Blog Entry

When shortstops get old

Posted on: April 22, 2011 8:06 pm
NEW YORK -- Alan Trammell was 35 when Sparky Anderson first moved him off shortstop.

He was 38 when he became a utility man, in what would be his final big-league season.

He understands as well as anyone what happens when shortstops get old. He understands why only one player ever got to 3,000 hits while still playing shortstop, even if he wasn't aware that it was Honus Wagner, 97 years ago.

"What it tells you is yes, it is that demanding a position," said Trammell, now the Diamondbacks bench coach. "You put your heart and soul into it. At shortstop, you've got to be on your p's and q's every pitch.

"At that position, when guys start to lose it, it gets exposed fast."

The question comes up because Derek Jeter has 2,940 hits, turns 37 in June . . . and is still playing shortstop.

Jeter isn't the oldest shortstop in baseball -- Miguel Tejada of the Giants turns 37 in May -- but he is the one guy who will almost certainly do what only Wagner did before him: Reach 3,000 hits while still playing short.

Cal Ripken Jr. was in his third year as a full-time third baseman by the time he got to 3,000 (at age 39). Robin Yount? He was a 36-year-old center fielder.

Omar Vizquel is still playing at 43 (he turns 44 on Sunday), and he was still a full-time shortstop at 40. He still needs 193 hits for 3,000, and in any case, he's no longer a regular shortstop.

Others, like Trammell (2,365) and Ozzie Smith (2,460) fell short of 3,000, although in Smith's case, it wasn't because he retired early. He played until he was 41, and played shortstop right to the end.

Smith, in fact, was the Cardinals shortstop for three of the seven games of the 1996 National League Championship Series. At 41, he's the oldest player ever to start at short in a postseason game.

Worth noting, since both Jeter and Tejada will be 37 by October, is that only five other teams have used a shortstop 37 or older in a postseason game: The 1955-56 Dodgers, with Pee Wee Reese at age 37 and then 38; the 1955 Yankees, with Phil Rizzuto at 38; the 1984 Cubs, with Larry Bowa at 38; and the 2001 Mariners, with Mark McLemore at 37.

"The unfortunate thing for any player," Trammell said, "is that if he doesn't make a play, they'll immediately say it's because he's older."


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When shortstops get old

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When shortstops get old

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When shortstops get old

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Since: Nov 19, 2011
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When shortstops get old

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
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When shortstops get old

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Since: Nov 19, 2011
Posted on: December 3, 2011 2:52 pm

When shortstops get old

Since: Oct 21, 2011
Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:13 am
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Since: Feb 7, 2008
Posted on: April 23, 2011 9:27 pm

When shortstops get old

Completely agree

Since: Mar 1, 2008
Posted on: April 23, 2011 8:24 pm

When shortstops get old

Trammell fielded ground balls on his feet that Smith had to dive for.  Unfortunately for Trammell, making plays look easy doesn't get you on Sportscenter every night.  I would take Trammell over Smith on my team any day.

Since: Apr 23, 2007
Posted on: April 23, 2011 2:23 am

When shortstops get old

The only reason why Tram is not in the HOF is that he played during a time of three other good SS.  If you look at Tram and Cal's numbers, they are very close to each other with Tram showing more speed and Ripken with more power.  Tram's best seasons were as good if not better then Ripken's best years.  The only difference is the streak of Ripken and that is why he was a first ballot guy and Tram is searching for some respect.  Tram was an underrated defensive player who just happened to play at the same time with a slick non-hitting SS named Ozzie Smith.  Ozzie could hit water if he was standing in a boat, but his glove got him in the HOF.A recent article by Joe Posnaski who was writing about guys who were Hall of Fame material, but just not famous enough.  Tram and Whitaker were both on the list of just guys who were great players but just not famous enough to get in.  When looking at WAR numbers, both Whitaker and Tram were well above the average WAR numbers of players at that position in the HOF.  Problem is, guys like Ryan Sandberg got all the attention while Whitaker was the better player.We can just hope that one day the Veteran's committee get smart and elect both Whitaker and Tram into the HOF together showing that they were the best double play combo we might ever see

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