Every good team needs the glue guys, also known as those players on the roster that are flexible about playing time and position. There are several reasons that make this a necessary part of any successful team. The first is that Baseball is a notoriously long season. Players can’t play every day and get injured. Without teammates that can fill in at various places on the diamond or in the lineup, a team is much more likely to run into long term issues as they now have to dig into the minor leagues to bring up players that might not be ready yet or rely on players on an everyday basis that are marginal at best. These types of players also provide a manager with roster and lineup flexibility, allowing the manager to not only give his main players rest, but also take advantage of matchups’ in both early and late game situations.
Take a look at the two Mets championship teams in 1969 and 1986. Not only did these two teams use a lot of platoons, but they also had several players that played as many as three or more positions at one time or another during the season.
The 1969 Mets team is famous for its various platoons. Four players started 10 or more games at third base (Kevin Collins with 11, Ed Charles with 45, Bobby Pfeil with 40 and Wayne Garrett with 63) and second base (Ken Boswell with 91, Garrett with 34, Al Weis with 27 and Pfeil with 10). Of the 486 starts possible in the 1969 outfield, Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee made 260 of them, while four others made at least 10 starts (Amos Otis with 17, Rod Gaspar with 44, Art Shamsky with 76 and Ron Swoboda with 86). The glue guys on this team were multitudinous. Shamsky started games in rightfield, leftfield and at first base. Garrett was a key player in both the second base and third base platoons and filled in at short stop nine times, playing 24 total innings at the position. Weis played in 52 games at shortstop and 43 games at second base, logging a total of 654 innings at those two positions, the equivalent of nearly 72.7 games, nearly half a season’s worth of time. Without this group of guys helping to fill in time around the Mets key players in the field and on offense, the stellar pitching staff that the Mets had built would have had a much more difficult time carrying them to a World Series championship.
The 1986 team also used platoons to help surround the teams key players and to take advantage of matchup’s. Second base was a fairly strict platoon between Wally Backman (92 starts) and Tim Teufel (70 starts). Left field saw four players start at least 25 games (George Foster with 62, Mookie Wilson with 27, Danny Heep with 39 and Kevin Mitchell with 26). Center field was a platoon made up of Lenny Dykstra (98 starts) and Wilson (53 starts) with Mitchell and September call up Stanley Jefferson filling in occasionally. This team, though, had two key players that were the glue amongst the platoons and stars. Those two players were Mitchell and Howard Johnson. Mitchell started games at six different positions in 1986 (one at first base, three at third base, 20 at shortstop, 26 in left field, six in center field and 21 in right field). Johnson started 29 games at third base, 22 games at shortstop and one game in left field. Both provided strong bats off of the bench and would develop into all star players in their own rights in later years. The bench of the 1986 Mets was ultra talented and extremely flexible, giving manager Davey Johnson all kinds of combinations that he could put together to support his excellent pitching staff and his everyday offensive players in Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Ray Knight.
In both championship teams, the use of platoons and flexibility were key components in assisting these teams to get to the next level. That’s where Eric Young Jr. and Josh Satin come in for this team. Satin could be the quintessential glue guy. Last season Satin primarily played first base and third base for the Mets, but he has logged a multitude of minor league games at second base in his career and is working to learn how to play the outfield. Young can play all three outfield positions and was brought up through the minors playing his Dads old position of second base. Between the two of them, they could cover every offensive position other than catcher and shortstop.
They both also have special abilities. Satin kills left handed pitching and is extremely patient at the plate. Satin is also a line drive hitter, so he’s the perfect bench component to have fill in for one of the left handed bats in the Mets lineup when that southpaw comes out of the pen late in a game. He also can be used in double switch situations due to his flexibility in positions. Young doesn’t bring the same type of bat as Satin, but his speed is elite, allowing him to be used in both pinch hit and pinch run situations late in games. He also is a great double switch candidate due to flexibility. If the Mets find between 200 and 300 plate appearances for each player, their flaws won’t be exposed and the club will be able to take advantage of their abilities, giving Terry Collins extra weapons to surround his key offensive players with.
Both these players also mitigate potential issues on the club. Satin makes having Lucas Duda or Ike Davis on the team palatable as he can keep the first base position productive against left handed pitching, which, to this date, Duda and Davis have not shown the capacity to do. Young helps cover the gaps that could be created if Chris Young is still ineffective, Juan Lagares doesn’t make the offensive adjustments we all hope he does to keep his glove in the outfield and Curtis Granderson continues to show horrendous strike out rates. He also helps the club in the leadoff spot, where, if not forced to play every day, Young won’t be overexposed like he was in 2013.
The bottom line is that these guys aren’t the players a team is built around. A smart team finds these types of players to be the guys that are placed around those key players. On the 1969 Mets, Agee, Jones, Donn Clendenon , Bud Harrelson and Jerry Grote were the key everyday players that were surrounded by glue guys when the Mets made their run down the stretch of the season, straight to a championship. In 1986 it was Carter, Hernandez, Knight and Strawberry that were the core of the lineup around which platoons and glue guys were put into place. In 2014, the expectation is that those key core guys will be David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud. But four players don’t make a team. Let’s hope that Satin and Young can be the glue that holds the core players and the various other platoon and semi-regular players together towards a competitive season.