Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Top Infield Ever?

Could the current Yankees have the most talented infield of all time? It's possible. Rarely has a team boasted stars at every one of the four infield positions. Teixeira, Cano, and Rodriguez are excellent defensively and all three hit for power. If Derek Jeter were still in his prime offensively and defensively the argument for them would be even stronger than it is.

What current infield would rank second? Perhaps the Phillies' Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Wilson Valdez. The Bosox have a claim as well with Adrian Gonzales, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, and Kevin Youkilis.

The most famous infield in history was the 1906 to 1909 Cubs double play combination of "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" (Harry Steinfeldt was the not so famous 3rd baseman). In reality, in addition to not liking each other very much, Tinkers, Evers, and Chance didn't actually turn that many double plays and the four certainly weren't all that great with the bat. Only Evers hit .300.

The next most famous were the Philadelphia Athletics' '$100,000 infield' and they were extremely talented. Between 1910 and 1914
Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Berry, and Frank Home Run Baker led the A's to four pennants and three World Championships. McInnis was among the league leaders in several offensive categories (he hit .321 over those four years) and could reach almost any ball thrown near him. Eddie Collins and Frank Baker, who was among the top ten in MVP votes each of those years, are in the Hall of Fame. Barry's contribution was with his soft pair of hands, great arm, and extensive range.

Incidentally, the $100,000 (about $2.5 million in today's money) was what reporters figured A's owner-manager Connie Mack could get for the four stars if he sold them. Forget their possible value on the market, the current Yankee infield makes $80 million just in salaries!

The 1934 Tigers are right up there for offensive production. First basemen Hank Greenberg (26, 139, .339) and second basemen Charlie Gehringer (11, 127, .356) - both Hall of Famers - tore the cover off the ball. But shortstop Billy Rogell (3, 100, .296), and third basemen Marv Owen (8, 96, .317) had pretty fair years too.

The 1983 Brewers with Cecil Cooper (30, 126, .308), Jim Gantner (11. 74, .282), Robin Yount (17, 80, .308), and Paul Molitor (15, 47, .270) would rank as one of the best hitting infields of all time. The '86 Tiger infielders - Darrell Evans, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammel, and Darnell Coles - each hit 20 or more home runs and Whitaker and Trammell were a great DP combination, turning 99 double plays while the Tinkers and Evans combo averaged fewer than 50.

For a great combination of offense and defense how about the '76 Reds? Tony Perez had lots of power, Joe Morgan had a great glove and was one of the top hitters of all time (especially among second basemen), Dave Concepcion was an outstanding shortstop, and third baseman Pete Rose could hit a bit.

And the 1999 Met infielders were no slouches either. John Olerud (19, 96, .303), Edgardo Alfonzo (327, 108, .304), and Robin Ventura (32, 120, .301) had great years. Only Rey Ordonez (1, 60, .258) struggled at the plate.

Maybe you can think of another awesome infield. These are the ones I came up with and they'll be tough to beat.


Rick Blechta said...

The only reason anyone remembers Tinkers to Evers to Chance is because of a bit of doggerel by a Chicago journalist. You do have a point about this – and the past few years – Yankees infield. They certainly are the Class of '11's infields.

Great post, Will.

John the Tomahawk Trembath said...

I think this is a great post as well. Good info. I think Rick is right about the "doggeral" in Chicago. So, at tonight's game Jays lost to the O's. TV commentator and former Jays catcher Buck Martinez made the observation that the 2003 Marlins were the best infield in 25 years. Very good players: Now Oriole, Derek Lee, Louis Castillo, Alex Gonzalez and Mike Lowell (who had 32 dingers that year). Oh, btw, Pudge Rodriguez was catcher. You can see what money can buy. I do not know how much this infield cost but I bet it was Yankee style money.