Tag:Ozzie Smith
Posted on: April 22, 2011 8:06 pm
 

When shortstops get old

NEW YORK -- Alan Trammell was 35 when Sparky Anderson first moved him off shortstop.

He was 38 when he became a utility man, in what would be his final big-league season.

He understands as well as anyone what happens when shortstops get old. He understands why only one player ever got to 3,000 hits while still playing shortstop, even if he wasn't aware that it was Honus Wagner, 97 years ago.

"What it tells you is yes, it is that demanding a position," said Trammell, now the Diamondbacks bench coach. "You put your heart and soul into it. At shortstop, you've got to be on your p's and q's every pitch.

"At that position, when guys start to lose it, it gets exposed fast."

The question comes up because Derek Jeter has 2,940 hits, turns 37 in June . . . and is still playing shortstop.

Jeter isn't the oldest shortstop in baseball -- Miguel Tejada of the Giants turns 37 in May -- but he is the one guy who will almost certainly do what only Wagner did before him: Reach 3,000 hits while still playing short.

Cal Ripken Jr. was in his third year as a full-time third baseman by the time he got to 3,000 (at age 39). Robin Yount? He was a 36-year-old center fielder.

Omar Vizquel is still playing at 43 (he turns 44 on Sunday), and he was still a full-time shortstop at 40. He still needs 193 hits for 3,000, and in any case, he's no longer a regular shortstop.

Others, like Trammell (2,365) and Ozzie Smith (2,460) fell short of 3,000, although in Smith's case, it wasn't because he retired early. He played until he was 41, and played shortstop right to the end.

Smith, in fact, was the Cardinals shortstop for three of the seven games of the 1996 National League Championship Series. At 41, he's the oldest player ever to start at short in a postseason game.

Worth noting, since both Jeter and Tejada will be 37 by October, is that only five other teams have used a shortstop 37 or older in a postseason game: The 1955-56 Dodgers, with Pee Wee Reese at age 37 and then 38; the 1955 Yankees, with Phil Rizzuto at 38; the 1984 Cubs, with Larry Bowa at 38; and the 2001 Mariners, with Mark McLemore at 37.

"The unfortunate thing for any player," Trammell said, "is that if he doesn't make a play, they'll immediately say it's because he's older."

 
 
 
 
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