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The age of...second basemen? And there's a live chat today

We're doing something in our preview section on shortstops - for the love of Neptune, please do not tell our competitors - and as I put together a list of the likely 30 starting shortstops in the game, it struck me:

Derek Jeter is not as good a player now as he was 10 years ago, right? It's nothing personal. I don't think there's a single 35-year-old player out there who is better than he was a decade ago.

But Jeter will very likely rank higher on this list of shortstops than he would have 10 years ago. At the very least, there were far more shortstops in the conversation back then, from Jeter's two studly contemporaries Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Rodriguez to the on-the-rise Miguel Tejada to the graceful and underrated Omar Vizquel to Barry Larkin, who received my Hall of Fame support this past year.

Now, though? Hanley Ramirez is the man. And...then probably Jeter, right? It's hard to tout Jose Reyes until he gets back on the field. Love Jimmy Rollins' act, but he's more than a bit overrated. Young'uns like Elvis Andrus and Stephen Drew have promise, but hardly have a body of work.

So if this isn't the age of shortstops, what is it the age of? What position is dominating this era? Off the top of my head, without any hard-core statistical analysis, I'd rank it like this:

1. Second basemen.An embarrassment of riches: In alphabetical order, Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill, Orlando Hudson, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, Brian Roberts, Dan Uggla, Chase Utley and Ben Zobrist, although Zobrist will probably shuffled between second base and rightfield. And look for the White Sox's Gordon Beckham to play himself into this group, this year.

2. Starting pitchers. Even in this age of the eight-man bullpen, we still are treated to a gaggle of aces out there. Too many to name, really. You could put starting pitchers first on this list. I just think the number of excellent second basemen is extraordinary.

3. First basemen. Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Justin Morneau, Carlos Pena, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis. Pretty, pretty good.

4. Third basemen. Evan Longoria, Mark Reynolds, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman. Gotta love the youth, especially with San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval coming off a great 2009.

5. Everyone else. Seriously, can you even distinguish among the outfielders (either centerfield or the corners), catchers, shortstops, designated hitters and closers? I wouldn't call it a great time for any of them.

Just trying to make a little conversation, that's all.

--Mariano Rivera had a good first Grapefruit League outing, Erik Boland writes, and Phil Hughes' strong start is mentioned, as well. Hughes is on his way to securing that fifth starter's spot.

--Good piece by Jim Baumbach on Wally Backman, who's back in organized baseball with the Mets after five years away. I wonder whether Backman can successfully walk the tightrope between highly enthusiastic and out of control. If he can, you'd think he'd get the chance to manage the Mets in the next three years or so.

--Chuck Knoblauch pleaded guilty in his assault case.

--Ken Rosenthal says the Mets should not bring Jenrry Mejia to the big leagues to start the season. I agree, as we discussed yesterday.

--Live chat at noon today. Please join us. I'll tell you whom I picked to win March Madness.



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