Pitcher. Our all-star staff consists of three of the few little guys who pitched in the big leagues last year. (Another is the Brewers' Julio Machado, 5'9", who is awaiting trial in Venezuela on a charge of unintentional murder.)
"Smaller pitchers just don't seem to have the leverage of bigger ones," says White Sox general manager Ron Schueler. But Tom Gordon throws as hard as just about any big man and says, "When I'm walking in a mall somewhere, people say, 'You're not that tall.' No, in size, I'm not. But in here, in my heart, I'm the tallest man on earth." And Brian Barnes gets a lot of strikeouts with his big curve. And Steve Frey says, "I seem to get on well with fans. Maybe it's because I'm closer to their size."
First Base. Not only is a large target an asset here, but also teams look for power-hitting from first basemen. Luis Salazar played first base in only seven games last year. He's mostly a third baseman, though he has filled in everywhere but at catcher.
Catcher. Lenny Webster feels his height makes it easier for him to present a low target, but he is the only little catcher who played in 1991. He will probably be the Twins' second-stringer this year, behind 6'2" Brian Harper.
Designated Hitter. Luis Polonia is good on offense but not exactly a slugger.
Pitchers are, on average, the tallest players, at 6'2.06"; second basemen are the shortest, at 5'10.9" (page 120). People say there are so many short second basemen, and nearly as many short shortstops, because you don't expect power-hitting from those positions. But that's being negative and begging the question. Keystone combinations tend to be short because quick, compact niftiness is of the essence at the heart of team defense.
"If anything," says Gallego, "I have an advantage in fielding ground balls. You talk to any infield coach, and the first thing he wants you to do is get down low to the ground and get a better view of the ground ball. Take a tall infielder, like Cal Ripken—I have an advantage over him because I don't have as far to go."
The 6'4" Ripken agrees. "I'm lumbering of sorts," he says. "It's a big mistake for me to try to do the things the little guys do. I don't have the quickness, the ability to run around the ball. I have to be more scientific in my positioning."
In other words, a big guy in a little guy's spot has to compensate, the way a little guy has to in the batter's box. But even there, lack of height confers advantages. "My target is smaller," says Gallego, "and pitchers have to aim the ball more."
"The little guy doesn't have to worry about hitting the curveball," says Pirate coach Rich Donnelly. "You can't throw him one for a strike. His strike zone is about a half a centimeter."