Year Inducted: 2002 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 433/472)
There are just some players that, on the surface, look like one-trick ponies. Players that are great at one aspect of the game, but tend to be mediocre at best with the rest of the game. For instance, a guy like Willie McCovey or Harmon Killebrew or Ralph Kiner or any big slugger will get a reputation as a guy that hits home runs but has a low batting average and poor base running abilities and is bad in the field. However, all of the named players also sport very high OBP’s, meaning that they were good at drawing walks and working counts. Similarly, players can get known only for their gloves like Luis Aparicio, despite also adding value as a great baserunner. Similarly, Ozzie Smith while being known for his glove, also added a lot of value as a hitter and baserunner.
Smith played for 19 seasons with the Padres and Cardinals. In that time, he hit .262/.337/.328 with a wRC+ of 90. The Wizard hit 28 homers in his career with 402 doubles and 69 triples among his 2460 hits. Smith was primarily the second hitter in the Cardinal lineup, so he had very few chances to drive runs in, with fewer than 800 RBI in his career. However, he did score over 1200 runs in his career thanks to his two biggest skill sets offensively. The first was his ability to get on base. The average shortstop OBP during Smith’s career was roughly 30 points below his OBP, so Smith got on base more often than most shortstops (and more than most big leaguers during his career-the 1980’s were a terrible offensive environment for the most part). The second was his speed. Cardinal’s manager Whitey Herzog crafted his lineup perfectly for the 1980’s, get guys on base that can run and let them do their thing at the top of the order. Smith, along with other players like Vince Coleman and Willie McGee, was constantly near the top of the leaderboards for steals, and swiped 580 bags in his career.
However, all of that is secondary to Ozzie’s truly greatest skill set, his defense. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that Ozzie Smith is either the best or second best (to Brooks Robinson) defender ever regardless of position. When Ozzie retired, he led all shortstops in assists (over 8000), double plays (nearly 1600), and defensive runs above average (375). Ozzie was a master with the glove, wowing crowds with his wizardry and flair, while at the same time baffling opponents with the hits he would take away from them. There has never been anyone quite like him.
It is for that reason that Ozzie Smith is a Hall of Famer. His defense at shortstop is unmatched by any player, and he added quite a bit of value as a baserunner and as a guy at the top of the order who got on base. Ozzie was a slam dunk, no thinking twice about it first ballot inductee, and cemented himself as one of the top-10 shortstops ever.
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