By Mark Smith
Stereotypes are interesting social phenomena. While they are almostalways given a negative connotation, stereotypes are actually quite usefuldescriptions. Let’s take a look at an example. If I wanted to describe to you an overweightwhite person with a Southern accent, a John Deere hat, jeans, and a wife beatert-shirt, it is a lot easier to say “hillbilly” than all of that (sorry to anyone currently wearing such athing; this is only example, and I’m about to justify my use of it). Itsaves a lot of time to be able to simply use our social observations to make aquick description of a person. The problem, however, is in the use of stereotypes. Instead of usingthem simply as descriptors, we attach judgments to those images or assume they are a certain way (often negative), and we oftendo so without knowing much about the person. The stereotype, therefore, isn’tthe problem. It’s the prejudice we use to associate with those images.
In baseball, we also have certain stereotypes, but we like to use thephrase “profiles for the position”. We have a certain image of what a catcheris supposed to be, of what a left fielder should be, and what a second basemanshould be. When players don’t fit those profiles, it often becomes difficult toaccept their contributions. Take Carl Crawford (well, pre-2011 anyway) and Brett Gardner, for example.They don’t fit the usual “mold” of a left fielder, and because they get a lotof their value from defense and baserunning, it was hard for people to acceptthat they were better than the traditional big bopper. On the flip side,shortstops such as Omar Vizquel are supposed to play good defense and run thebases, so he gets plenty of credit for having done so.
Now, these “profiles” can be helpful. They are there for a reason, andit is generally helpful to find guys who fit the “mold”. The thing to remember,however, is that there is value in people who don’t fit the traditional mold,and we shouldn’t judge someone based on how well he/ fits that mold. Looking atthe person and observing what they bring to the table is always advised beforemaking any judgments.
And after all that, here are players at each position who have had themost stereotypical (not the best)years for a player at the position. I’ll give a vague description of theplayer. You need to either remember or write down your guesses, and at the veryend of the post, I’ll put the answers (well,at least my answers; feel free to argue). Here we go:
Catcher: Catchers are relative unknowns. They don’t hitmuch, and most of what they do (pitch-calling, receiving, etc.) is fairly under-appreciated. They have to hit enough to play every day, but they aren’tparticularly good at it. Leadership is another important characteristic, but it’smore of an under-the-radar leadership.
First Baseman: If there’sone thing a first baseman has to do, it’s mash. He doesn’t have to hit, lookgood in a uniform, or play good defense. We only care about offense. Guys likeAlbert Pujols are overachievers.
Second Baseman: These areour scrappy guys who don’t hit particularly well but don’t strike out much,making them pesky. They play pretty good defense, but they aren’t flashy. They’remore yeoman-like. David Eckstein will forever be the paradigm, and we may neversee another like him.
Shorstop: They don’t have tohit, but we love the flashy gloves and strong arms. They have a lot of groundto cover and the longest throw to make, so we don’t care if they hit reallywell as long as they lay good defense. Preferably, they don’t hit for muchpower, so Alex Gonzalez is out.
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Third Baseman: As the othercorner infielder, third baseman need to hit as well, and we like power fromthis sot. Defense is preferable but not necessary, leaving Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre as athletic guys who are justshowing off. Third basemen should have a little pudge on them, too.
Left Fielder: On theoffensive spectrum, left fielders fit right behind first basemen. They don’tneed speed, and we prefer them bulky to help them hit home runs. They won’tplay good defense, but we don’t really care about that here.
Center Fielder: All we wanthere is speed, defense, and slap-hitting. They’re the scrappy guys of theoutfield.
Right Fielder: These guystend to be the most well-rounded of the outfielders. Offensively, they have tohit and hit for power, but we like them to be able to play defense, especiallywith a cannon arm. Speed isn’t particularly necessary as it might take awayfrom the power.
Bench Bat: This guy hits fairly well but with more power than patience or average. While he can also play a few defensive positions, he’s a liability if out there for long periods of time.
Utility Infielder: He plays several different infield positions, which must include shortstop, but he doesn’t hit well enough to start at any of them.
4th Outfielder: He can’t hit, but he can play all three outfield positions, which is nice to have late in a game.
Righty Ace: These guys arethe flame-throwers in the rotation, but we also want them to be durable.Typically, we like them to be a bit thicker built, but it isn’t necessary.
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Lefty Ace: While he needs tothrow 90, he’s not a flame-thrower due to his slight build, but he gets themost out of having excellent secondary pitches and control.
Innings Eater: He’sunspectacular, but sometimes, you just need a guy to throw 200 innings of solidbaseball to fill out that rotation. He probably doesn’t throw hard.
Middle Reliever: You expectthese guys to throw hard, but they don’t have prolific strikeout numbers and probablygive up too many home runs. It helps to be able to throw multiple innings, butthey’ll be rarely called on to do so.
LOOGY: He is left-handed,throws submarine, and only faces lefties.
Closer: These guys rack upthe saves, and while they are usually good relievers, they don’t necessarilyhave to be the best in the bullpen. What you want is intensity, flair, andpersonality along with a big fastball. Bonus points for glasses.
I’ll just take the time to note again before you look at the answersthat these guys had the most stereotypicalseasons for guys at their positions and not the best seasons. And that a lot ofthis is obviously tongue-in-cheek.
Answers: Kurt Suzuki, PrinceFielder (Ryan Howard also acceptable), Darwin Barney, Alcides Escobar, AramisRamirez, Matt Holliday (Michael Morse also acceptable), Michael Bourn, MikeStanton, Eric Hinske, Maicer Izturis, Tony Gwynn, Jr., Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Shaun Marcum, Grant Balfour (Matt Albersalso acceptable), Randy Choate (Javier Lopez also acceptable), Jose Valverde(Francisco Rodriguez also acceptable)