Ozzie Smith is evidence that the Hall of Fame does value defense. It was clear upon his arrival to the Sand Diego Padres in 1978 that Smith had the skills to play shortstop; it was just a question of hitting the ball. He finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting, hitting a respectable. 258, but he dropped to .211 his sophomore year and couldn’t crack .230 in two more seasons with the Padres. In 1982 he was traded to St. Louis where his hitting steadily improved, even batting .303 in 1987. But it was what he did on the field that earned him his place among the greats. In nineteen years as a shortstop, he would win thirteen Gold Gloves, appear in fifteen All Star Games and hold the lifetime record for assists by a shortstop. His finesse, grace and enthusiasm on the field made him a seemingly eternal fan favorite. Fast and smart, he ranks in the top 25 in lifetime stolen bases, despite his lower batting average. Impressively, he has the highest Defensive WAR in baseball history. No player ever won more games for his team with his glove than Smith.
July 21, 2012