Driving me nuts: list of cliche terms for a baseball player's career

My Google-fu is Google-fucked this morning. I’m trying to find the old list of standard/cliche terms for a baseball player’s career. It starts I think with rookie, then maybe phenom, has a few I’m forgetting, then veteran toward the end.

A cite, too, please. I need to pass this on to someone who’ll want that.


You can have a “journeyman” who “has a cup of coffee” with a few teams over the course of his career.

During the course of one’s career one can also be clearing waivers, or traded, or a legend of the game, or washed up, or a has-been, or a comeback player, or a Hall of Famer (or even the best of the best, a first ballot Hall of Famer).

If you’re looking at the whole of a player’s professional career, you would want to add to the beginning of the list:

X-round draft pick
Minor leaguer
Call-up (some never make it beyond this and get sent back down; if they stick in the majors, then they’re rookies)

If they stick in the majors but strictly as back-ups, they’re Four-A players (the top minor league level being AAA).

Crash Davis: It’s time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.”
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play… it’s pretty boring.
Crash Davis: 'Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down.

  1. We gotta play 'em one day at a time.
  2. I’m just happy to be here. Hope I can help the ballclub.
  3. I just want to give it my best shot, and the good Lord willing, things will work out.

Additional ones that have gained traction in the last few years:

  1. I’m just trying to stay in the moment
  2. …not trying to do too much
  3. See the ball, hit the ball

There’s utilityman for a player who’s not good enough to play every day, but is good enough to hang around in the major leagues by playing a variety of positions.

Also the mop-up man, who’s brought it when a team is hopelessly behind in the score and needs a pitcher to kill some innings so that other pitchers can be kept fresh. He is sometimes said to be “taking one for the team” if he allows even more runs to score and is left on the mound despite getting shelled.

Usually this guy is called the “long reliever” if people are in a kinder mood.

Not so much career, but also handy: a clutch player.

“Grinder” or “scrappy” is often applied to white ballplayers who hustle but aren’t good enough to be stars.

Not really; AAAA is the term for a guy who plays very well in the minors but for whatever reason is never able to keep a job in the majors. A long time major league backup is still a backup. Or to add to the OP’s list, a utility man.

I concur.

They’re two different roles, and nowadays an actual mop-up man doesn’t exist. In the 50s, it was the worst pitcher on the team, but now a team won’t keep a bad pitcher (since you can bring up someone else by the next game). Some do take it for the team, but the mop-up man is no longer a role.

A long reliever, OTOH, is a pticher who can pitch 4-6 innings at a time. He is usually a starter who is moved to the bullpen and is used when the starter is knocked out or injured after an inning or three. The long reliever also occasionally starts when there’s an injured starter or a double header. Since most relievers these days only go an inning or two, a long reliever is needed in these situations, and he’s usually about as good as the team’s fifth starter.

I take your point, but I guess I would argue that, while “mop-up man” may not be an ongoing role for a pitcher on a team, it can become a role in the course of any individual game. The situation he would be used in could be just as you describe — “…when the starter is knocked out…after an inning or three.”

And the guy who is used in a situation such as this is one who can pitch several innings rather than just one — that is, a long reliever.

For example, Carlos Carrasco fulfills that role on the Cleveland Indians. He is indeed a former starter, and he has great stuff. While he has faltered in a starting role for psychological reasons (he thinks about his upcoming start too much), he has performed admirably out of the bullpen — when he is thrust into a situation with only minimal prep time and can just come out and blow people away for several innings without stewing over it.

Carrasco has also been used effectively in late-inning situations in a more traditional reliever role, but he’s definitely the go-to guy for the situation described in the previous paragraph.

An aging pitcher who can no longer throw the ball hard, and relies on a lot of junk, is a “wily” or “crafty” veteran.

Athletic = great natural talent but dumb as a bag of hammers.

Toronto has a mopup man, Todd Redmond. They’ve always had a guy like that. The Orioles brought up Brad Brach to do this sort of work in May. Some teams do still have them.

You can pick out the last man in the bullpen on any roster. Some, like the Red Sox, have a nearly-formal set of when-leading and when-trailing relievers.

Don’t forget the LOOGY out of the bullpen. Some relievers have made a career out of being a Left-handed One Out GuY.