Who are the iron men of the game today?

January 25th, 2016

When he displaced Lou Gehrig, the immortal "Iron Horse," as the game's all-time iron man, Cal Ripken Jr. set a bar so ridiculously high it likely never will be scaled.

Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played are more than twice as many as any player in history, with the exception of Gehrig and his seemingly unapproachable 2,130. Everett Scott (1,307), Steve Garvey (1,207) and Miguel Tejada (1,152) complete the top five.

No threats to Ripken are found on the current landscape, but that doesn't mean there aren't a number of uncommonly durable, reliable players. The standouts, by position:

Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

Salvador Perez of the reigning World Series champion Royals is on pace to catch the great Molina, but Yadier remains a marvel, having led the National League in games caught four of the past seven seasons.

Molina, despite a late-season thumb injury, appeared in 134 games in 2015, five fewer than MLB leader Perez. The Royals' rock also led in 2014 with 146 games behind the plate -- not including 16 in postseason play.

Molina, postseasons included, has averaged 136 games over his 11 full seasons as field general of the Cardinals. St. Louis has made the postseason nine times since his 2004 arrival.

Honorable mention goes to Russell Martin, Matt Wieters and Kurt Suzuki. Each led the league twice in games played. Since 2013, Jonathan Lucroy (341), Martin (336), Buster Posey and Miguel Montero (331) and Suzuki (320) trail Perez (406) and Molina (365) in starts.

First base: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Another force behind Kansas City's rise, Eric Hosmer has led the American League in games played at his position two of the past three seasons. But the Cubs' Rizzo leads the Majors with 459 games, 458 starts and 4,104 1/3 innings at first since 2013. Hosmer is third with 442 games, 431 starts and 3,848 2/3 innings.

Adrian Gonzalez, who has led both leagues in games played at the position, is right behind Rizzo with 457 appearances, 445 starts and 3,870 2/3 innings. Prince Fielder, Joey Votto and James Loney have led the league twice in games played. Freddie Freeman played all 162 in 2014 and 426 since '13, one more than Paul Goldschmidt.

Second base: Robinson Cano, Mariners

His power numbers have suffered in leaving the Bronx for Seattle, but Cano has continued to perform on a daily basis, gaining a respectful nod over the versatile Brian Dozier of the Twins and the irrepressible Jose Altuve of the Astros.

Dozier leads in games played (459) and Altuve in starts (454) the past three seasons, but Cano is right there, with 452 games and 451 starts. Ian Kinsler also doesn't like to sit: 437 games, 435 starts. Cano and Dan Uggla have led their leagues in games played three times, Dustin Pedroia twice.

Shortstop: Ian Desmond, free agent

Desmond gets a call that easily could go to Alcides Escobar -- another durable Royals player -- Alexi Ramirez or Elvis Andrus. Also uncommonly durable at this demanding position are Andrelton Simmons, Erick Aybar, Jean Segura, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brandon Crawford, J.J. Hardy, Jimmy Rollins and Jhonny Peralta, each making least 400 starts since 2013.

Escobar and Ramirez led with 468 games, Desmond with 467 starts. Desmond leads in innings (4,136 2/3), with Escobar (4,128 2/3) and Ramirez (4,127) on his heels.

Third base: Kyle Seager, Mariners

The Dodgers are hoping Corey Seager is close to as durable as his big brother, Kyle. Seattle's Seager leads all MLB infielders the past three seasons in games played (477), starts (474) and innings (4,248). He has missed a total of 13 games in four seasons, leading the AL the past three seasons at the position.

Rebounding from knee surgeries in true Ripken tradition, the Orioles' Manny Machado played all 162 games in 2015: six starts at shortstop along with 156 at third. Rising Rockies superstar Nolan Arenado led the NL with 157 games at third.

Toronto's reigning AL Most Valuable Player Award winner Josh Donaldson (455 games, 451 starts) was right behind Seager the past three seasons. Evan Longoria, Todd Frazier and Adrian Beltre rounded out the top five in durability.

Outfield: Hunter Pence, Giants; Adam Jones, Orioles; Nick Markakis, Braves

Since 2008, Markakis, Pence and Jones are 1-2-3 in games played in the outfield. Oblique, forearm and wrist injuries finally caught up with Pence in 2015, but only Markakis among active outfielder matches Pence's run of 161, 162 and 159 games from 2012 through 2014, leading the NL. Pence, Markakis, Matt Kemp and Ichiro Suzuki each have led their league in games played three times, Jones twice.


In 2015, the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon (155) and Jays' Kevin Pillar (158) were league leaders in outfield appearances. The Angels' Kole Calhoun (157) and Mike Trout (156) ranked right behind Pillar.

Among left fielders since 2013, Alex Gordon (412 games, 410 starts) leads Justin Upton (404, 386) and Starling Marte (379, 353). Andrew McCutchen (453, 451) holds the edge in center over Jones (445, 443) and Trout (416, 412). Markakis (455) leads in right over Jay Bruce (441, 438) and Torii Hunter (394, 387).

A special toast goes to Hunter, a man who graced the game for 19 seasons. Wrapping up his career where it started, with the Twins, Hunter remained amazingly durable through ages 37 to 40.