The last five World Series champions must have had chemistry in mind when building a contending roster. Each winner had at least three “glue guys” who handled their responsibilities on the field and in the clubhouse.
Having a few 40-somethings around can’t help but keep a team even-keeled, and Jamie Moyer (45) was nearly twice as old as the young lefty he helped mentor, Cole Hamels. Forty-one-year-old Matt Stairs was a valuable weapon off the bench (.469 slugging) and against righties (.360 OBP). And a real Phillies favorite was Chris Coste, the memoir-writing backup catcher who at age 36 had his best offensive season with nine homers, all coming in the 69 games he started.
The team with the biggest payroll didn’t have a lot of spare parts on the roster, though Eric Hinske was a nice option to have off the bench. The Yankees did have two outgoing personalities in the outfield in Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher, and New York won the title in the only season in which those two were teammates. Not only did each guy have an OPS above .850, they kept the clubhouse loose in a crucial year for manager Joe Girardi and kept the media engaged and away from the usual headline-makers.
Cody Ross wasn’t even a trade-deadline grab; he was a waiver claim in late August. Yet he ended up being a spark in the clubhouse and in the lineup for a team that didn’t score much, and he caught fire in the playoffs. Aaron Rowand was always too tough for his own good, and by 32 he was past his offensive peak, but he still played an error-free center field and provided championship experience (2005 White Sox). And even though Mark DeRosa didn’t play after May that year, he remained a helpful veteran presence.
It was easy for Cardinals fans to love Skip Schumaker, an undersized former fifth-round pick who didn’t become a regular until he was 28. He unselfishly switched to an unfamiliar position, second base, in 2009, and hit .283 in the championship year while losing at-bats to others such as veteran utilityman Nick Punto. One Cardinal with extra reason to cherish his ring was popular lefty Arthur Rhodes, who made his only trip to the World Series in his 20th and final season.
Going from being an everyday player on a perennial loser to a reserve infielder role wasn’t a problem for ex-Cub Ryan Theriot. He did the same thing in 2011 for the champion Cardinals. Because of injuries in San Francisco, Theriot started 81 games at second base and batted .270. He then moved aside when midseason addition Marco Scutaro took over the position and batted .362. Center fielder Angel Pagan (MLB-best 15 triples) pumped the Giants full of energy after the lethargic start to their title run.