Ferguson: Where have all the great shortstops gone?

Scott Ferguson

9/14/2012 1:31:52 PM

First the good news. Escobar has the second best batting average amongst shortstops in the American League. Oops, this guy doesn't play for the Jays though. Alcides Escobar of the Royals is batting .297, second only to Derek Jeter at .323.
Seriously though, where have all the great shortstops gone? Over the past 25 years, we all got to watch the likes of Cal Ripken Jr, Alan Trammell, Tony Fernandez, Alex Rodriguez and Omar Vizquel, not to mention National Leaguer's like Ozzie Smith and Barry Larkin.
Earlier this week, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous said he concidered six position players to be fixtures with the Jays going into next season: Jose Bautista, Juan Encarnacion, J.P Arencibia, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and Yunel Escobar.
My original thought in doing this article was to question Escobar being on the list. After all, he will be 30-years old in November and is starting to drift into journeyman territory. He is ranked 6th amongst shortstops in the American League this season in terms of fielding, (I'm ony including those who've played over 100 games). Escobar is also ranked 11th overall in the Majors and his error total of a year ago is down to 12.
Still, Escobar's offensive numbers overall have fallen off from a year ago. Yes, his homer total (9) is only two off last year and his RBI total is only one off last year (48). However, his on-base percentage is down, his walks are down, his average is down and his strikeouts are up.
Yes with all the injuries, he may be trying to do too much or maybe batting in a position he shouldn't be in John Farrell's lineup. All well and good, but he hardly plays like a fixture to me.
The trouble is, upgrading at short, in the short term, wouldn't be easy. Adeiny Hetcheveria could be the answer, but he could just as easily be the starting second baseman next year, or even start the year again at Triple 'A'.
An intriguing possibility is Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He won't be 27 until November and also has some experience playing second base. There have also been rumours the Indians might move him in the off-season as part of a general house-cleaning after a miserable second half.
A year ago, Cabrera was arguably Cleveland's MVP, driving in 92 runs and anchoring the infield. This season though, he's having wrist problems that threaten to shut hm down for the rest of the season and his power numbers have fallen off considerably.
The Jays could do worse than to have Yunel Escobar back next season and he is under contract for an affordable $5 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract. But if next season mirrors this season, I can guarantee you they won't pick up his option years or sign him to a new deal.
Incidentally, the top-ranked shortstop is Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers. They also have the top-ranked shortstop prospect in Jurickson Profar. He's only 19, but is up with Texas for the September stretch run to observe and absorb.
How about this one? When the Yankees picked up Ichiro Suzuki from Seattle, they cut loose veteran outfielder and ex-Jay Dewayne Wise. In the 28 games since he's been with the White Sox, Wise has hit .284 with five homers and 15 RBIs. In 48 games with the Yanks, Ichiro is batting .291 with three homers and 18 RBIs. But five of Ichiro's runs batted in came in one game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Wild Finish
Did you notice that if there was no second Wild Card in the National League right now, all the post-season berths would be settled? Washingotn in the East, Cincinnati in the Central, San Francisco in the West and Atlanta in the Wild Card.
Thanks to the new system, St. Louis, the Dodgers, Milwaukee, the Phillies and maybe even Arizona are still alive.
All the American League races are up for grabs but Oakland and Baltimore are sitting pretty right now but both have extremely difficult road trips coming up. The Orioles open a 9-game trip tonight with the first of three at Oakland, then move on to Seattle and Boston.
As for the A's, after they host the Orioles, they go to Detroit, New York and Texas. Baltimore's trip may be a tad easier, but at this time of year, no matter which clubs you're playing, trips of this length are a grind.
The Blue Jays could play a big part in deciding where the Yankees finish. They have seven games left with the Bronx Bombers -- four in Toronto and three at Yankee Stadium.
This is going to be a great final three weeks.

Scott Ferguson is the Sportscentre Update anchor for TSN Radio 1050 from 4pm et to 7pm et from Monday to Friday and is TSN Radio 1050's Blue Jays analyst/reporter.