In Part I, we looked at historical talent clusters at first base because the ABC first basemen were elected in close proximity. This time around we turn to shortstop. In 1916 Bill Dahlen and George Davis become eligible. In 1921, we encounter Bobby Wallace (and Joe Tinker). In 1926, we will vote on (dare I say, elect?) Honus Wagner.
Dahlen, Davis, Wallace, and Wager played simultaneously for thirteen years, from 1897 (Wagner’s first season) through 1909 (Davis’ last season). In that time by Baseball-Reference’s reckoning, they combined for 268 WAR: Wagner (96), Wallace (64), Davis (58), and Dahlen (50). Can any quartet beat them? I searched (manually) for foursomes with 175 or more combined WAR. When there were many different permutations of a quartet, I took only the best one. And by shortstop, I mean that he had to have played a majority of the time at shortstop during the seasons in question:
- Ripken (77), Smith (64), Trammell (63), Yount (55): 259 from 1981–1993
- Rod (97), Jeter (65), Tejada (46), Garciaparra (44): 252 from 1997–2009
- Ho. Wagner (106), Tinker (53), Wallace (48), He.Wagner (17): 224 from 1902-1916**
- Vaughan (71), Appling (56), Cronin (47), Bartell (35): 209 from 1932–1945*
- Ripken (61), Larkin (52), Smith (46), Fernandez (32): 191 from 1986-1996
- Davis (56), Dahlen (55), Jennings (42), Long (33): 186 from 1891–1903
- Boudreau (56), Reese (46), Stephens (43), Rizzuto (36): 181 from 1941–1952
*I cheated a little: Heinie Wagner played in 1902 then didn’t play in the majors again until 1906.
**More cheating: I counted the guys at war as active while they were away.***
***At least I’m honest about my cheating.
More so than with our first basemen, it’s a battle between recency and bulk. The Double-Dee/Double-Dub group has 9 Wins on Cal and Pals and 16 on the Trinity Plus One gang. All three groups lasted thirteen years, with the first averaging 5.2 Wins per man, the second 5.0, and the third 4.8.
Although A-Rod and Jeter are in top form for the Trinity group, Tejada and Nomar are borderline at best. The other two groups are HoMErs front to back. The quality of play today probably crushes the turn of the Twentieth Century, so the Ripken group gets the nod from me. But as we march forward across time, and we encounter positional talent clusters elsewhere on the diamond, that old timeline card won’t so easily trump the bulk argument.