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Saluting Zobrist And Sherman:

Two Workhorses

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Original image by Martin Pettit and used under a Creative Commons License.
Ben Zobrist And Anthony Sherman Might Not Get The Headlines Of Peyton Manning And Mike Trout, But They Personify The Team Element In Modern Professional Sports

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Sept. 2, 2014 — Sports is often dominated by celebrities.

They are not the acting or wealthy type of celebrity, but those of the sporting kind: faces of franchises, bests in the game and so on. But those “celebrities” aren’t the only players playing the games. Each team is made up of unique parts, from locker room leaders to role players.

And, in honor of the recent Labor Day Holiday, I’m using this column to acknowledge two of the most overlooked players in MLB and NFL. These guys might not be celebrities but they are definitely workhorses. These are the guys who don’t headline ESPN. They play hard game in and game out, but don’t grab attention like Peyton Manning, Mike Trout and others like them.

They simply do their jobs and do it well. Their only reward is winning games, the admiration of teammates and a quite sizable paycheck (considering the minimum salary in all four major sports is still higher than most of us could hope to make in several years).

Ben Zobrist
The unheralded second baseman has been with the Tampa Bay Rays since 2007. Not coincidentally, the team finally became a contender in 2008, winning the AL East. Despite having a diminutive payroll, the Rays beat out contenders like the high paying Yankees and Red Sox.

Though Zobrist was just a role player on the 2008 squad (he batted .253 with 30 RBI in 198 at-bats), he was a key cog in the team because he played six positions in the field that year, giving the Rays flexibility to rest starters. While most players eventually settle in on one position when they become regular starters, Zobrist has continued to play multiple infield and outfield positions despite making two All-Star teams and putting up above average numbers.

Since 2008, Zobrist has been a key piece of a Rays team that is continually competitive. While it has had off years like this season and 2009, the Rays are no longer the laughing stock of the American League. They’re continually a legitimate contender for either the division or the the Wild Card.

Yes, Manager Joe Maddon and the rest of the organization has a lot to do with the success, but Zobrist makes it easier on all of them.

Zobrist is a big part of that because he offers value at a reasonable price. He plays almost every postion on the field and can contribute above average offense. He topped out in 2009 with 27 homeruns and 91 RBI, but is more often a 15-20 HR player with 70+ RBI potential and a batting average around .260. But, because he doesn’t consistently belt 25+ HRs or bat over .300, his salary is still reasonable at around $7 million per year.

He’s like a poor man’s Chase Utley with a more diverse defensive portfolio. That means he often falls under the radar in a market like Tampa Bay, but believe me, Ben Zobrist is a player most MLB teams would grab up in a second.

Anthony Sherman
The Arizona Cardinals knew they had a solid fullback in Anthony Sherman when they drafted the bruiser out of Connecticut in the fifth round in 2011. Unfortunately, new head coach Bruce Arians’ offense doesn’t have much need for a fullback, so the team sent him to Kansas City for cornerback Javier Arenas before last season.

Even though the Cardinals’ offense doesn’t need a player like Sherman, it still looks like KC got the better end of that deal. Arenas is no longer on the Cardinals roster and Sherman is one of the better fullbacks in the game.

Last season, Sherman proved he is one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league. He was the last line of defense in front of Jamaal Charles, who rushed for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. The Chiefs as a whole ran for 2,056 yards and 17 touchdowns, good for 10th in the league, with Sherman as the only fullback on the roster.

He was also a valuable outlet on third downs, catching 18 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.


Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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