Every team needs them. They’re the guys that can play multiple positions, guys that come in to pinch hit or serve as a defensive replacement in later innings. Sometimes they become starters or even stars.
5. Skip Schumaker
For about a decade following Fernando Vina’s departure, the Cardinals struggled to find a permanent solution at second base. Mark Grudzielanek, Ronnie Belliard and Aaron Miles are just a few to man the position. One of my favorite experiments is when Tony La Russa decided, “Screw it. We have more outfielders than we need, let’s teach one of them to play second base.” The man they chose was Skip Schumaker, probably because the Schu-man has a prototypical second baseman build, short and squat.
Skip had never played second base in his life. He adjusted pretty well. Always thought it was cruel though when Tony would make a defensive substitution for him and he’d go into the outfield. That’s a tough transition to make mid game.
4. Aaron Miles
As I mentioned, Aaron Miles was oft the Cardinals second baseman, but he also played short and third. However, it was his work as the “holy crap we don’t have any pitchers left guy” that got him included on this list.
3. Daniel Descalso
Double D is the Cardinals current utility guy; he plays second, third and short but could probably play the outfield too. His work during the 2012 NLDS against the Nationals is the reason why I love him. In game five, with the Cardinals down 6-4 in the eighth, he hit a one-run home run. With the Cardinals down, 7-5 in the ninth and the bases loaded, he hit a two-run single to send it to extras.
I don’t know if anybody remembers this now, but the Cardinals had no business winning that series. The Nationals were World Series favorites.
2. Placido Polanco
Placido played short, second and third for the early 2000s Cardinals and yes he has an oddly shaped head. This is one of the few cases where the Cardinals had no idea how good a guy was. He was a 19th round pick but became a career .297 hitter and an on base of .343. He also won three gold gloves, all late in his career.
1. Matt Carpenter
Carp 2.0 at least started as a utility guy, playing second, third and corner outfield in 2011 and 12. Then he became one of the best lead-off men in the majors last year. He led the league in runs (126), hits (199) and doubles (55) en route to silver slugger season at second base — .318 average, .392 on base. He’s been pretty good this year too, hitting .288.