The All-Time LA Dodger Team: Utility Man

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Rick Dempsey easily won the backup catcher spot on our all-time team.  At least now we know fans will be entertained during rain delays.

We now move on to the utility man spot.  We want our utility man to be able to fill in at multiple positions, giving our team optimal flexibility.  I have an idea of the guys I want in this role, but lets see just who qualifies.

I looked at players to play at least 50 games at 2B, SS, and 3B, since that would provide flexibility.  There are four players who qualify:  Billy Grabarkewitz, Ted Martinez, Derrel Thomas, and Dick Tracewski.

Ideally, however, I envision our utility man as someone who will also be able to play some outfield if asked.  I found six players to play 50 games at 2B and OF:  Thomas, Jolbert Cabrera, and Lee Lacy (Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Jim Gilliam don't count here since they were starters).

Being able to play both middle infield and the outfield is important.  I found only two players to play 50 games at SS and OF:  Thomas and the ineligible Russell.

I feel pretty comfortable limiting this position to three candidates.  Here are their games played by position as LA Dodgers:

Player C 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF
Jolbert Cabrera    0 8 60 8 9 34 38 5
Lee Lacy 0 0 224 25 2 79 25 61
Derrel Thomas 5 1 80 53 97 28 229 54

Sadly, none of them ever pitched.  Here are their stats as LA Dodgers:

Utility Man
Years Total G
BA/OBP/SLG OPS+
Jolbert Cabrera   
2002-2003 138 .284/.335/.437 105
Lee Lacy
1972-1978 497 .270/.324/.390 101
Derrel Thomas   
1979-1983 522 .257/.330/.347 90

Eric's Pick

For me, Jolbert Cabrera just wasn't here long enough to be on the team, at least not with two better options in Lacy and Thomas.  Lacy was the better hitter, but I'm fascinated by Thomas.  I never saw him play with the Dodgers, but I do remember seemingly every other pack of 1986 Topps had a Derrel Thomas card with the Phillies.

Thomas was an odd man, that's for sure.  He was once voted by his peers to be the biggest "hot dog" in the National League.  According to a 1987 Sports Illustrated article, about Thomas' firing as a manager:

As a player, Thomas was something of a flake—he was once discovered washing his car while a game was in progress.

No, his dismissal did not bring to mind the words of Campanis, but rather the words of Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. When told that Thomas would be a manager, Lasorda said, "I have lived long enough to see it all."

Well, we're not choosing a manager here, but rather a utility man.  Thomas comes out ahead of Lacy because of his increased versatility -- more games at SS and CF than Lacy.  And he was a switch hitter, making him even more flexible!  But the real reason I'm picking Derrel Thomas is those 5 games at catcher in 1980.

Phil's Pick

The pickings are slim. Derrel Thomas could play all the positions but the only one I remember he being good at was CF. He just wasn't much of a hitter. he was a poor mans Tony Philips.  He did have some reported drug problems in his day and real drug problems after he retired but is now  doing his best to remain on the right path. I'm afraid Manny Mota might beat out Lee Lacy for right handed pinch hitter so I'm going to vote for Lee here. He didn't play much infield besides 2nd base while he was with the Dodgers but he could have.  Russel or Cey just didn't take much time off. He didn't play catcher but he did play a fine outfield and one vivid memory I have of him is Vinny describing him catching a fly ball near right field line, hitting the brakes and doing a  180 turn and throwing the runner out at home. Vinny described it as a Roberto Clemente type play, and his enthusiasm for the play has always remained with me.   In 1978 he hit 13 home runs in only 245 at bats posting a plus 500 slug%. I'll take that from my utility player.  Dusty Baker the regular left fielder only hit 11 home runs in 522 at bats that year.

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