Connor Reed who wrote the original post has added new information, so I will re-post it.
The importance of a role-player is commonly overlooked. They deliver when you need them, but they don’t play everyday, or enough to make All-star teams, and don’t make big pay checks, which leaves them out of the spotlight. However, they can easily change an outcome, which they commonly do.
Take the 2004 Boston Red Sox as an example. The team was loaded with stars (Ortiz, Pedro, Manny, Varitek, Damon, Schilling). But when the entire season’s work was on the line, a man making less than a million bucks came through: Dave Roberts.
Trailing by one in the ninth inning of game four, just an inning from elimination, he came in to run for Kevin Millar. Mariano Rivera twice attempted to pick him off with no avail, and Roberts took off on the first pitch, beating Jorge Posada’s near perfect throw by centimeters. Roberts scored from there on Bill Mueller’s line drive, tying the game, which allowed Ortiz to win the game three innings later. In the eighth inning of the following game, Roberts again came in to replace Millar. Pitcher Tom Gordon was so paranoid by Dave’s presence he threw three consecutive balls in the dirt. When he finally got a strike, Roberts was off, racing to third on Nixon’s single, and later scoring the tying run on a Jason Varitek sacrifice fly. Five innings, later, thanks to Roberts, David Ortiz was able to win it again.
Avid baseball fans remember these events. Just as they remembered how Herb Washington, a track star with no baseball experience, was hired as a “designated pinch-hitter” for the Athletics in 1974 and 1975, appearing in 105 games despite lacking a defensive inning or at-bat. They remember how Manny Mota, Gates Brown, Rusty Staub, and Lenny Harris were excellent pinch-hitters. They know how important these guys are to winning a championship.
PH OBP Bunt Singles PH PA SB as a Sub
2008 Rays 298 21 131 5
2007 Rays 253 9 69 1
The Rays do too. When you don’t have much money to spend, you can’t buy big name players. You have to change the management’s style. Look at these differences (PH = pinch-hitters).
So, who are the role players in the game today? Willie Bloomquist and Eric Bruntlett play every infield and outfield position, Mike Redmond bats .268 against righties and .331 against southpaws, Joey Gathright is an excellent pinch-runner, Brad Ausmus is a defensive upgrade to basically any catcher, and Johnny Gomes can give a manager more power. These aren’t the only guys, though. Alex Cora, Ryan Spilborghs, Eric Hinske, Omar Infante, Brett Gardner, Joey Inglett, Alex Amezaga, Hector Luna, Jolbert Cabrera, Willie Harris, Mark Loretta, Matt Stairs, Mark DeRosa and Greg Norton – all guys who are unknown to many fans – also can be called role-players.
All in All, these underrated players are needed on a championship team, and most helpful to teams like the Rangers, who don’t have many big-name stars.
*This post was written by Connor Reed*