Since the beginning, nearly every major-league shortstop has been around six feet tall, weighed less than 200 pounds, and batted at the end of the lineup.
This changed in 1982 when Cal Ripken Jr., who stood 6-4 and tipped the scales at 225 pounds, manned the position, hit No. 3 or No. 4, and finished with 431 homers and 1,695 runs batted in.
High school players Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez noticed, and at 6-3 and more than 210 pounds, they soon became the prototypical shortstop.
In today’s game, the best at the position is Troy Tulowitzki, who waved his magic wand this past weekend and helped Colorado split four games with the visiting Dodgers.
The hard-hitting and aggressive right-handed swinger had two hits including a two-run homer during last Sunday’s 10-8 loss, collected two hits, drove in two and scored a run in Saturday’s 11-7 setback, singled and homered and scored two runs in the Rockies’ 6-5 win on Friday, and drove in four runs with a single and double in the 9-7 series opener on Thursday.
Following in the tradition of Ripken, the 26-year-old Tulowitzki bats fourth, and has two baseball heroes: the New York Yankees’ Jeter and the since-retired Nomar Garciaparra, who played for Boston and three other teams including the Dodgers.
Ripken noted late in 2007 that Tulowitzki was more than a slugger. “He has a strong offensive game, but defensively he’s unbelievable,’’ he said. “He really thinks about the position — all aspects of the game. I love that about him.”
Since 2006 when Tulowitzki broke in, he’s had a .986 fielding percentage, making only 43 errors in more than 3,000 chances.
Because most hitters are right-handed, the ball is often driven to the left side of the diamond, which makes these numbers staggering.
That’s fine, but as the commercial says: “Girls dig the long ball,’’ and through Sunday the 6-3 and 215-pound Tulowitzki has 13 homers and 45 RBIs with a .274 batting average.
Tulowitzki attended Fremont High in Sunnyvale, California. As a junior he batted .536, and in his senior year hit .519 with 24 homers. Tulowitzki would take his bat and glove to Long Beach State and after three seasons (.310 average with 20 homers and 117 RBIs) be drafted by the Rockies in the first round (seventh overall) in 2005.
The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks are fighting for first in the National League West, but the Rockies are close behind.
Colorado has a potent lineup that includes outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and an aging but still productive Todd Helton at first base.
Tulowitzki has topped 20 homers three times, including a high of 32 in 2009. That season he batted .297, drove in 92 runs, scored 101 runs, lashed 25 doubles and nine triples.
In 2007, his first full year, Tulowitzki displayed his strength by cracking 24 homers with 99 RBIs and finished with a .291 batting average.
The Rockies and San Diego Padres were tied for first and played a one-game playoff. The Rockies won 9-8, and Tulowitzki, who placed second in the Rookie of the Year voting, had four hits including three for extra-bases.
But alas, it ended poorly for the Rockies, who were swept by the Red Sox in the World Series. If Tulowitzki is in the same position, he’s looking for a different outcome.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.