Did you ever play baseball as a kid? Were you ever on any kind of baseball (or softball) team; high school, college, little league, Pony league, Cub Scout ball, church league softball or even beer league softball? If yes, answer this:
Who played shortstop? I am guessing that would be the best freaking player on the team! It may have possibly been the second best if the top player was pitching, playing centerfield or catching. I have watched, played and coached baseball since 1975…and here are 2 statements I have never heard;
- “He looks pretty good in left field and first base, let’s try him at shortstop”.
- “I like his bat, let’s try to hide him at shortstop”.
Think about it…have you ever heard of a player moved to shortstop? No, of course not…and it stems from the simple reasoning above…probably 95 percent of the time shortstops are the best athletes on their respective teams. If they aren’t…it’s a pitcher, catcher or centerfielder. Therefore when the Cubs acquired Addison Russell last week, I had to remind even my most astute baseball friends about this fact. Let’s look at some evidence;
Here are Hall of Famers who were drafted (or signed) as shortstops…yet they played other positions during their particular careers; George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg, Wade Boggs, and Roberto Alomar. Yikes! Three of the top 3B of all time, and Ryno and Robbie…were all shortstops. Molitor couldn’t even play in the field (he was a DH) for the latter part of his career, yet he was a SS at one time. When the Brewers drafted Molitor in 1977, they already had future Hall-of Famer Robin Yount manning the position.
I guess they weren’t worried about a “shortstop logjam”.
Here are some more names of players from the last 25 years who were originally shortstops (some potential HOFers): Chipper Jones, Jim Thome(look it up if you don’t believe it Jim Thome was drafted as a SS!), Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, Alfonso Soriano(ugh, he could barely play left in the bigs!), Brian Roberts, Michael Young, Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, and Justin Upton. ***side note, I compiled these examples with 20 minutes of research…I am in full Grad-Party Prep Mode and this little column is allowing me a 2 hour break.
What do you notice about the recent names? It includes great second basemen, third baseman, and outfielders…and the reason is very simple…other than catcher, shortstops can play anywhere! I would wager with much deeper research…including pitchers…you would find many more former shortstops.
Instead of questioning this strategy, Cubs’ fans should be welcoming it. It’s what good front offices have been doing for years…and the Cubs? Ty Griffin, Brooks Kieschnick, Ryan Harvey, Earl Cunningham…not shortstops. (I apologize for bringing up these names) Luis Montanez and Kevin Orie were drafted as shortstops…so…umm…well…not all shortstops pan out, especially those drafted by the Cubs in the 1990s.
For what it’s worth, here is what I see happening; Starlin Castro slides over to 2B where his contract and bat play very well. Javier Baez, plays 3B or RF depending on how Kris Bryant shakes out. Arismendy Alcantara plays CF, and Russell, who scouts say has the best glove…plays SS. I could be way off with these projections…Castro could remain at SS, Baez could play 2B, and Russell could play CF…or some other combination, because…shortstops can play all of these other positions…and usually well.
So when next you hear someone state that the Cubs’ have a shortstop or middle infield logjam, correct them and say;
“The Cubs now have a surplus of some of the best young athletes in the game”
…and if that doesn’t work bring up the Schmidt, Brett, and Boggs thing.