There are blue chip prospects, all-stars, utility players, busts, and then there are journeymen. A journeyman is someone who has had a solid career but never found a true home. He has been from team to team and worn many different uniforms over his career.
Journeymen may not make the Hall of Fame, but they have definitely driven or flown past it numerous times on their baseball saga. Their careers may not be defined by the total number of hits they accumulated or how many strikeouts they recorded on the mound, but by how many general managers threw their names around in trades and free agent discussions.
Some journeymen you might have heard of from time to time. After all, these players did have long Major League careers. Todd Zeile is one example. He played for the Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Expos, Marlins, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies, and Yankees. That is 11 teams total and a lot of frequent flyer miles racked up. Zeile surpassed the 250 home run mark, but he did so at the expense of having to find teams with an extra roster spot and needing a quick fix.
Terry Mulholland and Matt Stairs are other well-known journeymen who had above-average careers. Mulholland pitched for 11 teams over his multi-decade career. Stairs may be known as the best pinch-hitter of all-time. He recorded 23 pinch-hit home runs in a role that many players would rather not take on the challenge. Stairs played for 12 teams and swung as hard as he could every single at-bat, just in case he made contact.
Gary Sheffield is one player who could find himself in Cooperstown, but he played for eight teams during his career. After coming up with the Brewers, Sheffield went on to play for the Padres, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, Tigers, and Mets in that order. He made a name for himself with the young Marlins’ team that won the World Series in 1997 and was a threat through the end of his days in pinstripes.
Rickey Henderson played for a surprising nine teams despite being one of the best base stealers and run scorers of all-time. Henderson was best-known for his days in Oakland whom he played for two separate times.
A speedy contact hitter who could cover a lot of ground in the outfield, Kenny Lofton was best known for his time with the Cleveland Indians. However, after nine seasons with the Wahoos, Lofton would play for nine new teams the rest of his career. You may not know it, but Lofton also played for the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, White Sox, and Yankees.
It goes to show that even great ballplayers can be a journeyman, although it tends to be towards the backend of their career when it happens. Some guys just don’t want to give up the game they love and rightfully so. Baseball, and all sports, is something that an athlete can only do while he is young. It is a young man’s game with old timers mixed in. Journeymen can thank the likes of free agency for allowing them to continue to play into their 40’s, because without it other teams wouldn’t be able to sign them. That is a separate topic for another day, but journeymen have a special place in baseball, just not a special place with any one team.