Skimming ESPN’s baseball content over my morning coffee, I came across an ESPN Deportes poll that sent me scurrying for my JAWS spreadsheet. The poll asks readers to vote for the top Latino shortstop in baseball history, an enticing topic, but voters are limited to just three choices: Luis Aparicio, Dave Concepcion, and Omar Vizquel. That’s an interesting selection. Aparicio’s already a Hall of Famer and in fact is the only Latino shortstop who’s in the Hall. Concepcion’s been on the ballot since 1994 but is getting little traction; only once in 13 years has he even topped 15 percent of the vote. Vizquel is still cranking out web gems, and questions about his Hall of Fame case are among the most frequently asked by my readers.
Digging into my spreadsheet (which of course resides in the basement of my parents’ house and prevents me from watching a single actual baseball game), it’s apparent that ESPN’s selection has omitted a few other worthies from the discussion, not to mention one glaringly obvious choice who trumps them all. Here are the #2 through #10 according to JAWS:
Player BRAR BRAA FRAA Career Peak JAWS
Dave Concepcion 264 -39 150 109.8 66.6 88.2
Tony Fernandez 399 131 115 105.4 63.6 84.5
Bert Campaneris 317 4 52 101.5 61.0 81.3
Luis Aparicio 216 -144 70 102.9 57.7 80.3
Omar Vizquel 296 -20 110 102.9 50.6 76.8
Leo Cardenas 157 -78 77 78.0 58.7 68.4
Miguel Tejada 374 190 -15 72.4 64.1 68.3
Nomar Garciaparra 438 284 -24 70.8 64.5 67.7
Jose Valentin 229 37 6 61.0 43.9 52.5
AVG HOF SS 453 153 120 112.3 67.1 89.7
If you’re voting in that poll, Concepcion is the best option, and if you happen to be a member of the BBWAA, he’s not a horrible choice to wind up on your Hall of Fame ballot. The Big Red Machine’s shortstop doesn’t score as well as Alan Trammell (97.0), but he won more Gold Gloves, and played in more postseason games (hitting a robust .297/.333/.455) and more All-Star games than Trammell did. Tony Fernandez, who logged just four votes in his first and only year of eligibility this year, scores better than Aparicio and Vizquel both as a hitter AND as a fielder. Couple that with his status as the major leagues’ first great shortstop from the Dominican Republic, and it’s puzzling that he was excluded from the poll. Bert Campaneris, a mainstay of the A’s mid-Seventies dynasty, wasn’t a fantastic hitter, but he was about average for a very long time. He was pretty good afield, though the Aparicio-Mark Belanger combo monopolized the Gold Glove during his career.
Breezing through the rest of the list: Leo Cardenas preceded Concepcion in Cincinnati; despite hitting just .257/.311/.367 for his career, he did have some pop, reaching double-digits in homers six times… Miguel Tejada will either eventually overtake Fernandez as the top Dominican shortstop of all time or become the first major leaguer to spontaneously turn into a statue; he always seems to be joylessly coasting on autopilot when I watch him… Nomar Garciaparra is of course no longer a shortstop — though he still qualifies as one due to his percentage of games played there — and neither is Jose Valentin, who ranks 27 places below Nomah on the JAWS scale, a surprisingly wide gap that highlights the considerable gulf between these guys and the rest of the pack. The next five below Valentin: Ozzie Guillen at 51.1, Rafael Furcal at 49.4, Edgar Renteria at 48.9, Rich Aurilia at 47.2, and Orlando Cabreara at 46.1.
Which brings us to the mystery #1 player, who is head and shoulders above the rest of the class, though he too is no longer a shortstop. Yes, it’s history’s greatest monster:
Player BRAR BRAA FRAA Career Peak JAWS
Alex Rodriguez 812 592 44 130.1 94.9 112.5
It’s apparently all too easy to forget Rodriguez in this context, given that he doesn’t fit ESPN’s stereotype of the light-hitting glove man for whom the U.S. is a foreign country and English a second language. But even if we acted like the mainstream media and stopped crediting A-Rod for anything he did as a Yankee third baseman, Rodriguez would hold the top spot here, with 99.7 career WARP3, 91.0 peak WARP, and a JAWS score of 95.4. And that’s just through his Age 27 season in 2003, based on eight seasons and change.