John McDonald: The Role Player Without a Role

Mitchell DavidsonContributor IMarch 11, 2010

ST PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 20:  Shortstop John McDonald #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws to first base from his knees against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 20, 2008 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

While browsing through Bleacher Report lately I came across an article, by Nino Colla, about John McDonald being an unheralded backup who deserves more credit.

The fact of the matter is John McDonald does not deserve any more credit, he does not deserve an American League job and he is barely worthy of a National League backup role. Just barely...

The article proposed that backups are a role in the MLB that someone has to play and that John McDonald does it well.

This is plain wrong.

There is a role for backups in the MLB but it is never supposed to be a career position. The point of a backup is to eventually become a starter or it is a way to keep a bat that is past its prime—like Mike Sweeney or Matt Stairs.

John McDonald does not meet either of these criteria.

The article also brought up McDonald's utility defensively as he can play almost any infield position plus in the outfield. Although McDonald's third base numbers are actually quite atrocious this argument does hold true for shortstop, second, and the outfield.

This leads me to the main point of the argument that John McDonald is a National League player.

In the National League there is a strong emphasis on defense, which McDonald obviously excels at. McDonald would be an excellent late game defensive upgrade, and perhaps even a pinch runner, as his gold glove like abilities are incredibly valuable when holding a lead.

This way McDonald would not have to see the batter's box and if he does the one at bat per game will be offset by his defense. Plus, McDonald can play the utility role, giving much needed rest to everyday starters at numerous positions.

If McDonald doesn't have to hit he can be successful and his .238 career average may be overshadowed by his excellent play on defense.

However, the author of the aforementioned article did mention that McDonald's role as a solid defensive player behind a young pitching staff in Toronto is important, that I wholeheartedly agree with. But it's not enough.

The fact that the Blue Jays know they are not contending for a playoff spot this year yet they still decided to bring in Alex Gonzalez as essentially a temporary fix for shortstop shows the inadequacy of John McDonald in the major leagues.

The Blue Jays did re-sign John McDonald to a two year deal, which may just be rewarding his work ethic and loyalty to the club, but it is also because they cannot stand to lose from this situation.

The Toronto Blue Jays will not be in the hunt for a playoff spot in the next two years, sadly, and therefore keeping someone like John McDonald really doesn't matter. Fans love him, the organization respects him, and shortstop prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays system are few and far between.

The Jays will not suffer by keeping McDonald and therefore he most likely will not be moved until the end of his contract. But, he really won't help the team much either.

If based on character and work ethic John McDonald would be an all-star, but the fact of the matter is that the MLB is a business in which the best product should hit the field at all times.

Simply put, John McDonald is in no way the best product, and at the age of 35, he never will be.