104 and Counting
On May 19, 2006 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Erick Aybar of the Angels pinch-hit and played the last two innings at shortstop in a 16-3 defeat to the Dodgers. In doing so, Aybar became the 100th different man born in the Dominican Republic to play shortstop in a major league game.
Every big league franchise has employed at least one Dominican shortstop, beginning with Ozzie Virgil of the New York Giants in 1957. The Phillies made Roberto Pena the first to play regularly eleven years later, and Rafael Santana of the Mets became the first of six shortstops from his country to start for a World Series champion in 1986.
Eight different shortstops earned All-Star births, led by Tony Fernandez and Miguel Tejada with four selections apiece. Fernandez also won four straight Gold Gloves, more than the other two recipients from his country combined. Angels first base coach Alfredo Griffin, known as “El Brujo”, was a All-Star, Gold Glove winner, and the first of three Dominican shortstops to be named Rookie-of-the-Year. Griffin is the record holder among his countrymen with 1,862 games played at the position, though Tejada may surpass him down the road. Tejada logged the fifth-longest consecutive games streak in major league history until a pitch broke his wrist earlier this year.
At least one Dominican has played shortstop in the big leagues for forty-six consecutive years, with at least one primary starter every season since 1974. Only twice in the last quarter-century have fewer than three clubs had a Dominican playing regularly at short, with six in more in over half of those seasons. Perhaps the best illustration of Dominican shortstop dominance took place on September 24, 2005.
Cubs shortstop Neifi Perez (#1) sparked a Chicago rally in the middle innings at Wrigley Field, but Houston shortstop Jose Vizcaino (#2) drove in a pair to help the Astros maintain their lead in the Wild Card race…Tejada (#3) went hitless for the Orioles in Baltimore…Shortstop Rafael Furcal’s (#4) two-run homer helped the Braves close in on another division title…Indians rookie Jhonny Peralta (#5) blasted one of his own to keep Cleveland in the thick of the AL playoff race…Royals shortstop Angel Berroa (#6) managed a hit in what proved to be Kansas City’s 102nd defeat…On the other hand, shortstop Juan Uribe (#7) participated in four double plays to help the White Sox improve their league-best record…Jose Reyes (#8) kept Mets fans looking forward to 2006 with a leadoff double to spark a five-run first in DC, too much for Cristian Guzman (#9) and the Nationals to overcome…The Padres shortstop fouled a ball off his shin, so Manny Alexander (#10) got off the San Diego bench to see some action…The Cardinals shifted Abraham Nunez (#11) from third to short for a couple of innings when their starter had to depart, then substituted Hector Luna (#12) for Nunez after two innings…In late action on the west coast, Devil Rays shortstop Julio Lugo (#13) hit safely in each of the first two innings, but the Angels came back at home to beat Tampa Bay…The Dodgers got a double in four trips out of Antonio Perez (#14), but dropped a decision to the Pirates.
That’s fourteen shortstops from the Dominican Republic seeing action in a single day! Incredible!
Fourteen is a still a record, but maybe not for long. Eight Dominican shortstops are playing regularly in 2007, just one shy of the record established in 1986 and 2005.
By MALCOLM ALLEN
“This article was originally published in La Prensa del Beisbol Latino Vol. 4, No. 1, Summer 2007, by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and is re-printed with permission of the editor.”
(NOTE: Through August 27, 2007 – 104 Dominican-born players have played shortstop in the majors. They are listed alphabetically below.)
Tony Abreu, Manny Alexander, Erick Almonte, Felipe Alou, Joaquin Arias, Erick Aybar, Tony Batista, Juan Bell, Rafael Belliard, Adrian Beltre, Esteban Beltre, Angel Berroa, Wilson Betemit, Rafael Bournigal, Tilson Brito, Alexi Casilla, Juan Castillo, Andujar Cedeno, Domingo Cedeno, Deivi Cruz, Enrique Cruz, Fausto Cruz, Tomas de la Rosa, Wilson Delgado, Mariano Duncan, Carlos Febles, Pedro Feliz, Tony Fernandez, Felix Fermin, Bien Figueroa, Julio Franco, Hanley Frias, Pepe Frias, Rafael Furcal, Eddy Garabito, Damaso Garcia, Luis Garcia, Esteban German, Jerry Gil, Denny Gonzalez, Pedro Gonzalez, Alfredo Griffin, Juan Guerrero, Mario Guerrero, Wilton Guerrero, Cristian Guzman, Joel Guzman, Anderson Hernandez, Julian Javier, D’Angelo Jimenez, Rafael Landestoy, Manny Lee, Nelson Liriano, Mendy Lopez, Pedro Lopez, Julio Lugo, Hector Luna, Norberto Martin, Felix Martinez, Pablo Martinez, Ted Martinez, Henry Mateo, Jose Morban, Jose Mota, Junior Noboa, Nelson Norman, Abraham Nunez, Jose Offerman, Pablo Ozuna, Elvis Pena, Tony Pena Jr, Jhonny Peralta, Antonio Perez, Neifi Perez, Santiago Perez, Placido Polanco, Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Rafael Ramirez, Domingo Ramos, Jose Reyes, Rafael Robles, Ed Rogers, Vic Rosario, Amado Samuel, Andres Santana, Rafael Santana, Ramon Santiago, Alfonso Soriano, Juan Sosa, William Suero, Fernando Tatis, Alex Taveras, Frank Taveras, Miguel Tejada, Andres Thomas, Jose Uribe, Juan Uribe, Julio Valdez, Wilson Valdez, Ozzie Virgil, Jose Vizcaino, Enrique Wilson