The talent gap that exists between the upper echelon of AL shortstops and their NL counterparts is staggering. It’s like comparing the Grand Canyon to that crack in your driveway–one is truly awesome while the other is basically insignificant. In the words of CNNSI’s James Quintong, "It's a bad sign when the best NL player at the position this year is Jose Hernandez."
The AL’s top five, in order, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, Omar Visquel, and Derek Jeter each stand head and shoulders above anyone the NL has to offer. And the argument can be made that Seattle’s Carlos Guillen, Anaheim’s David Eckstein, and Minnesota’s Cristian Guzman would each rank at or near the top of the NL heap. And "heap" is the right descriptive.
In 2001 it appeared as though San Francisco’s Rich Aurilia’s bat was about to warrant his inclusion among the best active shortstops–despite his sometimes glaring defensive lapses. Instead, all Aurilia produced in 2002 was a bunch of bummed out fantasy baseball team owners.
Elsewhere, Barry Larkin is waaaaay past his prime and a shadow of the great player he once was. In Montreal, Orlando Cabrera is good. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins looked like an All Star last year but must have eaten at the same bad restaurant as Aurilia because he’s looked like he’s been suffering from food poisoning all season.
The exception here is Atlanta’s Rafael Furcal. He looks good now and could emerge as the type of player that cracks the AL stranglehold on the top five (or six, or seven) spots in the shortstop rankings.
Last, we have to add Neifi Perez. Up until mid-2001, when he was traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Kansas City Royals, Perez was considered to be quite possibly the best shortstop in the NL. Today, Neifi may not even be the best shortstop on a last place (or nearly last place) team; and certainly falls in the bottom third of AL shortstops. Yet, put him back in the NL and he likely falls in the top third.