#27 - David Eckstein, SS
We got him when he was put on waivers by the Red Sox in the Summer of 2000. He played his way onto the team and as a leadoff hitter became known as The Sparkplug.
At 5'6" he was regularly underestimated and was an excellent pitch-hacker, making sure foulball after foulball wore out the arms of the opponents on his watch. In 2001 and 2002, he led the American League in both HBP and Sacrifice Hits, no the most stellar categories, but emblematic of a baseball acumen that favors team results over personal glory. Eckstein spent every second in the batter's box beating the opponent.
In the 2002 season he put together a great year as leadoff hitter with a .363 OBP and 236 Total Bases in 152 games. He symbolized the underdog Anaheim squad in the postseason and was a fan favorite.
Eck's offense was never a question, but his defense - especially a league-low double plays turned based on # of chances - made him expendable with the rise of Chone Figgins.
That David has done well with the Cardinals - he was selected an All-Star in 2005 - is great, but the controversial decision to ditch him is defensible, not just because at the time, after an arbitration victory the season prior, he was on the verge of a big contract, but also because Eckstein's offensive contributions are replicated in the lineup as long as Figgy produces.
Angel Lifer Brent Carter, who selected Eckstein as #25 All-Time, concurs:
In his short career with the Angels "Eck" left a lasting impression. Like Kennedy he is an excellent bat handler, is expert at executing the hit and run, is a good baserunner, and was voted by Baseball America two years ago as the best sacrifice bunter in the AL. He does all the little things.
I love the fact that he led the league in being hit by pitches in 2002. This showed me that he would do anything to get on base and anything to help his team win. Indeed, he had a great OBP. How many superstars would jump out of the box to avoid the pain of being plunked, even if it would help their team in the situation?
If I'm a General Manager, David Eckstein is someone I definitely want on my team.
David's highest placement on the Top 40 Ballot was #13 All-Time, by Halosheaven Panther yeswecan.