Ripken hits a homer in record-breaking game #2131
Cal Ripken, baseball's record holder for consecutive games played, is the best shortstop of all-time. With his combination of defense and offense, he tops a list of many candidates who are worthy for consideration for the top spot. Right behind him, in my opinion, are Honus Wagner and Derek Jeter. Wagner, who played his entire career in the dead ball era (which, at least for me, is a bit of a detractor), hit .328 with 3420 hits in 21 seasons. Jeter is close to becoming the first Yankee to reach 3000 hits. In 17 seasons (including part of this year), Jeter has a .313 average, 2960 hits, 236 home runs, and he has won five Gold Glove awards.
Ripken is number one because of his play on the field, and the fact that he managed to stay on the field on such a consistent basis. Ripken, of course, broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played, record deemed unbreakable by almost everybody. On September 6, 1995, Ripken played in his 2,131 consecutive game, breaking the record. He continued to play in another 501 straight games, and now owns the unbreakable record of 2,632 consecutive games played. He never missed a game from May 30, 1982 to September 20, 1998.
Ripken's production on the field was almost as impressive. Pioneering the way for larger shortstops (Ripken stood 6'4", 225 lbs.), Ripken was a 19 time All-Star selection, a two-time AL MVP ('83, '91), a two-time Gold Glove Award winner ('91, '92), an eight time Silver Slugger Award winner, and the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year. Over the course of his 21-season career, Ripken hit .276 with 430 home runs, 3184 hits (14th all-time), 603 doubles (13th all-time), and 1695 RBI. Defensively, Ripken finished his career with a .979 fielding percentage at shortstop (basically the same as Jeter).
I didn't include Alex Rodriguez because by the end of his career he will have played more games at third base. As previously stated, Honus Wagner is right behind Ripken, but the fact that he played his entire career in the dead ball era is a major detractor. Jeter is third on my list, and he will get hit number 3000 this season, but Ripken produced more on offense (despite the lower average). Ultimately, Ripken gets the nod because of his consistently good production and the fact that he showed up everyday, despite the wear and tear of a 162-game season, ready to play.