Mark DeRosa, who signed a three-year contract with the Cubs as a free agent before the season, became one of the club's most valuable players this year with his professional hitting and versatility. He's played six positions and hit everywhere in the lineup but leadoff. He finished the regular season batting .293 with 10 homers and 72 RBIs, including a .326 average with runners in scoring position. Despite moving around so much, DeRosa, who played a career-high 89 games at one position, second base, recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You've started more than half the season at second base. It's the most you've started at one position in a season. Does that kind of stability help you?
DeRosa: Mentally, it's easier. I'd say that. You know your job, the task at hand, the fundamentals of your position. You don't have to keep replaying as much in your head as you do when you're playing different positions. I have a tendency to forget the bunt plays at third, what cutoff man to hit in the outfield. When you play one position, it's easier in that regard.
MLBPLAYERS.com: The way you've played all of these positions, and succeeded at each, it kind of redefines how a role player is thought of, isn't it?
DeRosa: I thought last year was big for me. Last year was my first opportunity to play every day and do well. I had a chance in Atlanta in '04, but I wasn't ready. Last year, Buck Showalter and the Rangers gave me a chance to move around and help the team, and that allowed me to come here. So I look at myself as an everyday utility-type guy. I tried for years to shed that label, because I think once you get labeled, it's tough to get rid of it. I've kind of gone with it now. As long as I'm in the lineup every day, I don't care where I'm playing.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Early on this season, your manager, Lou Piniella, kept moving everyone around, trying people in different positions, in different parts of the order. Was all that tinkering necessary to get to where the club is now?
DeRosa: I think it helps for guys knowing their role now. But I think there were reasons deeper than just him wanting to stabilize certain things. Cliff Floyd coming back, being healthy, [Alfonso] Soriano moving to left field, Jacque Jones, his second half has been huge so he's in the lineup every day. Whereas in the first half, he wasn't in the lineup, so guys were rotating around. There have been a lot of variables on how we've reached the lineup we've reached. I don't think it's just him wanting to stabilize the lineup. I'm sure every manager wants to do that, but it comes from other guys stepping up.
MLBPLAYERS.com Things haven't been too consistent this year, but it must feel great now?
DeRosa: It's why I decided to come here; the chance to play in one of the most unbelievable venues, in front of 40,000 people every day and the chance to play in the postseason. Talking to general manager Jim Hendry and knowing what he wanted to accomplish in the offseason, knowing that Lou was the manager and he wasn't going to come out of retirement and not have a chance at winning, I felt like this was a great place for me to go.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What do you think you learned playing for the Braves to start your career, with how they went about winning and make the playoffs every year?
DeRosa: The way they went about it. The way they believed in themselves and their ability, trusting the guy next to you. So many things come from what I learned over there from manager Bobby Cox, general manager John Schuerholz, on down the line from the players. They knew that they were going to get it done.
MLBPLAYERS.com: It's something that takes a long time, right?
DeRosa: It really does. When the rookies would come up, when I came up, when Jason Marquis came up, it's ingrained in your brain that you're going to win and other teams are going to find a way to lose and we're going to win. It's something that I've seen this team acquire over the course of a year. When you lose, it's almost fluky. Hopefully we continue to do the things we've been doing lately. I'd like to do them in a little less dramatic fashion than we're doing them. It's definitely been fun.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's your favorite moment this year? Was it your game-winning hit last week?
DeRosa: Aramis Ramirez's walk-off home run against the Brewers [on June 29]. It's always a moment you're not a part of -- if I hit that, it would be my moment -- that for me, we were about 7 1/2 games back, they could've just buried us. And he steps up and hits a home run off "Coco" Cordero, who hadn't blown a save yet and they were looking unbeatable. It was a pretty big moment for us mentally.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Sports Illustrated did a "smartest player" poll. Where was your name? You're an Ivy League guy [who attended the University of Pennsylvania]?
DeRosa: Who won it?
MLBPLAYERS.com: Greg Maddux.
DeRosa: That's a scam ... Maddux (smiles).
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you the best Ivy Leaguer in the game right now?
DeRosa: No, Chris Young (Princeton) for San Diego. You got Brad Ausmus (Dartmouth), too.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Who's the smartest Cub? Don't be afraid to say yourself.
DeRosa: I'm not. I'm not the smartest guy. I'm not going to say Sam Fuld (Stanford), he's been here for like two weeks. (Long pause, looks around the clubhouse.) There aren't a lot of smart guys in this clubhouse (smiles). I'll say Ted Lilly, but I don't have a reason why I'm saying that.
Jon Greenberg is a freelance writer based in Chicago.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.