In today's society, the jack of all trades is endangered, if not extinct. In today's workplace -- and in sports -- specialization is prized more than versatility. There are no more Chuck Bednarik types playing both ways. Your mechanic probably can't work on both a GM and a VW. And lefty relievers can pitch until they collect Social Security. Despite the obvious value of "roster expanders" -- players whose versatility amounts to adding extra players to the 25-man roster -- there are very few of them in MLB these days. Even Micah Owings, the rare pitcher who can hit, causes his team to question how to best use him.
While most players in MLB came from two positions as amateurs -- shortstop and/or center field -- the early moves to other positions around the diamond are more evolution than change. "Finding where the bat plays" is more of a concern than the defensive value in most cases, but at the major league level, a player changing position is a big decision fraught with risk. One of the major concerns is injury risk. Why is it that a player is more likely to be injured when he shifts positions? As Jerry Hairston Jr. told me last week, "It's hard!" As a player who is asked to play multiple positions in a single game from time to time -- let alone the six he'll likely play this season -- Hairston understands better than most making the switch. "Mostly, it's about comfort. If you don't have time to take reps at all of them, you don't get comfortable and you start thinking out on the field," he said. Repetition is the key for any player, especially at the key defensive positions in the infield.