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Who's the second best shortstop of all time? Jeter or Ripken?

Jan 14, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

If you don’t know who the best shortstop of all time is please say 50 “Honus Wagner’s” and 10 “our fathers.”  As for second place, ESPN’s David Schoenfield thinks it’s between the Cap’n and Cal, and sides with Jeter. At least eventually:

Look, Jeter still has some work to do to catch Ripken. He needs to
maintain his offensive production into his late 30s, no sure thing. But
as of now, I’ll take Jeter with the bat, Jeter on the bases, Jeter with
the consistency and Jeter on the top step of the dugout. Ripken rates a
big edge with the leather. But if Jeter stays healthy, it’s a worthy
debate: Jeter or Ripken?

Not a lot of Arky Vaughn love, but that’s based on length of career, not quality, so I suppose I understand.  Part of me still wishes that A-Rod had stuck at short — where he was a superior defender — and rendered this question moot.

Ultimately it’s hard to argue with Schoenfield’s conclusion that, if Jeter remains productive for the next few years, he’ll pass Ripken.  But if he were hit by a bus tomorrow I think you gotta go with Cal.

  1. Fast Eddy - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    Hey all of the East Coast fans.. LISTEN UP! Who said your choices are correct? What about the “Wizz” in St. Louis? Ozzie was the best SS I have ever seen in over 70 years of watching. The only advantage Jeter has is hitting but not in the field. I will admit, I never saw many of the OLD, OLD timers.

  2. Moses Green - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    They’ll be fighting for 3rd place if Hanley Ramirez can stay healthy.

  3. Zonebrick - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    I’m with Fast Eddy! Considering the position here I’ll take Ozzie Smith…I also agree with Moses Green, ten years from now it will probably be Ramirez. Couple of smart dudes there!

  4. Ron - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    Two years from now, Ramirez will be at 3B or LF. So how is he in the discussion at all.

  5. Rays fan - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    No disrespect to the Wizard of Oz, but I have to put in a plug here for Barry Larkin. Larkin was a far better hitter (.295 avg to Smith’s .262), also had excellent range, and his lifetime fielding percentage is only 0.003 less than Ozzie’s. Ozzie Smith was indeed clearly superior in the field (14 gold Gloves to 3 for Larkin), but if I were picking a shortstop, I’d take Larkin every time as the most complete player.

  6. Union - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    Did Jeter or Cal ever even do back flips onto the field? I don’t think so.

  7. goldenpanther4 - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    My choice and hands down lock would be Honus Wagner

  8. Chris H. - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    I’d think you’d have to consider Banks except he spent the last ten years of his career playing 3B or 1B.
    But talking of players whose first names are pronounced “Arky,” I’d have to say…Archi Cianfrocco fever! Catch it!

  9. Chris H. - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    Don’t think anyone’s arguing against Wagner for best all time…

  10. JayT - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    Ripken was a significantly better fielder then Jeter, had a better peak, had more power, and played in a harder era for hitters. There is no comparison, even if Jeter continues to age gracefully. I think the bigger question is, who was better Jeter or Trammell.

  11. Alex K - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    Hanley had one really bad year with the glove, other than that he is perfectly acceptable at SS. He should stick there for a long time.

  12. Live inHoth - Jan 14, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    I would say A-rod was way better than both. He should have been playing shortstop in NY since he arrived. He never gets credit for that move.

  13. Fast Eddy - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    I know it has been some time, but no one could field with Ozzie. I saw Barry for his entire career too, and he was excellent. But Ozzie did things no one else could do with his glove and his range.

  14. excatcher - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    Jeter is Ripken with 2/3 the power and 2/3 the glove, and 4/3 the singles. You have to give Ozzie at least #2 for being the best SS in the field than we’ve ever (or maybe will ever) see.
    My top 5:

  15. Rick - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    Ozzie was a great fielding shortstop but you only get a chance to win so many games with your glove. Did Ozzie EVER have an RBI?? Ripken is unquestionably tops and doubtful Jeter can overtake him. Second if A-rod was better than Jeter than why wasn’t Jeter moved?? Jeter’s range and glove surpass A-rod by a long shot. In short Wagner, Ripken then Jeter. As a side note Banks had the range of a 3 legged turtle (and arm to match) at SS that is why he was moved.

  16. Ralph Kramden - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    I’d say the pre-Yankees ARod was a better shortstop than any of them, including Honus.

  17. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    You’re using the wrong metrics. Larkin was a great player for a lot of years and is definitely one of the best all-around SS of all time. But if you’re using fielding percentage and batting average to justify his ability over Ozzie, you’re doing this compare and contrast thing wrong. Ozzie’s strengths lay in his ability to get on base (particularly toward the end of his career) and his unparalleled range. Larkin’s a better hitter, but Ozzie is, by far, the better fielder.

  18. Thumper - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    The highest SS fielding percentage of all time belongs to Omar Visquel, .984 over a long career. Some of the stuff I saw him do in his prime is unmatched by anybody else. Hands down, best with the leather. Excellent range, and those blind other the shoulder catches were simply unreal. His bat always kept him out of alot of discussions though.
    I enjoyed Ernie Banks (.969 FLD%) and Luis Aparicio (.972 FLD%) as a kid. Both handled the glove really well.
    But the potential list for best SS in history is HUGE: Ozzy Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., Luis Aparicio (awesome glove man, weak stick), Luke Appling, Dave Brancroft, Ernie Banks (yeah, he spent over 1000+ games at SS), Lou Bourdreau, Joe Cronin, George Davis, Travis Jackson, Hughie Jennings, Rabbit Maranville, Pee Wee Reese (weak stick, visible personality for years), Phil Rizzuto (loved the sound of his own voice, LOL), Jow Sewell, Joe Tinker (of Tinker to Evers fame), Arky Vaughan (he punched out Leo the Lip and that cost him 3 years out of baseball. Tragic story, otherwise, awesome numbers: 2000+ hits, 1000+ runs, 100+ triples), Honus Wagner (maybe the best all around ballplayer EVER), Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter, Omar Visquel.
    Why choose at all?

  19. Jason B - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    Ozzie, #2 SS of all time…I mean…really? Hope he saved a *lot* of runs to make up for that career OPS+ of 87 (c.f. Ripken 112, Jeter 121).
    *Sigh…* Craig, are you moving back to THT anytime soon?

  20. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    What is your fascination with fielding percentage. Alexander Freaking Cartwright knew that was a crappy stat in the 19th century when he said that the best fielder was not the one who made the least errors, but who made the most plays. /bangs head into wall

  21. Rays fan - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    Just to clarify–I did acknowledge that Oz was the superior fielder, and added his 14 Gold Gloves to Larkins’s 3 on top of the fielding percentage. Larkins’ range was excellent; Oz’s was certainly better. No argument. However, since you mention getting on base (when I left it at batting average)–Larkin’s OBP was .371 with an OPS at .815. Smith’s? .337 and .666 (.350 and .694 if you subtract out his 4 years in SD). I have nothing but love for Oz and always enjoyed watching him play, but I’ll stand by my statement that Larkin was the more complete player.

  22. Rays fan - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    (and Fast Eddy)
    I did acknowledge that Ozzie Smith was the superior fielder, mentioning not just fielding percentage, but also hiw 14 Gold Gloves to Larkins’ 3. While Larkin had excellent range, Ozzie’s was better. No argument. However, since you mentioned getting on base (as opposed to batting average, which is all I mentioned in my first post)–Larkin’s career OBP was .371 and OPS at .815. Ozzie Smith’s was .337 and .666 respectively (.350 and .694 if you don’t count his early years in SD). I have nothing but love for Ozzie Smith and always enjoyed watching him play, but I stand by my view that Larkin was the more complete player.

  23. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    For what it’s worth, here are some relevant WARP totals from seasons when each of the following players were primarily SS:
    Cal Ripken: 92.7
    Ozzie Smith: 82.8
    Alan Trammell: 77.4
    Barry Larkin: 63.4
    A-Rod: 58.9
    Derek Jeter: 58.7
    Omar Vizquel: 42.4
    The answer seems pretty clear to me.

  24. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    Other relevant WARP totals (these are career totals):
    Honus Wagner 167.7
    Arky Vaughn 90.8
    Luke Appling: 82.2
    Lou Boudreau: 81.5
    Ernie Banks: 69.3
    Joe Sewell: 66.8
    Pee Wee Reese: 60.9 (and four years off for WWII)
    Luis Aparicio: 58.6

  25. Moses Green - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    Methinks you oversimplify, I’d look at those numbers side by side with their WARP/seasons played, plus peak WARP values.
    And Hanley already has 27.7 in only 4 seasons.

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