In honor of Tuesday's All Star Game and all the great players participating in it, answer this question: Who is the best position player in baseball?
I don't mean the player having the best month or season or season and a half. Lots of guys have been great for a season or two before they got hurt or busted for steroids or the league figured them out. The best position player in baseball should have more than two seasons of sustained excellence. Two years is an arbitrary number, but I hope we can agree on it.
That means no Yasiel Puig. No Chris Davis. No Mike Trout. God love them for the future.
From 2005 to 2010, the No. 1 position player was Albert Pujols. There was no discussion. He could hit for average – .357 in 2008 – and power – 47 home runs in 2009. But since he turned 31 years old in 2010, his numbers have declined. This season he's hitting just .249, 72 points worse than his .321 career average. He isn't even an All-Star.
Today, no consensus exists on the best position player in the majors, but we probably can agree on a top five: Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey.
I'll make a case for and against each player, and then I'll choose which player is the best. Remember, these are the best players in the game. Each time I make a case against one of them, I'm playing the devil's advocate.
<i>The case for Cabrera: </i>He's the best hitter in baseball. Last year, he won the Triple Crown and the American League MVP award, and this year he's playing even better – .367 batting average, 30 home runs, 95 RBIs and 58 walks.
<i>The case against Cabrera: </i>He's a subpar fielder wherever you play him – third base, first base or the outfield. Also, he committed the ultimate baseball sin last season when he struck out looking to lose the World Series for the Tigers. He was a statue at the key moment of his career. Fans never will forget the image of Cabrera standing there.
<i>The case for Cano: </i>The past five seasons he's hit .312 with 136 home runs for the Yankees. No other second baseman has had that combination of power and ability to hit for average since Jeff Kent. Unlike Kent, Cano is a good fielder – he won Gold Gloves in 2010 and 2012.
<i>The case against Cano: </i>He's just a second baseman. It's valuable and rare to have a power-hitting second baseman, but it's more valuable to have a power-hitting shortstop or a power-hitting catcher.
<i>The case for Beltre: </i>He's a four-time Gold Glove third baseman and he's been one of the most dominant hitters in baseball since 2010. This season he has 21 home runs and a .316 batting average. Last season he had 36 home runs and a .321 average. He is the Rangers' best player.
<i>The case against Beltre: </i>He's 34 years old and, as good of a fielder as he is, he isn't even the best overall third baseman in the majors. That's Cabrera.
<i>The case for McCutchen: </i>The Pirates' Gold Glove center fielder is a five-tool player – he hits for power and average and he can field and throw and run. He already has stolen 20 bases this season, and he's just 26 years old.