The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 6, 2014

Thoma column: Jeter's leaving, but another wave of shortstops is arriving

Athletic careers are measured in dog years. They come and go so quickly.

It doesn’t seem that long ago (15 years or so) that the American League was blessed with “the Trinity” — three young shortstops of superstar stature. As it turned out, there were actually four of them, with Miguel Tejada emerging a true peer to Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Almost 10,500 hits, 38 All-Star Games, three batting titles and four MVP awards later, Jeter is the only one standing, and that just barely. Injuries blunted Garciaparra early (he hung ‘em up after the 2009 season), and both Rodriguez and Tejada, shortstops no longer, hope to continue their career after drug suspensions but haven’t played, majors or minors, this year.

Jeter is on his “farewell tour,” collecting parting gifts from rival organizations on his final visits to AL parks (the Twins on Saturday gave him the last second base from their Metrodome days) and one more All-Star start from the fans.

As one wave of talent recedes from the playing fields and into our collective memories, know this: There is another wave of shortstop greatness arriving.

Depending on whose list of prospects you looked at this spring, as much as half the top minor-leaguers were shortstops.

Xander Boegarts of the Boston Red Sox, his recent struggles not withstanding, is just the first of this group to make an impact.

The Chicago Cubs have two of those prospects: Javier Baez and Addison Russell, the latter of whom they got in a weekend blockbuster trade with Oakland — plus they have an incumbent, Starlin Castro, who just turned 24 and already has a pair of All-Star games on his resume.

Francisco Lindor of Cleveland might be the best defensively of the bunch, and then there’s Houston’s Carlos Correa, who may be the best overall player of the lot.

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