Steadiness is the game of players like Bill Freehan (see cover). Only occasionally are they the stars, but without them the stars could not shine. Their hits sustain rallies. They throw to the right cutoff man, are flawless on the rundown play. Almost no injury is serious enough to bench them, almost no move too insignificant if it will win games. To watch them closely is to learn what baseball is all about.
Putting together a winning record for the Mets is not easy. Tom Seaver has, with 16 wins in each of his two big-league seasons. He works fast and often (more than 500 innings already) and, maybe best of all, can field like a shortstop.
Claude Osteen had his first losing season for the Dodgers last year, but he pitched a lot of good innings for them, as he has been doing since 1965, averaging 15 wins a year as an indispensable minor pillar of an illustrious staff.
There are few jobs being done very well on the Washington Senators, but third base is an exception. For Ted Williams' information, Ken McMullen plays 150 games a year (a few of them at other spots) and hits 15 to 20 homers.
There were those who thought, with all due deference to superstars Gibson, Flood and Brock, that the most valuable Cardinal last year was Mike Shannon, who hit conspicuously well in the clutch and was as inspired at third base.
Almost as hidden as Shannon in a lineup of stars has been the Cincinnati second baseman and all-round infielder of three years, Tommy Helms. Spraying hits to all fields in the style of teammate Pete Rose, Helms averaged .288.
Mike Andrews, shown tumbling Luis Tiant here, has spent both his full seasons in the majors as Boston's regular second baseman. He helped win the '67 flag, hit .308 in the Series and retained his aplomb last year at bat and afield.
Since 1960, when he became the Cubs' third baseman, Ron Santo, fielding a hot one down the line, has lead the league regularly in such nitty-gritty departments as putouts and assists. He is also one of baseball's very best run producers.
A solid hitter, one of the top AL centerfielders (no errors in '68), a man who also put in 15 games at first base for the Tigers last year, Mickey Stanley will best be remembered for what he did in the World Series—at short.
Yes, there still is a dandy little shortstop named Luis Aparicio. In 1968, his 13th year in that position, he played 155 games for the White Sox, led all shortstops in assists and chances accepted and outhit most with .264.