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 players. This volume covers Second Basemen. Who are the greatest in MLB History? Continue reading to find out.
First, a brief description of what this series of articles will be – 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’s a log jam of “great” players). I will say if the player is in the HOF, list any major awards the player won and provide their key stats. All stats and awards were obtained from Baseball-Reference. This series was originally published on Informative Sports in 2009, however, theyhave been edited for publication here - some players added, some rankings adjusted etc.
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 LF or 1B) and any stats in italics mean they were the leader in that category out of the players in the list. Also, players will be ranked where they were best known at (Ernie Banks at SS for example) or where they played the most games (Pete Rose played the most games at 1B as a single position but he played more total games in the outfield and of those at LF, so that’s where he ended up getting ranked). To see how I evaluate/use stats, click here for a breakdown of hitting stats. At the end, I will then describe any reasoning behind my choices and why I ranked them where I did.
Only three caveats to my lists:
1 – the players have to actually be retired. They cannot be unsigned players who haven’t officially retired yet
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 etc)
3- no confirmed or heavily-suspected PED users. This includes anyone who admitted to using steroids knowingly or unknowingly (so guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Gary Sheffield are not on these lists) and guys where the evidence is very strong that they used (Roger Clemens for example)
We covered the greatest catchers and greatest first basemen already, so this week we move on to Second Basemen. When I think about second basemen, I generally think about defense first, however, when you see the list below, you’ll see some great hitters as well – some had high averages with power, others were high averages with little power. On to the rankings:
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 %, 1.010 OPS, 175 OPS+, 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 %, .819 OPS, 132 OPS+, 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 %, .846 OPS, 150 OPS+, 83 HRs, 1599 RBIs, 3242 Hits, 1504 Runs, 516 BBs and 85 Ks.
4 – Eddie Collins: HOF, 1 MVP (and 5 other top-5 finishes), 2826 Games, .333 batting average, .424 OBP, .429 Slugging %, .853 OPS, 141 OPS+, 47 HRs, 1300 RBIs, 3315 Hits, 1821 Runs, 1499 BBs and 286 Ks.
5 – 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 %, .822 OPS, 131 OPS+, 92 HRs, 1015 RBIs, 3053 Hits, 1424 Runs, 1018 BBs and 1028 Ks.
6 – 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 %, .814 OPS, 116 OPS+, 210 HRs, 1134 RBIs, 2724 Hits, 1508 Runs, 1032 BBs and 1140 Ks.
7 – Jackie Robinson: HOF, 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish) , 1 ROY, 6 time All-Star, 1382 Games, .311 batting average, .409 OBP, .474 Slugging %, .883 OPS, 132 OPS+, 137 HRs, 734 RBIs, 1518 Hits, 947 Runs, 740 BBs and 291 Ks.
8 – Charlie Gehringer: HOF, 1 MVP (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 6 time All-Star, 2323 games, .320 batting average, .404 OBP, .480 Slugging %, .884 OPS, 124 OPS+, 184 HRs, 1427 RBIs, 2839 Hits, 1774 Runs, 1186 BBs and 372 Ks.
9 – 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 %, .795 OPS, 114 OPS+, 282 HRs, 1061 RBIs, 2386 Hits, 1318 Runs, 761 BBs and 1260 Ks.
Honorable Mention: Craig Biggio, Bobby Doerr, Nellie Fox, Jeff Kent, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Mazeroski and Lou Whitaker
Will/may be on this list someday: Robinson Cano (who is making himself a yearly legitimate MVP candidate provided he continues to keep his work-ethic high), Ian Kinsler (who is quietly putting together a career that may just be better than the average second baseman), Dustin Pedroia (who already has an MVP) and Chase Utley (who along with Cano, are the two best second basemen in the game today and may crack the top 5 if he can remain healthy).
Determining the rankings for this position has been the toughest so far and if I did this list again, I would probably come up with a different order each time. There are seven players listed as Honorable Mentions who could easily crack the top nine with the right person making their case. There was a clear number one in Rogers Hornsby based on his superior offensive numbers; however, the problem began at deciding who number two was.
The remaining players (two through nine 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 Mazeroski because he was not good offensively but unlike Ozzie Smith at Short, wasn’t the greatest defender ever for the position)
- Their stats just fell a little short of the players already ranked (or weren’t as good as the players ranked higher)
- 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 low as he did — what he did for integrating the game was fantastic, but his career stats and play on the field just didn’t compare as well to the players ranked above him)
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. Remember to come back next week, where we move to a position which should generate some discussion – Shortstop.