Sports Briefs: The Best Shortstop Ever

(Sponsored by 3 Spoons Yogurt)

Chris: When it comes to the greatest shortstop ever, all candidates seem to be lacking something: Ozzie Smith (offense), Alex Rodriguez (a brain), I Don’t Give A Darn (everything except his name, unless Abbott and Costello know otherwise). However, there is one candidate who stands out above the rest. Someone who could play defense, hit for average and power and may have had the ability to fly and turn invisible, though since he has not played since 1917, no video footage has been found that can either prove or disprove this. 

Joe: I think Honus Wagner was the greatest shortstop of all time because his statistics say so. Wagner finished with 3,420 hits, 1,739 runs scored, and 1,733 RBI. Wagner was inducted into the inaugural HOF class with Ruth, Cobb, Mathewson, and Johnson and tied the Babe with the highest vote percentage. Wagner played shortstop for 18 seasons and finished with a .328 batting average - the highest since 1900 of any shortstop. Truly the greatest shortstop of all time. 

Brad: Honus Wagner is the best shortstop ever because he was one of the best all-around players of all time. He had the speed, agility and skill to be the best player. Wagner was amazing at all positions.

Ralphie: Honus Wagner is not the best shortstop because he's dead, and I've never seen him play. 

Chris: Wagner’s 1909 baseball card, produced by the American Tobacco Company, is worth millions of dollars. It was marketed at a time when either 1) adult males collected cards and often sat on each other’s front porches trading them or 2) children smoked. Fortunately, I own one of the cards. I hope the fact that it is printed on cardstock, is blank on the back and was produced during the ‘90s will not deter someone from giving me a lot of money. 

Ralphie: Derek Jeter is the best shortstop because he's a good guy on and off the field.

Brad: Derek Jeter is a great player, but his statistics just don't reach the level of Wagner. Jeter has played on great teams but has not accomplished all that Wagner did in his era. 

Joe: I think Derek Jeter has been an incredible baseball player and person on and off the field. He has been a fixture for the Yankees and is top-10 in career hits with 3,316 and has a chance to match that in runs scored. His total stats do not quite match up with Wagner, and his glove is not the greatest.

Chris: Derek Jeter has never won an MVP award, although the same could be said for Wagner, who played before the award – and possibly gloves – were invented. 

Brad: Cal Ripken, Jr. is another good player that just doesn't have the career that makes Wagner the greatest. Ripken is good and popular but not on the same level. 

Joe: I think Cal Ripken, Jr. is a model baseball player. His record-breaking 2,632 consecutive game streak is a testament to his great 20-year career. Cal was a trendsetter in making big shortstops acceptable. His career stats are very impressive: 3,184 hits and smashed 431 home runs to go with 1,647 runs and 1,695 RBI. Although his numbers are great, they fall short of Wagner's.

Chris: Doing the same thing every day can either result in one perfecting one’s craft or going clinically insane through monotony. Fortunately, the former happened for Cal Ripken, Jr., who started a steak of playing baseball games in 1982 and did not miss a game until almost the end of the 1998 season, winning two MVPs and two Gold Gloves during this epoch. I just said “epoch.” Ripken should have been a postal worker. 

Ralphie: Cal Ripken, Jr. is not the best shortstop because he couldn't do things that Derek Jeter can do. 

Joe: Ernie Banks - Mr. Cub was a great baseball player. The problem is Ernie Banks only played shortstop in 1,125 of 2,528 total games - just below 50 percent. That disqualifies him as the best shortstop of all time.

Chris: The Chicago Cubs should have done everything in their power to sign a second baseman named Bert. This is the franchise that employed the Hall of Fame double-play combination of Tinker to Evers to Chance. Imagine how remarkable a double-play combination of Bert to Ernie to Rubber Ducky would have been. 

Ralphie: Ernie Banks is not the best shortstop because he only played shortstop for half of his career.

Brad: Ernie Banks can definitely be on the list of the greatest shortstops ever because he was an amazing hitter as well as great shortstop, but he wasn't the all around great player that 
Wagner was.

Try on a new pair of Sports Briefs with the Gab Four every Friday. Find out more about Joe, Chris, Brad and Ralphie, and read their solo columns on their individual pages.
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