J.J. Hardy: the best shortstop in baseball?

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I didn’t see this, but reliable correspondents tell me that Billy Ripken was on MLB Network a few minutes ago and said that J.J. Hardy was the best shortstop in baseball. The general idea was that he was reliable and played every day and “started the 6-4-3 double play.” Which, man, if he didn’t do that he’d be fired for not carrying out his job responsibilities. Or at least would get written up by his supervisor.

But I’m not sure on what planet that makes him the best in the game. He’s reliable and sure-handed and has some pop, but I think I’d take Troy Tulowitzki, Andrelton Simmons, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Desmond and maybe a couple of others over him. Long term his teammate Manny Machado is a better bet at shortstop than Hardy is.

Which isn’t to slight Hardy. Just to say that this is the flipside of that stuff I talked about with Alfonso Soriano yesterday. Just as we seem to have a hard time talking about some players without being negative due to things like contracts and expectations, there are some players we can’t seem to praise without going crazy and talking about them in terms that are wild exaggerations. Ask Michael Young — also a very good player — who has been talked up as the best or one of the best far too much. Doesn’t take away from what he is, but certainly distorts the conversation about him.

Is it a TV thing? Are you trained as an analyst to say extreme things like “J.J. Hardy is the best shortstop in baseball” because saying “J.J. Hardy is good and solid” is considered too boring? Is this just an ex-ballplayer thing? I dunno. But I feel like we have a tremendous difficulty, overall, properly assessing most ballplayers due to a tendency to say some are the best ever and some are the worst ever while ignoring the fact that the vast, vast majority of ballplayers fit in neither category.

Yankees activate Giancarlo Stanton

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The New York Yankees have activated Giancarlo Stanton. He’ll be in the lineup in tonight’s game against the Rays.

Stanton has been on the injured list since April 1 due to a left biceps strain and a left shoulder strain sustained in what Aaron Boone called a “funky swing” at the time. He began a rehab assignment in late May, had it halted due to injury, and resumed it recently. He’s been swinging the bat well during his most recent stint, socking four homers in ten games.

That pop will be welcome. The Yankees have weathered Stanton’s injury — and injuries to Aaron Judge and scads of other players — but a team can’t defy gravity forever. At some point you need your established threats back. With Stanton coming back tonight, Judge coming back later this week and with the addition of Edwin Encarnación in that trade with Seattle, the Bombers should continue to hit bombs throughout the summer.