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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. Evan - Jan 14, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    There is no “Greatest of All Time.” It’s a farce of a term used to create hypothetical, statistical and downright silly arguments over nothing. It’s like trying to compare Spartacus to Quinten “Rampage” Jackson.
    Do you really think Honus Wagner would make it into the majors today? I doubt it. So why is he the GREATEST OF ALL TIME if he can’t even make the majors in 2009? Because of his ridiculous 100 year old stats? Does that REALLY make sense?
    Today if you sat me down in a large room full of the “greatest baseball players of all time” and we had a mock draft. Who would be your #1 pick? For me, it’d be a tough choice between Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. I wouldn’t waste my time with a slow lumbering GREATEST OF ALL TIME fatman named “Ruth.” Hell, if I told Ruth that the season is 160+ games he’d probably quit and become a bartender.
    You get my point. Better to agree on the “Greatest of Their Time” then argue hopelessly over something so inherently flawed.

  2. Thumper - Jan 14, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    I’m a computer scientist by profession and know what statistics can and cannot do. Designed parts of the first target acquisition system for smart weapons (estimation of what is or isn’t a military target from high altitude aerial telemetry, along with actual map coordinates for best route to target), amongst many other interesting things, so I’ve pushed a few mathematical edges in my day. Sorry.
    Further, you seem to have this raging something or other going because I stated FLD% (which is still a listed statistic in the HoF, which is how I got the list off the HOF I offered when I said there are so many good SSs, whats the point) and stated my opinion about Omar. You are way over the top with this PC dance of yours. WTF is up with that, lol. Could’ve just stated you don’t agree on Omar and left it at that.
    Also, what does John Kruk have to do with anything? Oh, cheap trick of guilt by substitued association, is it? I get, lol. You’re saying I’m stupid. hahahaha. Sweet. How clever.

  3. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    Thumper, I’m sorry. I’m not calling you stupid. But I am saying that the kind of analysis you claim to appreciate best (“I prefer the words and opinions of people who know what ducking out of the way of a 100mph fastball approaching ones right ear”) is often inconsistent, inaccurate, and non-sensical. Listening too often to those guys (Joe Morgan, John Kruk, Rob Dibble, etc.) practically gives me an aneurysm as they repeat cliches and bombast endlessly.
    We have gotten far afield of the initial point, which was you claiming that Vizquel was “Hands down, best with the leather,” and using your own observations and fielding percentage to back you up. And it has been my contention that Vizquel is not Smith peer with the glove, and that the metrics you were using are not terribly reliable measures of defensive ability.
    As for being PC, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  4. DonnieDbaseball - Jan 14, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    Hey JayT, I like your emotion but logic needs to reign. Jeter has a higher slugging percentage than Cal and his OPS is 59 points higher. Let’s say your right on the leather, though it’s not the slam dunk you think (considering your gaff on power), Jeter still has significant hitting advantage, plus running and oh yeah, 5 rings along with arguably the title of most consistent post-game performer of all-time (.313 Ave, .383 OBP and .863 OPS in 138 GAMES!). This is not to say that Cal wasn’t great because he was but the stats are in Jeter’s favor.

  5. Charles McGee - Jan 14, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    Jeter is overrated, frankly. He will be fortunate to make the Hall of Fame, and if he does, it will be as big a travesty as Jim Rice’s admission.

  6. Bill - Jan 15, 2010 at 12:05 AM

    You are all WARPed

  7. MVD - Jan 15, 2010 at 5:29 AM

    Honus Wagner did not take steroids.

  8. Full Moon WS - Jan 15, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    What the heck? How about players who moved to help their team and were still the best at new positions:
    Ernie Banks: 512 HRs and the most elegant of Spokesman for the entire storied Cubs franchise.
    Led League in hr 58, 60
    Led League in rbi 58-59
    All-Star in 1955-62, 65, 67, 69
    Most Valuable Player Award in 1958-59
    Gold Glove in 1960
    Hall Of Fame in 1977
    A-Rod was and still would be the best SS in the majors and is better than Jeter in EVERY way including in dating the best hollywood starlets ;-)

  9. Bernie - Jan 15, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    If you believe in statistics only, Nomar was the best SS when he played for Boston. Why is that? Because, going by statistics, he fielded more plays than any SS in baseball during his heyday there. Problem is, the propeller heads didn’t take into account that in Fenway, every right hand hitter is trying to pull over the Green Monster and every left hand hitter is going the other way. He had more fielding attempts because more balls were hit his way. If you believe only in statistics then going to strip clubs will make you middle aged and bald.
    Right now current SS, what shortstop has had a better career than DJ?
    I’ve seen Trammell, Ozzie Smith, Ernie Banks, Aparicio and with the possible exception of Banks, DJ is better but Arod would have been the best.

  10. Eric R - Jan 15, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Bernie- that isn’t a problem with ADVANCED matrics since they are giving credit for what is caught or not caught and adjust that for how often an AVERAGE fielder makes the play.
    If alot of balls get hit right at the SS in Fenway, then, essentially they are getting a bonus becasue they have alot more “easy” plays than players in other parks. Well if the average SS turns those into outs 99% of the time then UZR credit the fielder with just 0.01 plays above average. So they get +1 play for every hundred of them, which is maybe +1 RUN for every 250 or so.
    Are you going to argue that Fenway adds thousands of balls right at the SS [ie enough that it meakes any real difference???

  11. Eric R - Jan 15, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    Also- using 2000-2004 retrosheet data, here are the leading and trailing parks by “balls fielded by the SS per year” [I split it up between the home and visitiong teams, since a team with lousy pitching will allow more balls in play artificially raising them]:
    Home Fielder
    PIT 298
    DET 292
    KCA 292
    COL 292

    #9 BOS 283

    SEA 246
    FLA 245
    NYA 235
    Visiting Fielder
    ATL 277
    COL 276
    MON 275
    TBA 274

    #22 BOS 247

    OAK 241
    NYA 230
    PHI 229
    So, I don’t think the premise was even right. Being a SS in Boston is not making any kind of noticable impact on their advanced stats [and not likely even the unadvanced rate stats].

  12. BERNIE - Jan 15, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    I guess I’m just not confident in statistics because they can be manipulated every way. Was Jeter a better fielder this year than he’s been for the past 5 years or did he adjust his game to reflect better statistics based on how it’s calculated now? Nomar was argued to be the best fielder in MLB even though he couldn’t throw and at the time, Jeter was rated poor. Of course these statistics were created by an admitted avid Red Sox fan who was a mathematician.
    A little like global warming. Is it us or a natural event that’s doing it?

  13. Bernie - Jan 15, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    I guess I’m just not confident in statistics because they can be manipulated every way. Was Jeter a better fielder this year than he’s been for the past 5 years, something that seems impossible forr a 35 year old SS or did he adjust his game to reflect better statistics based on how it’s calculated now? Nomar was argued to be the best fielder in MLB even though he couldn’t throw and at the time, Jeter was rated poor. Of course the statistical params were created in the mid 90’s by an admitted avid Red Sox fan who was a mathematician and everyone took it as gospel.
    A little like global warming. Is it us or a natural event that’s doing it? I need more proof on both before I’m convinced.

  14. bernie - Jan 15, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    Sorry about the double post. I keyed my email wrong on the first but it still posted.

  15. bernie - Jan 15, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    Sorry about the double post. I keyed my email wrong on the first but it still posted.

  16. Thumper - Jan 15, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    Still disagree.
    The argument being made is really a tools argument. Ozzie’s best tool was his legs (first tool), and by far, is the best SS I ever saw from a total speed, and first step on the ball perspective. No argument from me on that. Oz had the best legs. His motion and overall movements were almost mercury like. Smooth, fast, bigcat-like, and explosive. Yup.
    However, that is not a “leather” argument. “Leather” is the final tool, fielding, and from my limited perspective, nobody had better hands than Omar over a career. Ozzie looked spectacular making plays on ball (because of his speed, first step, and explosion). Omar made everything look so easy and effortless (in a workmanlike manner). Thats what good leather looks like: simple, everyday, almost mechanical. What’s fascinating to me, is Jeter is quietly approaching Omar’s efficiency. Slowly year in, year out, Jeter’s leather work is getting better…or so it appears to a flawed individual such as myself. If you look back on it, Omar’s leather skills followed a similar course, he got better over time too.
    I realize moneyballers hyperventilate when anybody mentions tools (Billy Beane was considered a 5 tooler who didn’t pan out), but heck with their over-fascination on stats, tools are only foundation skills, not predictors of success (thats what they failed to understand in the first place). That’s why raw stats don’t really mean much in the overall game (don’t account for heart, discipline, determination, team chemistry (or I guess actual chemistry in this age), batter protection, and a wide array of collective team skills that platform a player to excel).
    And my best argument for that is simple: How well are the Sox really doing without Manny Rameriz in the lineup (moneyballers hate crazy Manny, he ain’t no moneyballer, he’s a MannyBaller, LOL). Big Papi ain’t no moneyballers wet dream either, LOL. Yet, year in, year out, folks hail Sox management as the 2nd coming of the sabermetrican god. Meh…How well did the philosophy of “plugging and chugging” Jason Bay in for Manny really pan out over the season? If moneyball is 100% spot on, Bay for Manny should have made the Sox better…Did it? Where is Jason today again? See, opinions are alot like…
    Over the years, lots of hype and the next “greatest thing” have come and gone, yet somehow, baseball carries forward to a new season. All the hot stove chatter is meaningless really (though fun), as only 2 words really make a difference coming out of winter: Play Ball!
    PS I’m no fan of ESPN either (Chris Berman makes me want to jab an ice pick in my eye. He’s so full of self-important sh*t), but I said “SS contemporaries”. Not one person you mentioned was a SS contemporary of Omar or OZ. Krukie is a lovable nut. Joe Morgan is a blowhard and Rob dribbles. What else you got?
    PSS When I mentioned Omar and leather, I also said he doesn’t get consideration because of his hitting skills (which weren’t bad, just not of the same caliber as Cal, Jeter, Ernie Banks, Wagner, Arky Vaughn, and many others). Oz suffers from the same conclusion, btw.
    My thrust was really trying to get some attention on the “positional” versus “hitting” skills. Jeter, Cal, Arod make the HoF on their hitting, more so than on their positional skills. By lumping 2 tools together as one, I still feel you are missing something significant here. Omar gets slammed enough because of his bat, overlooking his hands because of Ozzie’s legs is also wrong (IMO).
    NOTE: In the last 5 years, I like the fact Jeter has improved his glove work. Nobody can really improve their speed (Oz was a natural and that cannot be taught, or chemically procured). Jeter gets consideration in my book because its clear he is dedicating effort toward improving his fielding (even though most fans only care about hitting). I may be stupid (nothing I can do about that now), but I appreciate his effort. Early on I thought he was too cocky for his own good. I’ve changed my opinion because he is becoming very methodical and workmanlike at SS. The decision to leave him at SS was right. No offense to ARod, but Jeter has the better mitt and clearly works at making it better. But he’ll never run like Ozzie. Speed cannot be taught or bought.

  17. Bernie - Jan 15, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    Nice post thumper. No argument here. Ozzie at SS was the most fun to watch because my team didn’t have to play him 18 times a year. Omar was like silk. The 2 best I ever saw in my 55 years of watching.

  18. Thumper - Jan 15, 2010 at 7:20 PM

    Kudos to you too Bernie for picking up on the improvement in Jeter’s glove work.
    Wish I could go back to the camps this spring, just not possible this year.
    Have a good one.

  19. XTrust_No1X - Jan 16, 2010 at 2:09 AM

    This is an easy choice, Future First year Hall of Fame inductee Derek Jeter is easliy, the greatest Short Stop in MLB history. The others following Derek Jeter, are
    1…Derek Jeter The Greatest All around SS, Clutch Hitter, ect…
    2…Honus Wagner
    3…Ernie Banks
    4…Ozzie Smith
    5…Phil Rizzuto
    6…A-Rod
    7…Pee-wee Reese
    8…Luke Appling
    9…Cal Ripken
    10..Luis Aparicio
    And, I’m sorry, but, Barry Larkin don’t belong in this group, not even close to making it.

  20. MVD - Jan 16, 2010 at 4:32 AM

    You accidentally typed a 2 instead of a 1 next to Wagner and a 9 instead of a 2 next to Ripken.

  21. Floyd - Jan 16, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    This list is asinine. Anyone who ranks Phil Rizzuto ahead of Cal Ripken should stop reading this blog, and should probably stop watching baseball. You clearly don’t understand the sport.

  22. Johnny CA - Jan 16, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    Ripken looked good only because he was surrounded by no talent. He had marginally above average talent at his best.
    Ripken would have been a marginal player on any of the contending teams during his prime.
    His only claim to fame is the “Iron Man”, which he turned into a joke. He played practically crippled with injuries, unable to field his position.
    On any other team he would have been riding the pine with those injuries. But on the Orioles, perennial doormats, nobody gave a crap about winning or fielding a competitive team.
    So the Orioles have the “Iron Man”. Big effing woo. Too bad they never put a baseball team in their nice new stadium.
    Ripken had mediocre stats throughout the 90’s when all the other juiced stars were smashing the record book. He had two 200 hit seasons, and none during his final 10 years after 1991.
    Ripken is lucky he retired before the steroid scandal blew up. Being juiced was the only way he could hang on for so long. Just like Rafael Palmero. The Juice Kings of the Orioles.
    Like the rest of the cheaters, Ripkens stats from ’88 on are meaningless.
    You want to rank Ripkin with Jeter? I would not rank Ripken ahead of my niece playing HS softball.

  23. David - Jan 16, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    Please look up Cal Ripken’s stats….please….YES, two MVP’s in stellar seasons…but he hit .260/.270 a bunch of times…It’s not at all bias to claim Jeter is the best…possibly the best at going to his right and making the throw to first in baseball history…won a gold glove at 35…7 200 hit seasons…responsible for more runs than any other player since 1996….
    Short Stops are natural team leaders…and you CANNOT discount 5 rings by 35 years of age
    What is wrong with you people? Vizquel, Ozzie, and MAYBE Cal were better defensively…but NO ONE besides Wagner and Banks, or MAYBE AROD (who did take steroids) even comes close as an all-around short stop.
    The END! oh, and I know all this cause GOD told me

  24. Charles Jackson - Jan 17, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Wow. I’m not sure what is more pronounced: Yankee fans’ obnoxiousness or their stupidity.

  25. DiamondDuq - Jan 18, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    You people can argue about all the random stats you want and let your personal biases get in the way of logical arguments but there are only 5 players in history with 3500+ hits. If Jeter plays as long as Honus Wagner (43) or Ozzie Smith (41) or even Barry Larking (40) he’ll join that exclusive club. Jeter has averaged 208 hits per 162 games so even with a 25% decline in productivity, he’ll surpass 3500 hits by age 40 and with the prospect of moving to DH he could end up being the 3rd player ever to 4000 hits! Not to take cheap shots but you throw in his little black book and it’s a done deal! The guy wins, on and off the field!

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