Friday, March 26, 2010

Solid Players Win Championships

While writing an earlier post today about Daniel Murphy, I got to thinking about how much "solid players" really make a difference in championship teams.  These are the guys who aren't always studs, or household names.  They aren't guys who teams pitch around, or guys who have huge contracts.  They are the guys who get the job done, sometimes with little fanfare, and really make a team successful.  These are the guys in 20 years, who will be hard to remember.  They are the guys you'll sit around with your friends and talk about trying to remember where they played.  They aren't your perrenial all-stars, home run kings or Cy Youngs, but they do not need to be obscure.

This is the type of player Daniel Murphy has a chance to be this year.  Murphy will probably not ever be a star in the league, but he can be a "solid" player.  If the Mets have a successful season it won't be because of Daniel Murphy, but if Daniel Murphy has a successful season there is a much better chance for the Mets to be successful.

So in thinking this, I decided to see who the "solid" players were on the last 10 World Champs.  All of these players had good seasons when their team won it.  Whether it was unexpected, out of character, or a rebound season, these players are arguably the ones that got their teams over the hump from good, to great.

- 2000 New York Yankees - Scott Brosius 

He hit .239 with 16 homers, 64 RBI, 57 runs scored, but always seemed to get the big hit, and played a very solid third base.  The guy wasn't a star in terms of stats, but you never wanted to face him in crunch time.  The 2000 Yankees were a great team, but Brosius really had a lot to do with that, in my opinion.  As a Yankee hater, I was ALWAYS hoping someone else would be up instead of this guy in clutch situations, but clutch found him, and he delivered...

- 2001 Arizona Diamondback - Reggie Sanders

Although Sanders had some monster years, and a great career, I found it too difficult to leave him off this list.  He hit 33 homers, drove in 90 runs while hitting .263 in 2001 for the D'backs.  A very good year by most standards, and seemingly he doesn't fit this "solid" player profile because of him having put up very good numbers both before and after this season.  However, the year before his season with Arizona he played poorly for the Braves.  Sanders was bad, only hitting 11 homers, driving in 37 RBI and hitting .232.  Also Sanders makes this list because of how many times his teams were playing in the world series.  He just always found a way to end up on a contending team...always.

- 2002 Anaheim Angels - Adam Kennedy

Kennedy was the starting second baseman on a good team, and put up good numbers.  He was far from a hole in the line-up hitting .312 with 7 homers, 52 RBI while scoring 65 runs.  A nice addition to a very good line-up.

- 2003 Florida Marlins - Juan Encarnacion

Could there be a player who fits the, "Do you remember him?" criteria more than this guy.  He's always been a good pro, but call me in 20 years when you're trying to figure out where he played over a beer at a barbeque.  He had a great year in Florida in 2003 hitting 19 homers, scoring 80 runs, while driving in 94 and hitting .270.  But was he the star?  Not on a team with Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Derek Lee, Castillo (before he stunk) and a 20 year-old-phenom Miguel Cabrera.  He just added to the whole...

- 2004 Red Sox - Mark Bellhorn

This is without a doubt my favorite player on the list.  He hit .264 with 17 homers, 82 RBI and scored 93 times for the World Champs.  Outside of his 2002 campaign with the Cubs where he hit 27 homers, he never got close to this kind of production again.  His next best season he hit 8 homers in 2006 with the Padres.  Let's see who remembers him in 10 years for reasons that don't involve a double ear-flapped helmet...

- 2005  White Sox - Tad Iguchi

In his first year in the bigs the Japanese import really added something to the Sox, hitting .278 with 15 homers, 71 RBI and 74 runs scored.  He still played second fiddle to Dye, Rowand and Konerko.

- 2006  St. Louis Cardinals - Chris Duncan

A monster year in only 90 games. 22 homers, 43 RBI, 60 runs scored, and hit .293.  He was the big bat around Pujols that the Cardinals needed...Now, he's fighting for a spot on the Nationals roster.

- 2007  Red Sox - Coco Crisp

He was the key piece to the Red Sox not named Ortiz, Youkilis, Ramirez or JD Drew.  Wow, that team was good.  Oh yeah, and Crisp hit .268 with 6 homers, 60 RBI, and 85 runs scored.  Nice little contribution to a team, despit eventually being replaced by Ellsbury in the playoffs...

- 2008 Phillies - Brad Lidge

Yes Lidge was awesome this year, and has been awesome in the past and since.  BUT...the year prior to 2008 he was a mess.  The Phillies took a chance on him and came out better for it.  In 2007 Lidge only saved 19 games with a 3.36 ERA with the Astros.  In 2008 he had 41 with an ERA of 1.95.  Turn around much?

- 2009 Yankees - Melky Cabrera

If you think this team was loaded you and should have won with all it's star power, you're right.  But even so getting 13 homers, 68 RBI, 66 runs scored and a .274 from basically your number nine hitter is pretty impressive.

The Point:

Every team needs support for their stars, and these are guys that did that for their teams.  I would argue that without these guys, with the exception maybe of Melky Cabrera, these teams might not have won without these guys.

So, the point is maybe it's the Mets turn, and maybe it's Murphy's turn...

If Murphy has a nice year for the Mets and the starting pitching turns it around, who knows, he could be that guy for the Mets.

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