Monte Cross will be played at short in the early games by the Browns, but if he does not show a decided improvement in his batting he will be relegated to the bench, and Sullivan called in from the field and stationed at short field. In event of this Douglass will be placed in left garden.
-Sporting Life, March 27, 1897
We're probably going to talk about Monte Cross a few times and I'll get into more detail about his career but I was looking at his career stats just to try and get a sense of Monford Montgomery Cross as a player. What kind of ballplayer was Monte Cross? I don't think there is any doubt he was the best player on the 1897 Browns or, at the very least, had the best season of any of the players on the club. But was Cross, overall, a good player?
Looking at his stats, I think he was. I think he had value and the fact that he got 6700 plate appearances in the majors seems to back that up. But he certainly wasn't a slugger and his slash line is a rather anemic .234/..316/.313. For his career, he had an OPS+ of 80. So where did his value come from?
I think the evidence supports the idea that Cross was a pretty good defensive shortstop. It appears that he was rangy and got to a lot of balls. He led all shortstops in putouts for six straight seasons and was, overall, in the top ten in assists for six seasons. He was also in the top ten in errors for ten seasons, which shows that he's getting to a lot of balls. I don't think he was a great defensive shortstop and his dWAR certainly doesn't show that but I do think he was a good one. Interestingly his comps include guys like Freddie Patek, Leo Durocher, Mark Belanger, Alfredo Griffin, Tim Foli, and Marty Marion. I don't think I'd rank him with Belanger or Marion but I can totally see the comparison to Patek and Foli.
Cross also walked a lot. He was in the top ten in walks four times which is pretty darn important when you're hitting .230. He also had some speed, which you can see in his 328 career stolen bases as well as in his defensive stats. He wasn't Ty Cobb exactly but he sure wasn't Yadi Molina.
So, overall, you got a guy who was a good defensive shortstop, who had some speed, and, while he didn't hit much, could draw a walk and wasn't - kind of - too far off from being a league average hitter for his career. I have no problem ranking him somewhere between Patek and Foli and when I checked JAWS, that's exactly where he was. JAWS puts him right above Walt Weiss and Brendon Ryan (who I also think is a really good comp) and just below Rich Aurilia and Bucky Dent. That's a valuable player and a guy who could contribute to a championship club. I'd have no problem starting a guy like Monte Cross on my club.
And look at that picture. The ladies would love him. Put him on the Cardinals today and you'd sell a lot of pink Monte Cross jerseys.