The Best Shortstop In Baseball, He Is Not


My daily morning routine is usually the same. I don’t like much variety in these kinds of things. Get up, make coffee, catch up on the twitter feed and head to the gym. This schedule rarely changes and, if it does, it is never by my own doing but rather because I’m told to do something different.

Monday’s morning schedule however, was thrown entirely off its rocker when, upon turning on some KC radio, I heard the following phrase:

“I think, right now, you could make the argument that Alcides Escobar is the best shortstop in baseball.”

Best. shortstop. in. baseball.

That statement is just full of head-scratchiness.

Hyperbole surrounds baseball like Ken Harvey could surround a tarp. As fans we’re subjected to it all the time. Whether it is on local TV and radio, or the national scene where every player in baseball is “great”, when it does comes along in a way that borders on the ridiculous, most times we all just gloss over it.

But this stuck with me. “…Alcides Escobar is the best shortstop in baseball.” Yes, the sentence was qualified with the ever definable “you could make the argument” phrase (so then make it, oh wait, you’re not going to) and the cop-out “right now”, but saying Escobar at any time, or in any argument, is the best shortstop in baseball brings a whole new meaning to the word “hyperbole”.

Royals fans are cursed. I think that point doesn’t need to be argued more than it already has been. And because of that they, we, often overreact one way or another to anything that is currently going on with the team. Maybe this is done to try and pull something positive away from a being a fan of a franchise that has been embarrassing for the better part of 25 years. Maybe it’s done to give everyone something, something, to talk about during another one of those embarrassing years.

But this doesn’t have to be one of those seasons. It doesn’t have to be. There are real, tangible things to get excited about, even if Chris Getz is still playing second base every day. (Heh.)

Eric Hosmer is a star in the making – the type of star we all thought Alex Gordon was going to be four years ago. Alex Gordon is maybe becoming that star now. Billy Butler continues to rake and the young relievers have more than held their own. Alcides Escobar has been great, superb, defensive shortstop. He has also been so bad offensively that blog, after blog, after blog, has speculated if any level of defense, no matter how great, can make up for that so low level of offense.

Well, it did, kind of, but certainly not enough to put Escobar into the argument for best shortstop in baseball though.

The ranking of the top-ten shortstops in baseball according to fWAR doesn’t include Escobar. You have to go four more spots until you get to Alcides’ 1.1. That’s a long ways from Jose Reyes’ 4.2 or Troy Tulowitzki’s even 3.0 fWAR.

The discussion on the radio, and I can imagine the same discussion being had in many places around the Royals-fan kingdom, is all based off of a June stretch for Escobar where he’s hit .369 with a .397 on-base percentage and a .523 slugging. All very impressive numbers for a player at any position let alone a shortstop. But it has been just 18 games.

Players are allowed to get better. Yes. They’re allowed to make adjustments, learn from mistakes, take a good bit of coaching and apply it for the better. They’re allowed to do all these things in order to completely change who we all thought they were as a player.

They are not allowed to be able to change who they are in 2 ½ weeks. Baseball doesn’t work like that. And even if that 2 ½ weeks is as good as Alcides Escobar has been there are at least, at least, five shortstops currently playing that are better than him.

And you know what, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, because he’s still pretty good.

Let’s stop overemphasizing Royals players’ hot streaks for the sole purpose of making them look better than they are for our own desires. Let’s let things play out, see where things are after the dust settles and the hot streaks end, and make an informed decision about the true talents of a player.

Escobar may soon be an elite all-around shortstop. That distinction, though, can’t be made after 65 good June at-bats.