Nobody grows up wanting to be the school janitor; they want to be the teacher. The dream isn’t to be the copy editor; it’s to be the writer. Children aspire to be doctors, not secretaries in doctor’s offices. Similarly, in baseball, you won’t find many little leaguers who wish to play second base in the bigs. They want to play shortstop and pitch.
On most youth teams, the second baseman is only slightly more valuable than the right fielder or the first base coach. Even little league stat heads will agree that most second basemen have very little VORP. Usually the player with the weakest arm gets put there for three innings, bats last and is replaced by someone very similar, like a twin brother.
But considering the amount of second basemen that are blossoming into stars in Major League Baseball this season, the times might be changing. In Philadelphia, Chase Utley leads baseball in homeruns (25) and appears to be the favorite to become just the third second basemen to win the MVP in 32 years. Right behind him is Dan Uggla, from Florida, who is tied for second in all of baseball with 23 homers.
Eat that, Jeter.
Eddie Collins might be considered the best second baseman of all time, but Utley and Uggla each have the chance to hit more homeruns this season than old “Cocky Collins” hit in his entire career. Even Nappy Lajoie (is it racist to call him Nappy?) would be impressed with these guys.
The story is the same in the American League. While the AL’s All Star starter, Dustin Pedroia, fits the stereotype of a scrappy second baseman, Texas’ Ian Kinsler has a chance to hit 30 homeruns, drive in 100 runs and become the first second basemen since Rod Carew in 1975 to win the batting title.
Perhaps the position was tainted in the ‘90s by guys who were surrounded by steroid allegations or spitting on umpires. Who knows? But one fact is clear: 2008 has quickly become the year of the second basemen and with the Little League World Series coming, you have to wonder how many kids are going to call the Utley’s, Uggla’s and Kinsler’s of the world their favorite player.