In the history of Major League Baseball, it could be argued that nothing captivates in the way a uniquely special shortstop does. From the eye-popping defensive craftsmanship of Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel to the do-it-all tenacity of Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin and Robin Yount; the genre-changing performances of men who were deemed too statuesque to man the position, such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, or simply possessing skills that seemed alien to what expectations previously were up the middle, such as Ernie Banks and forefather to all elite shortstops, Honus Wagner, shortstop has always been a position of intrigue.
All things considered, there has been no position that has undergone a more profound identity overhaul than shortstop over the past quarter-century. Formerly resigned as a “glove first, run second, hit if possible” slot, the keystone is now home to greatest variety of athletes the game has ever seen. Shortstop is the equivalent of what the dual-threat quarterback or do-it-all, Russell Westbrook/prime Derrick Rose point guard represents in today’s NBA.
While this transformation has been under way for some time, it is prepared to take full launch with the greatest generation of players the position has ever known, reshaping what an athlete in the sport looks like.
**** Look at any game on the given daily slate for Major League Baseball, and you are more likely than not to be drawn to how mesmerizing the shortstop play is. Choose a game and there is likely a tall, athletic frame more akin to running off screens or catching passes than fielding grounders and slicing hits into the gap.
In the mid-’90s, when Jeter, Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Edgar Renteria were breaking into the game, it was thought that an exception was at hand and there was no way these oversized, six-foot, three-inch figures could hold up to the demands of the position. It was a smaller, faster man’s position, where the fleet of foot and quick of hand played. Offense was nice to have, but defense was not only the primary responsibility â?? it was sought out at the expense of offense.
Fast-forward to 2017, an era we could call “ARJR” (After Ripken-Jeter-Rodriguez), where 23 of the 30 opening day shortstops were 6-feet or taller. Of those 23, eight checked in at 6’2″ or taller. The “shortest” were a handful who checked in at 5’10″. While it has been widely acknowledged that athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster in football and basketball, baseball has not been exempt from this occurrence either, and …
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