You don't need a big arm, but speed and guile is paramount. And some of the greatest players in history have called it their position. The 10 best second basemen in baseball history (note that Rod Carew is not eligible, as he played 54 more games at first base):
No list of the best hitters of all-time can't be without Hornsby, a great combination of power and average. He led the National League in doubles four times, in home runs twice, and his 289 career homers are second among second basemen all-time behind Jeff Kent. His 1922 season was incredible. He had a 33-game hitting streak and batted .401 with 42 homers and 152 RBI at age 26. He hit .424 two years later. Playing most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Hornsby's career slugging percentage was .577 and his batting average was .358. He was a decent second baseman - he had some trouble with pop flies - but he had a .957 fielding percentage.
Played 25 seasons, a record for position players in the 20th century (1906-30), splitting them between the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox. He hit better than .340 in 11 seasons, but never won a batting title (his career paralleled Ty Cobb's). Collins led the AL in stolen bases four times and in runs scored from 1912-14. He won the AL MVP award in 1914, hitting .344 with 85 RBI and 58 stolen bases. He had 3,315 hits, and his career average was .333, with 1,821 runs, 744 stolen bases and 1,300 RBI. And later as the Red Sox's general manager, Collins signed Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams.
Nap Lajoie is an important player in baseball history, and not just because he was a .338 lifetime hitter. After compiling a .345 average in five seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, his defection to the rival American League in 1901 paved the way for the modern major leagues, giving an upstart league a star. He hit .426 with 125 RBI that season for the Athletics. He was sent to the Cleveland franchise, now the Indians, which were briefly named the Naps in honor of him. He played entirely in the dead-ball era (1896-1916), but still had 83 homers, 1,599 RBI, 1,504 runs and 380 stolen bases. And, by all accounts, he was fabulous in the field.
Gehringer was a quiet man, and a machine of productivity at second base for the Detroit Tigers from 1924-42. He was a solid fielder, leading AL second basemen in fielding percentage nine times. And at the plate, he batted better than .300 in 13 seasons, leading the league in 1937 at age 34, hitting .371. He drove in 96 runs that season and won the AL MVP award. He played in the first six All-Star games. Only 18 players in big-league history scored more runs (1,774), and Gehringer won a World Series with the Tigers in 1935. In his career, he hit 184 homers, stole 181 bases and had a .320 lifetime average.
The history of baseball can't be written without Robinson, who, of course, broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. His career stats are good - .311 career average, 134 home runs, 197 stolen bases - but the totals are hurt by the fact he didn't break into the majors until he was 28, playing just 10 seasons. The Brooklyn Dodgers star was voted MVP in 1949, when he hit .342 with 124 RBI and a majors-best 37 steals. He had a career .983 fielding percentage at second base as well, with great range. His No. 42 is retired by every major-league team because of what he meant to the game and to the civil rights movement.
A true winner, Frisch starred for John McGraw's New York Giants, and from 1921 to 1926, he averaged better than 100 runs scored, never batted below .324 and led the Giants to four consecutive pennants from 1921-24. He was traded for Rogers Hornsby in 1926 in a blockbuster deal, and hit better than .300 for seven of the next eight seasons for the Cardinals. He played for four more pennant-winners with the Gas House Gang, where he also was player-manager and led the Cardinals to a World Series title in 1934. He finished with a .316 career average, 1,244 RBI and 419 stolen bases.
One of the pistons in the Big Red Machine, Morgan was small in stature (5-7, 160 pounds) but packed a lot of pop. He was third all-time in walks behind Babe Ruth and Ted Williams at the time of his retirement in 1986, and was also the only second baseman to win consecutive MVP awards (1975 and 1976), when the Reds won the World Series. He only drove in more than 100 runs once (111 in 1976) and never had more than 27 homers. His two MVP seasons were the only ones in which he hit .300. But he also stole 689 bases and was an unquestioned leader, leading four different teams to the playoffs after the age of 35.
Sandberg was a great hitter in 16 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, but he might have been an even better fielder. He had 89 consecutive errorless games in 1989, and his career fielding percentage of .989 is tied for the best all-time. He was a prototype of power and speed, hitting .285 lifetime with 282 homers, 1,061 RBI and 344 stolen bases in his career. In 1984, when the Cubs ended a 39-year playoff drought, he was named NL MVP when he hit .314 with 19 homers. And he was also the consummate professional, immensely popular in Chicago. He played in 10 All-Star Games.
He was the best of the 1990s, hitting for power and average, stealing bases and displaying a fielding range that might have been the best ever. He became a star on the Toronto Blue Jays' back-to-back title teams in 1992 and 1993. He never won another World Series, bouncing around from team to team as a highly paid free agent. He almost made it back to the World Series in stints with the Orioles and Indians. He finished with a .300 lifetime average, with 210 homers and 474 stolen bases. He also won 10 Gold Gloves.
He might be a product of an offense-heavy era, but no second baseman has more career homers than Kent, who retired after the 2008 season with 366 round-trippers. He had an underrated career, rarely considered the best at his position but among the most consistent hitters in the National League for the better part of a decade. He had his best years with the San Francisco Giants, winning the MVP award (controversially, over teammate Barry Bonds) when he hit .334 with 33 homers and a career-high 125 RBI. His 1,467 RBI in 17 seasons is only surpassed by Hornsby, Lajoie and Gehringer on this list. Next five: Craig Biggio
, Bobby Doerr
, Billy Herman
, Lou Whitaker
, Joe Gordon