortstops. Opinions varied. Jeter landed anywhere between the greatest of the modern era and 13th all time. As of the end of 2013, Jeter is a .312 career hitter with over 3,300 hits. He had eight 200 hit seasons in 20 years. Jeter's lifetime OBP is .381, which led some to proclaim him the greatest since the Dead Ball Era. He's topped .400 in the category four times and has a .827 lifetime OPS. Most impressively, Jeter has been a part of five world championship teams. His flare for the dramatic and ability to be in the middle of the action even when out of position ignited many Yankee rallies. His trophy case includes five World Series championship rings, the 2000 World Series MVP, five Silver Sluggers, five Gold Gloves, the 1996 Rookie of the Year, the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, and two Hank Aaron Awards. He's also appeared in thirteen All Star Games and captained the Yankees since 2003.
9. Joe Cronin: Joe Cronin was one of the few offensive shortstops of his era. He batted .301 for his career with a .390 OBP and .857 OPS. He topped double digits in home runs seven times and hit .300 eight times in 16 seasons as a regular. He also topped .300 three times in four years when he played sparingly. Cronin appeared in seven All Star games despite starting his career almost a full decade before the Mid Summer's Classic's inception. After his career, he managed in the big leagues and served as AL President.
10. Omar Vizquel: Omar Vizquel was the best fielding shortstop of his generation. He won nine consecutive Gold Gloves, and eleven overall between 1993 and 2006. Vizquel holds the highest fielding percentage in history for any shortstop. Now, this statistic can be misleading, but not in Vizquel's case. In 2000, the Venezuelan committed just three errors all season. No one has played more games at the position and only Honus Wagner and Derek Jeter accumulated more hits. The .272 career hitter totaled 2,877 hits, 456 doubles, scored 1,445 runs, 404 steals, and walked almost as much as he struck out (1,028-1,087). The shortstop hit .290 or better five times. The three time All Star did everything to win. In fact, Vizquel is the all-time sacrifice leader in the live ball era.