As the famous phrase goes, “Chicks dig the long ball.”
While that may be very true, what’s most often overlooked in the game of baseball is overall spectacular defense.
The most noteworthy defensive plays are often made by the athletic and talented shortstops of the game, which feature some of the best range in the field, combining their skillset to make diving plays, backhanded stops or the ever-so-famous jump and throw maneuver.
So who are the most spectacular and flashy of the shortstops in today’s game? Certainly, there’s a varied opinion – but specifically, here’s a countdown of my top ten:
KP’s Top 10 Most Spectacular Defensive Shortstops
10. Alex Gonzalez – Toronto Blue Jays
For those that want to accuse Gonzalez of being overrated with his defense, I give you this little nugget: he was acquired by the Boston Red Sox not once, but twice for a pennant chase. If you look at the guy’s career hitting statistics, you will know it’s not for his bat.
9. Adam Everett – Detroit Tigers
He’s not going to give you any of these acrobatic hops, jumps or flashy moves, but what Everett does give you is nothing but consistency with his glove. Backhanded, diving or routine – if it’s within reach, Adam Everett is gobbling that grounder up.
8. Jack Wilson – Seattle Mariners
Two things keep this guy from being near or at the top of many lists under this category. First, most of his playing career was with the Pirates, where he got limited exposure. Second, he’s been an injury prone player throughout his career – but when he’s on the field, talk about some spectacular defensive playmaking.
7. Jose Reyes – New York Mets
From time to time, the speedy Reyes can get a little careless, trying to make an acrobatic play. However, his speed allows him to get to balls that many other shortstops can’t – eventually leading to some highlight reel defensive plays. His near top ten fielding percentage at shortstop in 2008 is further proof that Reyes does in fact have moments of brilliance.
6. Marco Scutaro – Boston Red Sox
Scutaro has been a steady glove for years in the AL East, most recently signing with Boston for this year. You know what you get with Scutaro, and that’s a bat at the bottom of the lineup that can add streaky production, coupled with a plus glove that will certainly help a pitching staff keep runs off the board.
5. Cesar Izturis – Baltimore Orioles
Often overlooked due to his quiet bat, Izturis continues to earn starting jobs because of his glove. The Orioles shortstop is a model of consistency, finishing fourth in the majors in fielding percentage at the position over the last two seasons.
4. Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies
Many gloss over him in favor of some of the flashier players like Reyes or Jeter – but on the contrary, Tulowitzki is quite the defender – finishing 1st among major league shortstops in fielding percentage in 2007 and 2nd last season.
3. Derek Jeter – New York Yankees
Even the biggest Yankees hater in all the land should appreciate Jeter’s hustle – most notably the time he dove into the stands face first, sacrificing his body to try and record an out. That flash and fearlessness alone bumps him up this list significantly.
2. Omar Vizquel – Chicago White Sox
At the ripe old age of 43, some may not even realize that Vizquel is still active in the majors. While it’s somewhat of a utility role now in Chicago, Vizquel still can flash the glove. The 11-time gold glove winner – second only to Ozzie Smith – will go down as one of the best defensive shortstops in history, and still belongs on this list until he decides to retire.
1. Jimmy Rollins – Philadelphia Phillies
It’s a tad extreme to refer to him as a modern day Ozzie, but Rollins has won the National League gold glove three straight years, all while peppering in a significant amount of flashy plays, coupled with being a fiery player, offensive weapon and a speedy leadoff man.