Despite the team’s struggles at the position in recent years, second base has been the place for many of the greatest Indians in team history, including the only one that the team was directly named after. Since 1996, the Indians have not had a single second baseman who started more than three seasons, but even so, one of those players still made a place high on the list.
10. Ray Mack - Years Starting 2B – 1940-1944
Mack’s five seasons as a starter were enough to place him at number 9, despite fairly poor stats across the board. While the top eight players are all upstanding members in Indians history, the final two spots on this countdown were hard to fill with legitimate players.
9. Jason Kipnis – 2012-Active
Kipnis has played less games than every other player in the top ten, but is already among the leaders in home runs (sixth), steals (fourth) and stolen base percent (second). While some of the other counting stats, like RBI and runs scored, still still lack, he is on a solid pace to increase those numbers and considering how long he is still under contract with the Indians, he has a chance to at least finish his career among the top three second basemen in Indians history.
8. Bill Wambsganss – 1915-1923
Wamby is famous for one thing, his unassisted triple play in the World Series, but he was also a solid second baseman for the Indians for most of a decade. He was part of the first Indians championship team with his great double play partner, Joe Sewell. His 1,170 games are among the most ever at his position and his 122 steals are the second most. He also has the second worst batting average of those listed at a position famous for high batting averages.
7. Johnny Hodapp – 1929-1931
Hodapp didn’t play very long for the Tribe, but his high batting average and proficiency at hitting doubles earned him a spot in the top ten. His .318 average is third out of all second basemen to play a significant time for the Tribe and he hit 134 doubles in just over 600 games, better than any other second baseman with less than 900 games played.
6. Joe Gordon – 1947-1950
Gordon played most of his Hall of Fame career away from the Tribe, but spent enough time manning second for the Indians to warrant a spot on this list. Despite his very short time with the Indians, he was one of two Indians second basemen to break 100 home runs. He was also a large part of the last Indians championship team in 1948 playing beside player/manager Lou Boudreau.
5. Bobby Avila – 1951-1958
Avila ended a long string of very talented second basemen for the Indians that started in the 1930′s. He ended up playing more games at second base than any other Indian besides Lajoie. Over that time he accrued some high numbers in high value stats like home runs and stolen bases, although he never knocked in a whole lot of runs. Avila was a prototypical second baseman, with more than 200 more runs than RBI and more than twice as many doubles as home runs.
4. Odell Hale – 1933-1934, 1938-1939
Hale played a long time for the Tribe (from 1933-1940, part of which was at third base) and was still able to keep an average near .300. He managed to build up some impressive counting stats over those years, playing in over 1,000 games while scoring and driving in more than 500 runs.
3. Roberto Alomar – 1999-2001
Alomar was one of the few big free agent signings in the past 20 years for the Tribe and he played amazingly. His three years with the team were arguably the best three years of any baseball player in Indians history. His 106 steals are third among second baseman and his 63 home runs are fifth. He was also one of the strongest defensive second basemen in team history, combining with Omar Vizquel for an absolutely amazing double play combination.
2. Carlos Baerga – 1992-1996
Baerga was part of powerful offenses of the mid 1990s and fit in well, hitting more home runs in his career than any other second baseman. He also ranks second in RBI and third in hits. Baerga was the closest to a power hitter on this list as his base hit numbers are skewed towards home runs and doubles and away from triples. He also had less steals than some players who played less seasons than he did.
1. Napoleon Lajoie – 1902-1914
The indisputable greatest Indians second baseman ever is also one of the greatest offensive players in team history and the history of all Major League Baseball. There are only two other Hall of Famers on the whole list (Alomar and Gordon) and both of them went in for their efforts with another team. Lajoie leads all Indians second basemen in almost every statistical category (except home runs and walks) and leads all Indians ever in at bats and hits. Not only was he the greatest Indians second baseman ever, it is possible there will never be another one half as good as he was.
Borderline: Tony Bernazard, Ronnie Belliard, Riggs Stephenson, Duane Kuiper, Jerry Browne