There has been much (very deserved) talk this season about the totally inept players the O's have run out to the shortstop position. Currently, veteran Alex Cintron is occupying the spot, with Trembley and Co. threatening to recall Brandon Fahey from Norfolk, which is just terrible, terrible, terrible news. I assume it has something to do with his positional flexibility, mythical or not.
Fahey will play shortstop, second base, third base, left field, and has volunteered in the past to serve as an emergency catcher, so I suppose that does make him a shortstop, second baseman, third baseman, left fielder, and emergency catcher. And I also suppose if you sent him into a space a few times, that'd make him an astronaut. But other than that, he is no more a major league shortstop, second baseman, third baseman or left fielder than he is an astronaut. (tip of the cap to Bill James and those that spotted the reference, and a virtual high-five of sorts to those that know the former Oriole who was the subject of the original James joke)
For this, we have to ignore defensive ability, and to be perfectly and brutally honest, knowing what we do now about the values of hitting and fielding to the overall outcome of the game (and there is still much to learn, yes), it is rather hard to defend Mark Belanger as a very good player no matter how great his glove was. He had a couple years where he was around league average offensively, but most of the time he was terrible. He was a Gold Glove guy to be sure, but give me a competent fielder that can hit.
Let's take a look at what The Big Three did this year before Cintron thankfully was awarded the job. You can't say he won it, only that everyone else lost the hell out of it.
Not a pretty picture! But despite the fact that the Orioles do have a rich history of shortstops, including two Hall of Famers (Ripken and Aparicio), the truth is that some of the bigger and better names are about to pop up on the next list: all-time crappy Oriole shortstop seasons.
1957: Miranda (314 AB) was at 30
1958: Miranda (214 AB) was at 40; Foster Castleman (200 AB) was at 37
1959: Chico Carrasquel (346 AB) was at 64; Billy Klaus (321 AB) was at 86; Miranda (88 AB) came in at 22
Conclusion: Willy (or Willie, depending on the listing) Miranda was f-ing terrible.
Past Ripken and the contemporary Miguel Tejada, the best shortstops in O's history (post-STL Browns) are largely considered to be Belanger, Aparicio and Bordick. All three were glove men who generally carried a weak stick. Aparicio would be ridiculed as a leadoff hitter in today's game -- if there were blogs in Luis' heyday and the same statistical understanding we now have, he'd be Adam Everett. Simply put, if the game were the same then as it is now, Aparicio would never have even sniffed the Hall of Fame. He was not a bad player; he could run and he could field like crazy. But Hall of Fame? No disrespect meant to Mr. Aparicio, but his credentials are fairly shaky.
Belanger was the heir to Aparicio, and was simply a taller, caucasian version most of the time. That and he didn't steal a whole lot of bases. And he had a lot more truly awful seasons at the plate. Bordick had one freaky good year with a 113 OPS+ (2000), which is how we wound up with Melvin Mora. Thanks again, Mike!
Just so this isn't all gloomy (if you choose to take it that way, anyway), here are the ten best offensive seasons by OPS+ in O's shortstop history. It's a pretty exclusive list.
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1991||650||.323||.374||.566||162|
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1984||641||.304||.374||.510||145|
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1983||663||.318||.371||.517||144|
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1988||575||.264||.372||.431||128|
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1985||642||.282||.347||.469||124|
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1986||627||.282||.355||.461||122|
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1982*||598||.264||.317||.475||115|
* Ripken played 94 games (813 innings) at SS in 1982, and 71 games (604 innings) at third base