This is the third of a nine part series, detailing my personal opinion on the best players at each position in the “Modern Era”, or 1960’s – Present. Next, second base.
The often under appreciated middle infielder, the second baseman. A position that was once where a manager would put his very best player (Nap Lajoie, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins) was gradually morphed into a sort of consolation prize for defensively challenged short stops in the modern era. You will not find true power hitters here (The highest home run total among qualified second basemen is a mere 377), but you will find quality players who, due to their position, maybe didn’t get the credit they deserve.
BEST DEFENDER: Bobby Grich
- 16.2 Defensive WAR among best ever at 2B (Best among qualifiers for this list)
- Set records for Fielding Percentage multiple years
The first question is probably… WHO? Yes, the best defender at this position is the best embodiment of the position itself. Known throughout the league not for his flash, but flawless execution, he holds the all time record for fielding percentage in a season (a record he attained, then promptly broke again), and owns four Gold Glove awards. Had defensive statistics and analytics been embraced during his time in the league, however, that number would easily be doubled. He sported a competent bat (career .794 OPS), and was nominated to 6 All-Star teams, but his true calling card was his range, soft hands, and incredibly accurate arm.
- Honorable Mention: Ryne Sandberg
- Closest Active Comparison: Chase Utley
Most Complete Hitter: Craig Biggio
- 3,060 hits most among qualifiers
- 668 Doubles most of all 2B, led league 3 times.
There’s not a single player that more encapsulates the “unsung hero” than Craig Biggio. When going down the list of “greatest hitters”, it takes some time before his name comes up, but when you examine it, his hitting record is quite impressive. Over 3000 hits is a good start, but how about leading the league in doubles three times, runs scored twice, and stolen bases once. He was a gamer, a scrapper, and knew how to get on base by any means necessary, even if it meant being hit by pitches 285 times (a stat he led the league in a whopping 5 times) along the way. There will be few that will ever match the intensity of Biggio, who was notorious for being a difficult at bat every time he came to the plate. This is what a second baseman should be when he comes to bat: Not the flashiest hitter, but the most difficult out. That’s what makes him the best hitter (so far).
- Honorable Mention: Jeff Kent
- Closest Active Comparison: Dustin Pedroia
Best Overall: Joe Morgan
- Career 1,865 walks to 1,015 strikeouts
- 100.3 Wins Above Replacement is best among all qualified 2B
An integral part of “The Big Red Machine” in the 1970’s, Joe Morgan was a hitter that simply could not be fooled when he stepped in the box. He was a player who demonstrated value in all facets of the game, on the bases (+ 80 Runs from Baserunning), in the field (+ 3.3 defensive Wins Above Replacement), or at the plate (.392 on base percentage short of Rod Carew by only .001 for best among all qualifiers) year after year. What makes all of that most notable too, is that Pete Rose, the all time hit leader, insisted on moving to third base just so Morgan could be in the lineup. To top it off, he’s the only one on our list to boast multiple MVP awards (in 1975 and 1976), to couple with 5 Gold Glove awards, and 10 All-Star team nominations.
- Honorable Mention: Roberto Alomar
- Closest Active Comparison: Robinson Cano