Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 8, 2004

Twins Fan Dan at asks, reviewing the current crop of first basemen, "Has the position ever been this deficient in greatness?" The commenters note that we're nearing the end of a golden era, so the premise is a bit faulty. But there have certainly been darker times.

The 1900-1919 period was pretty slim for first basemen. Hall of Famers for that period are mostly guys ending their careers (Jake Beckley), starting out (Sisler), or touching first on the way out the door after they were already washed up (Wagner, Lajoie). My initial assumption was that the best first baseman of the period was probably Frank Chance (who had a short career), and if not him some nondescript type like Fred Merkle or Stuffy McInnis, or a crook like Hal Chase.

The Win Shares system rates the top first basemen for the 1900-09 decade as Chance (209 WS, 17th among all players for the decade); Harry Davis (189 WS, 23d) and Fred Tenney (165, 43d). For 1910-19, tops are Ed Konetchy (204 WS, 12th among all players for the decade); Jake Daubert (182 WS, 21st); and Merkle (176 WS, 28th). Konetchy, a guy I've barely heard of, seems to top out the group with 287 Win Shares between 1907 and 1921.

By contrast, my "Established Win Shares" list of the top players in baseball entering this season lists four first basemen in the top 10 (Giambi, Thome, Helton and Delgado; five if you count Pujols). And there are a couple of active first basemen, still productive players, who are well past Ed Konetchy in terms of career totals: Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, and Frank Thomas all cleared 300 WS years ago. (Even John Olerud's career stacks up fairly well with the Konetchys and Frank Chances).

So no, we are not at a historic low ebb for first basemen. Far from it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:10 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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