Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White
Rob Neyer wrote a piece comparing the shortstopian (I wonder if I can make that word mean what I want it to?) feats of Honus Wagner and A-Rod. Conclusion: A-Rod has now surpassed Honus as the greatest shortstop of all time. And today he answers the rebuttals concerning Honus playing a white-man's-only game versus modern baseball, which itself is a great point. To which he answers, should we then discount the accomplishments of pre-2001 players because they weren't playing the best Japanese, on and on. Good arguments, all. However, the hole in the pre-Jackie Robinson argument left behind, I think, is that in Wagner's day a hundred years ago, there were but 8 teams compared to the modern-day 30. And what, there were about 3 starter's in a rotation and bullpen's didn't exist, not in the way we know them today. So while the talent pool for players was quite exclusive, their were far fewer major leaguers and even fewer pitchers (my speculation only, I haven't counted) in 1901. So while it was a white-man's-only game, they had to be the very best white men.
In addition, I think its tough comparing players when one hasn't even possibly played half his career. So I wanted to know how Wagner and A-Rod stack up through the age of 26. Heres the top 5 Runs Created Against Average for shortstops through that age:
Arky Vaughn - 353
Alex Rodriguez - 347
Nomar Garciaparra - 185
Derek Jeter - 158
Bill Dahlen - 129
So where the heck is Honus Wagner? That was my question. Answer: He didn't even play in 100 games as a shortstop until 1903 at the age of 29, his third year with the Pirates. Which means he had some awesome career into his 30s. Now A-Rods only 27 this year, so as good as we've seen him, he's just entering his peak years and the best may be still yet to come. Hands down, with every year A-Rod is leaving Jeter and Nomar in the dust for the immortal company of Wagner and Vaughn. He can easily surpass Vaughn in the next couple of years. But I think we'll have to save the A-Rod vs. Wagner debate for another 10 years or so, if not A-Rod's Hall of Fame enshrinement, barring any Griffey-type meltdown.