top of page
file.jpg
  • Writer's pictureSSTN Admin

SWISS ARMY BALLPLAYERS

With the current emphasis on twelve and thirteen member pitching staffs and stacked bullpens, position player versatility is at more of a premium than ever before. With three and four player benches, we’re seeing more of the “super utilitymen”; players who attain near regular status while playing multiple positions. DJ LeMahieu was signed last winter specifically for this purpose, and it worked out beyond even the most optimistic of Yankee fans’ expectations, as he turned in an MVP caliber season while playing second, third and a bit of first base. Another Yankee, Tyler Wade, has been groomed for that role in the minors, playing shortstop, second and third bases along with the outfield. His glove is ready for the role, the bat hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

The term “utility player” historically isn’t seen as a compliment, but as a player who typically wasn’t good enough to take a regular position. So, he gained value by picking up multiple positions in a backup role, scrapping to stay on a major league roster. In the 1950’s The Old Perfessor, Casey Stengel, thought outside of the box in roster utilization, and was one of the first managers to use “utility” players in more significant roles.

Gil McDougald

In his ten-year career, McDougald was Rookie of the Year in 1951, a five-time all-star, and garnered MVP votes in five seasons. Truly an important cog to eight pennant winners.

Early in his career, he floated between second and third base, averaging 66 games at second and 78 at third annually during the 1951-1955 seasons. In 1956, he added shortstop to his resume, where he appeared 92 times. During the decade, he appeared in over 120 games at all three positions in at least one season.

Elston Howard

Catcher Elston Howard debuted with the Yankees in 1955 and there was a huge roadblock at the position – future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who was durable along with being immensely skilled. Stengel didn’t use this as an excuse not to utilize Howard’s talents though. He was a three time all-star in the 1950’s, playing in at least four positions – catcher, first base, left field and right field – each season. He finished seventeenth in MVP voting in 1958 while playing 67 games behind the plate, 24 games between right and left field, and five at first base.

Stengel said of Howard “You can substitute, but you rarely can replace”. With Howard, “I have a replacement, not a substitute”.

Tony Kubek

Kubek was Rookie of the Year in 1957 while playing five positions during the season, an All-Star in 1958 playing five positions, and an All-Star in 1959 while taking six positions on the diamond.

Stengel’s last season as Yankee Manager was 1960, and when he left, his philosophy left as well. In 1961, Howard settled in as primary catcher and Kubek played 145 games at shortstop. Ralph Houk’s lineup was clearly a lot more stable than Stengel’s. It’s hard to fault The Major though, as he won pennants in his first three seasons of managing, and the World Series in his first two.

Coming back to the current day, there has been discussion on expanding the active roster to 26 players, which could add another bench player and give managers a bit more flexibility. That being said, success by LaMahieu and folks like Chris Taylor, Ben Zobrist and Marwin Gonzalez give all indications that the super utility player is here to stay.

Comments


dr sem.png

Start Spreading the News is the place for some of the very best analysis and insight focusing primarily on the New York Yankees.

(Please note that we are not affiliated with the Yankees and that the news, perspectives, and ideas are entirely our own.)

blog+image+2.jpeg

Have a question for the Weekly Mailbag?

Click below or e-mail:

SSTNReaderMail@gmail.com

SSTN is proudly affiliated with Wilson Sporting Goods! Check out our press release here, and support us by using the affiliate links below:

587611.jpg
583250.jpg
Scattering the Ashes.jpeg

"Scattering The Ashes has all the feels. Paul Russell Semendinger's debut novel taps into every emotion. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll reexamine those relationships that give your life meaning." — Don Burke, writer at The New York Post

The Least Among Them.png

"This charming and meticulously researched book will remind you of baseball’s power to change and enrich lives far beyond the diamond."

—Jonathan Eig, New York Times best-selling author of Luckiest Man, Opening Day, and Ali: A Life

From Compton to the Bronx.jpg

"A young man from Compton rises to the highest levels of baseball greatness.

Considered one of the classiest baseball players ever, this is Roy White's story, but it's also the story of a unique period in baseball history when the Yankees fell from grace and regained glory and the country dealt with societal changes in many ways."

foco-yankees.png

We are excited to announce our new sponsorship with FOCO for all officially licensed goods!

FOCO Featured:
carlos rodon bobblehead foco.jpg
bottom of page