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Ferguson: Good second basemen are hard to find

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Scott Ferguson
4/26/2013 11:06:50 AM
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The Toronto Blue Jays were hoping they had an upgrade at second base over Kelly Johnson when they signed Maicer Izturis as a free agent and picked up Emilio Bonifacio as part of that massive trade with the Miami Marlins that also landed Jose Reyes, right hander Josh Johnson and lefty Mark Buehrle.

While finally settling into a platoon at second, Bonifacio is hitting just .169 and Izturis is even worse at .162. Their overall defence has been even worse. It makes you long for the days of Roberto Alomar, or even Aaron Hill, in the good years.
 
Watching these two struggle just drives home the point of how few really good second basemen there are. In fact, I can count only two in the American League; the Yankees' Robinson Cano and Boston's Dustin Pedroia.

Cano, who is already being touted by some in New York as an MVP candidate, is batting .322 out of the number 3 slot in Joe Girardi's order with seven home runs and 17 runs batted in. All of those homers have come in the last 15 games and three in the last four. He's a big part of the reason the Yankees are a strong third in the AL East, just 2.5 games behind the first-place Red Sox.

At 30-years old, Cano is right in the middle of the peak years of his career.

Pedroia, a year younger at 29, is the unquestioned leader and sparkplug of the Red Sox. He's batting .301, again out of that number 3 slot which is reserved for a team's top hitter. He doesn't have any homers yet, but has driven in eight runs.

There is no way Boston is tied for victories in the Majors with Atlanta at 15 without him.

I remember during the 2000 World Series in New York it was all the rage to argue over who was the best player in the 'Big Apple'; Mets third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo or the Yankees' Derek Jeter. Both were 26 at the time. Alfonzo hit .324 that season with 25 homers and 94 runs batted in, while Jeter batted .339 with 15 homers and 73 RBI's.

The Yankees won that World Series in five games and suffice to say, Jeter's side won that argument easily. He continued on to what has turned out to be a Hall of Fame career, while Alfonzo's career went into a slow decline after that 2000 campaign.

Since that time, New Yorkers have also argued over which team had the best third baseman; the Mets' David Wright or the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod's numbers may win out, but Wright will be the most beloved in New York.

The debate over Cano and Pedroia is really a coin flip. Cano has more power, Pedroia perhaps more of a fiery leader who inspires his teammates with his style of play.

Cano is in the final year of his contract, making $15 million. Even if the Yankees are determined to reduce their payroll to avoid the luxury tax next year, they cannot afford to let him get away, not to the Dodgers or anyone else.

For his part, Cano seems to want to be a Yankee for life. The tough call for the Yankees is how far to go in terms of length of contract. They don't want to be stung again by the kind of contract they gave to Alex Rodriguez.

As for Pedroia, he's still working on a six-year deal worth $40.5 million that covers him through the end of the 2014 season and includes a club option for 2015. He's making $10 million this season, a bargain for what he brings to the table.

Second base has never been an easy position for the Blue Jays to develop. Alomar was aquired in a trade, and so was Damaso Garcia (Yankees), and Homer Bush (Yankees) and Kelly Johnson (Diamondbacks). Aaron Hill was the one homegrown second sacker who looked like he might turn out to be a star.

Miracle Comeback
 
With the Blue Jays tumbling into last place in the AL East, perhaps it's time to remember the 'Miracle Braves' of 1914, who staged the most improbable, if not amazing, comeback in Major League history. On July 4th, Boston was in last place in the National League. They actually dropped 18 of their first 22 games that year.

After July 4th though, the Braves caught fire and then some, winning 52 or their last 66 games to win the Senior Circuit by 10.5 games. They so captured the hearts of  Bostonians, that over the latter part of the season, and into the World Series, Red Sox Canadian-born owner Joseph Lannin allowed them to use the newer, bigger and better Fenway Park.

On Labour Day of 1914, the Braves set an all-time Major League record (at the time) of 36,000 fans for the opener of a doubleheader against the New York Giants, and then drawing another 40,000 for the second game.

Under skipper George Stalling, the Braves then went on to record the first World Series sweep in history, downing Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's, 4-0.

Oddly enough, the following season, the Red Sox won the World Series in five games over Philadelphia's other team the Phillies, and the Red Sox used the newly built Braves Field, which was even bigger than Fenway, for their home games in the Fall Classic.

It's the one and only time in Major League history two teams from one city have defeated the two teams from another city in back-to-back World Series.

Robinson Cano (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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