I was surprised when I read Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract to find that he ranked Joe Morgan ahead of the great cardinals second baseman Rogers Hornsby.
Did you know Hornsby is the only player to hit an average of .400 or greater over a period of 5 years (1921-1925)? Yet he's only #2 among second basemen according to Bill James.
Let's compare the two. Both Morgan and Hornsby have two MVP awards. Hornsby's career batting average is 87 points higher than Morgan's, Hornsby's OPS is almost 200 points higher than Morgan's and he has about 400 more RBI's. Morgan does have about more 100 more runs than Rajah. The only category Morgan kills Hornsby in stolen bases though, 689 to 135.
For my money Rajah is the best second baseman ever. In fairness to Morgan second base has become more of a defensive position and his five gold gloves are a great accomplishment. It shocked me to learn that in Hornsby's time third base was where the weaker hitters played and sluggers played second, this seems counter intuitive. I just can't see Evan Longoria or David Wright playing second, I'm sure they'd be great but it'd still be weird. (I wasn't alive when Morgan played, is there something I'm missing, some part of his game that goes beyond the numbers, leave a comment and let me know if you think Morgan is better than the numbers indicate.)
Morgan was truly and all-time great though and I'm honestly amazed at how incredibly cheap Morgan's cards are considering how good he was. I added this jersey card featuring him and Ian Kinsler to my collection for less than $2. It's from a box that retails for almost $100 (maybe more depending on where you're buying).
I previously had a few Hornsby jerseys in my collection and considering the leader in all-time batting average leader (with a mark of .366) Ty Cobb's bat cards command over $100 for an average card, it's crazy that the second man on the list, Rogers Hornsby (.358) jerseys like the one below can be had for less than $10 on ebay they seem like a deal, I'll have to get a few for my collection.
Don't get me wrong, I love Cobb, but the disparity is incredible.
Look at this list of the 50 Greatest Second Basemen and what do you notice? I noticed that there were hardly any truly collectible players on the list. Sandberg has his collectors, so does Biggio, as does Frisch, Lajoie and Kent but they're not anywhere near the collectibility of a the elite players at other positions. Even they're closest counterparts in the field put them to shame. Ripken and Jeter. Pujols and Gherig. Morgan and Hornsby? Not even close from a collectabilty standpoint.
They're too good to be ignored forever, with the resurgence of hard hitting second basemen like Utley and Kinsler I hope there will be a renaissance in the cards of the Morgans, Hornsbys and the like. Even Bob Feller thinks they deserve some hobby attention.