Every MLB Team's Most Influential Clubhouse Leader
Dustin Pedroia and the other influential clubhouse leaders in Major League Baseball have various means of encouraging their teammates. Fortunately, every roster has a reputable veteran role model in 2013.
Albert Pujols is known for going about his business quietly and setting a high standard for on-field performance. By contrast, Nick Swisher and Torii Hunter will make themselves available during downtime to connect with men of all ages.
They all make life easier for MLB managers by nipping personal and professional problems in the bud.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Miguel Montero
Jim Gintonio of The Arizona Republic named Justin Upton, Chris Young and Miguel Montero as leaders on the division-winning 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks.
Only one of those players remain in the desert.
After Montero agreed to a five-year contract extension, manager Kirk Gibson elaborated about why the D-Backs wanted to lock him up:
"He sets a great example for his teammates," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "Most of all is the energy he brings every day to this ballpark. Unbelievable. It's impressive. He's always digging. Things have been tough this year, but I can assure you every inning that he comes into the dugout, he voices and articulates to his teammates never to give in."
Atlanta Braves: Tim Hudson
Every Bleacher Report list of top young talent in the majors is laden with Atlanta Braves players.
And deservedly so. The club has developed Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran and other All-Star-caliber guys.
Of course, following Chipper Jones' retirement, leadership responsibility didn't fall into the hands of these kids.
Rather, 37-year-old right-hander Tim Hudson took control of the clubhouse. He is the last remaining relic from Atlanta's most recent NL East title in 2005.
Baltimore Orioles: J.J. Hardy
With Brian Roberts so often injured, double-play partner J.J. Hardy emerges as the most experienced everyday player on the Baltimore Orioles.
Manny Machado credits Hardy for helping him make quick adjustments as a rookie in 2012.
The shortstop has been praised for his "tremendous leadership skills" since his Milwaukee Brewers days (via JockBio.com).
Boston Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia used the 2012 campaign to assure all the skeptics that he could command the Boston Red Sox clubhouse.
New manager Bobby Valentine had started the season on an awkward note by questioning Kevin Youkilis' commitment. As reported by The Boston Globe, Pedroia came to the defense of his longtime teammate and fearlessly told Valentine, "that's not the way we go about our stuff around here."
Then in October, with the Red Sox doomed to finish in last place, the veteran second baseman continued to embrace his responsibilities as a leader. He explained to NESN.com that playing through a broken finger was about teaching the team's younger players to compete every night, regardless of the circumstances.
Chicago Cubs: Alfonso Soriano
The Chicago Cubs have been eager to discuss Alfonso Soriano in trade talks over the past couple years, but let's be clear—they want to dump his contract, not his personality.
Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Sullivan asked Theo Epstein, the team's president, about "a new breed of leaders in the Cubs clubhouse."
After praising some newcomers, he surprisingly brought up Soriano:
"He's very much a leader," Epstein said. "Very vocal in team meetings, takes young players under his wing."
Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko
No corner infielder in the game today has been with the same American League team longer than Paul Konerko. He has manned first base for the Chicago White Sox since 1999.
This marks his eighth season as official captain.
Konerko has twice shown loyalty by choosing Chicago as a free agent despite other tempting offers. General manager Kenny Williams even admits that he considered promoting him to a player-manager position after the 2011 season (via Doug Padilla, ESPNChicago.com).
Cincinnati Reds: Brandon Phillips
Joey Votto might be the most valuable player on the Cincinnati Reds, but Brandon Phillips has a greater influence on teammates.
His energy and internal smile are infectious.
Also, others respect that the second baseman stays motivated despite a hefty contract (via kypost.com).
Cleveland Indians: Nick Swisher
Nick Swisher is an Ohio native and alum of the Ohio State University.
But those details don't endear him to his Cleveland Indians brethren. His enthusiastic personality does.
As GM Chris Antonetti said at Swisher's introductory press conference, "He has the ability to energize a group and lead" (via Paul Hoynes, The Plain Dealer).
Colorado Rockies: Michael Cuddyer
Lengthy stints on the disabled list for Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki pushed Michael Cuddyer into a leadership role last summer, according to Pat Saunders of The Denver Post.
Who cares if it was his first season with the Colorado Rockies? Cuddyer's willingness to play various defensive positions sends a positive message in any clubhouse.
"He's very outgoing, always willing to help," said fellow utility man Jordan Pacheco. "He's like that for everybody."
Detroit Tigers: Torii Hunter
Although it is Torii Hunter's first year in a Detroit Tigers uniform, Josh Slagter of mlive.com reports that he won't waste any time building strong relationships.
"I'm just going to go in and kind of talk to guys one and one, have some fun, different things like that. If you want to come talk to me about anything, come talk to me. And that's how you build chemistry with your teammates."
Center fielder Austin Jackson "definitely looked up to him" before they even met because of Hunter's great reputation on and off the field.
Houston Astros: Carlos Pena
The rebuilding Houston Astros are devoid of long-tenured players to promote the franchise's values and policies.
The next best thing? Sign a player who comes from a successful situation.
General manager Jeff Luhnow sounded a bit delusional in this interview with the MLB Network when calling Carlos Pena a legitimate, middle-of-the-order threat. The veteran first baseman honestly isn't a 30-homer power source anymore.
However, he was correct to emphasize "not only what he does on the field, but what he does off the field and in the clubhouse."
Kansas City Royals: James Shields
Wow, another veteran player making his presence felt in a new setting.
Kansas City Royals skipper Ned Yost raved about James Shields in spring training, reports MLB.com's Dick Kaegel.
"If you watch him, he's always talking to somebody different," Yost said. "And it's no more than getting to know them and talking to them. But that's important. We don't do enough of that."
He goes into further detail about Shields in speaking to MLB.com.
Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols
After three MVPs and a dozen years of annual award contention, Albert Pujols is considered Major League Baseball's consummate professional.
He won't intimidate obnoxious rookies or call out an ineffective pitcher. The future Hall of Famer is naturally introverted.
As a result, when Pujols has something worth saying, teammates and beat writers hang on his every word.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier
Andre Ethier isn't the most talented or highest-paid member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Far from it, actually.
But the right fielder has been established in L.A. longer than any of the team's other stars.
The leadership role also suits his personality. As early as 2011, Ethier understood that "making guys comfortable around each other" was integral to creating unity (via Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times).
Miami Marlins: Juan Pierre
Many of the youngsters on the depleted Miami Marlins roster grew up using Juan Pierre in baseball video games and marveling at his speed.
Now, they can experience it first hand.
The Fish won a World Series during Pierre's previous stint in South Florida, and the outfielder played a huge role in that 2003 postseason run. It's also easy to look up to the active MLB leader in sacrifice hits and stolen bases.
Milwaukee Brewers: Rickie Weeks
There was plenty of debate as to whom would take over as a clubhouse leader after Prince Fielder departed in free agency.
Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart both seem like strong candidates.
We'll give a slight nod to the former. Ron Roenicke of the Milwaukee Brewers highlights his conditioning, toughness and demeanor (via Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).
Minnesota Twins: Justin Morneau
Like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau is known for being calm and collected, but certainly not fiery.
Still, on an inexperienced team with a revamped starting rotation and depleted outfield, the Canadian-born first baseman is stepping up.
Morneau has been in the Minnesota Twins organization since 1999, longer than anyone besides skipper Ron Gardenhire. Participating in the World Baseball Classic—also with an underrated team—was a reminder that he has a lot to offer as a former American League MVP.
New York Mets: David Wright
The New York Mets officially made David Wright team captain this spring.
GM Sandy Alderson explained that the third baseman has the most important qualifications: "professional expertise and personal character" (AP report via SI.com).
"He's easygoing, but he has a way about him that he gets his point across," Alderson continued. "He gets to expand upon that with the players."
According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, Mets manager Terry Collins expected his star to land on the disabled list after suffering a broken pinkie finger last season.
As an example of his toughness, Wright missed only three games before opting to play through the pain.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter
It's hard to believe that Derek Jeter, soon to begin his 19th season on the New York Yankees, has consistently avoided controversy.
The future Hall of Famer sets a great example for younger players with his comfort and honesty in front of the media. Also, as someone with so much experience in the organization, he helps the ever-changing cast of veteran role players get acclimated to the Bronx.
Jeter became the official team captain in June 2003.
Oakland Athletics: Brett Anderson
Everyone who spoke with John Hickey of the Mercury News agrees that Brett Anderson isn't very extroverted.
But entering this season, the southpaw sounded eager to establish himself as the durable ace of the Oakland Athletics rotation:
"I don't classify myself as old. But I have to be more of a leader. I'm not a rah-rah, vocal guy, but guys can come ask questions. And maybe some of my eccentric personality will come out now."
He's been effective thus far, and for the first time in his career, Anderson received the Opening Day assignment.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
Likewise, Jimmy Rollins admits that none of the veteran Philadelphia Phillies have the prototypical spark-plug mentality.
His resume does the talking.
The shortstop has spent parts of 14 seasons in Philly and continues to produce as well at age 34 as he did at age 24. His 38-game hitting streak—which spanned the 2005 and 2006 campaigns—testified to his consistency.
Pittsburgh Pirates: A.J. Burnett
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired A.J. Burnett from the New York Yankees at a discount. He was expendable in the Bronx, where there was a surplus of reputable major league veterans.
However, coming off a remarkable bounce-back season, the right-hander enters 2013 atop Pittsburgh's rotation.
He has not lost his sense of humor or appreciation for his teammates.
San Diego Padres: Carlos Quentin
In this case, the hometown connection is actually relevant.
Carlos Quentin spent his entire childhood in Southern California. The slugger was so eager to stay that he signed a three-year extension at below market value just a few months prior to free agency.
As Bleacher Report's own Chris Stephens explained, Quentin's leadership ability makes him indispensable on the scuffling San Diego Padres.
San Francisco Giants: Hunter Pence
Compared to longtime, top-of-the-rotation starter Matt Cain, Hunter Pence has more enthusiasm.
A lot more.
Last October, teammates Angel Pagan and Tim Lincecum testified to the effects of his motivational pre-game speeches (via MLB.com).
The soon-to-be 30-year-old is seen as an extension candidate with the San Francisco Giants.
Seattle Mariners: Raul Ibanez
Raul Ibanez is beginning his 15th professional season with the Seattle Mariners organization and his third tour of duty overall.
According to Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times, the 40-year-old believes playing elsewhere "where teams have had success" and learning first hand about "what goes into that" qualifies him as an advice-giver in the clubhouse.
In 2012, Ibanez contributed on the New York Yankees and reportedly made a meaningful impact.
St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina
Right-hander Chris Carpenter had a huge influence on the St. Louis Cardinals for years. Though he's under contract throughout the 2013 season, he'll often be away from the team to find a remedy for his career-threatening nerve injury.
Veteran backstop Yadier Molina will step up in his absence.
Carlos Beltran is also revered in the clubhouse, but Yadi has significantly more tenure as he begins his 10th season in St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria
In his sixth season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria is being seen in a different light by his manager, Joe Maddon (via Bill Chastain, MLB.com).
"His total goal is to win a World Series," Maddon says. "It's not about him. And that makes it a lot easier also."
Longoria proved his commitment to the organization by prematurely signing an $100 million contract extension. The consensus is that he could have received a substantially larger nine-figure amount had he waited a few years for free agency.
Texas Rangers: Ian Kinsler
Trading Michael Young during the offseason left the Texas Rangers without their all-time hits leader .
The remaining players tell Richard Justice of MLB.com that they haven't found anybody in particular to bow down to.
And that's probably for the best.
But if we need to pick out one individual for his intangibles, it has to be Ian Kinsler.
The homegrown position player selflessly moved from shortstop to second base a few years into his pro career. He was also supportive of Elvis Andrus after he signed a long-term extension, even though it likely means an eventual move to another spot on the diamond.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista
Players of various backgrounds and accomplishments can't help but respect Jose Bautista's journey.
Despite never being highly regarded as a prospect, the outfielder has blossomed into an elite slugger. All the while, he has been humble and supportive of others.
The clubhouse atmosphere turned toxic toward the end of 2012 when he was on the disabled list, according to MLB.com's Chris Toman. The losses started piling up for the Toronto Blue Jays, and John Farrell fled for the Boston Red Sox in an offseason trade.
But Bautista is qualified to lead the welcoming committee for the handful of fresh faces who have recently come north of the border.
Washington Nationals: Jayson Werth
The Washington Nationals invested $126 million in Jayson Werth during the 2010-11 offseason. Anecdotes about his friendliness and humor must have factored into that decision.
Second-year phenom Bryce Harper speaks glowingly about him in an interview with MLB.com's Bill Ladson:
"Jayson was ready to take me under his wing...He is really a leader on this team. We all know that. He is one of the best guys in the league when it comes to leadership."
In growing his own beard to an impressive thickness, Werth has influenced Harper to go with his own scraggly look in 2013.