The American and National League 2009 All-Stars were announced this weekend. And among the 66 (yup, they upped the rosters to 33 apiece), a third of the players are first-time All-Stars.
Now just because you’ve made the All-Star team doesn’t mean you’ve made it. And it definitely doesn’t mean you’ve earned immunity from sucking.
Look at Jason Marquis, for instance. Here’s a guy the Braves didn’t want, the Cardinals didn’t want and the Cubs didn’t want. Sure Marquis has won at least 10 games in each of the last six seasons, but his plus-4.00 ERA every year (including a 6.02 season in 2002) definitely puts him in the used goods section. Yet there’s Marquis on the NL’s All-Star roster. And don’t get me wrong, he deserves it. He leads the league in wins and actually has an ERA under 4.00 (3.87) despite pitching at Coors Field. Two days ago, Marquis was exactly what I thought he was – a glorified BP pitcher. Now, he’s an All-Star. Gag.
Below we breakdown the 10 worst All-Stars over the last two decades, excluding Marquis, of course.
1. Kent Bottenfield (1999) – Something of a vagabond, Bottenfield played for eight different teams during his nine-year MLB career. Used as both a starter and reliever, Bottenfield complied a 46-49 record with a 4.54 ERA in 911-plus innings of work.
In 1999, out of nowhere, a guy who hadn’t won more than five games in a single season notched 18 victories as a starter for the Cardinals. The 30-year old Bottenfield finished the season 18-7 with a 3.97 ERA and was named to the All-Star Game. St. Louis sold high on the one-year wonder, packaging him with Adam Kennedy in a trade with Anaheim that netted the Cardinals Jim Edmonds in return. In 2000, the Angels dealt him prior to the July 31 trade deadline to Philadelphia for one of my favorite players growing up, Ron Gant. He started 21 games over the next two seasons between the Phillies and Astros before retiring after the 2001 season.
After baseball, Bottenfield turned to music and has released two Christian albums “Take Me Back” (2004) and “Back in the Game” (2007). Kent’s official Web site is down, but never fear. Here’s his MySpace page.
“So how does a kid from Portland end up on the mound of the Major League Baseball All Star game looking across from the likes of Cal Ripken, Pudge Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter? How does that same guy end up after a near fatal heart condition become a national CCM recording artist? Having his record produced by renowned producer Michael Omartian. Kent Bottenfield, the guy who has actually lived this life, sums it up in one word – God.”
“Although Kent has had almost no formal training, God continues to show His excellence through the songs He places on Kent’s heart. Kent says that baseball came natural, but these songs seem supernatural. Kent’s songs spring from a heart of worship and a desire to love and honor the father.”
2. Tyler Green (1995) – What do you want to know about Tyler Green? According to Wikipedia, all you need to know is this:
Tyler Scott Green (born February 18, 1970 in Springfield, Ohio), is a retired professional baseball player who pitched in the Major Leagues from 1993-1998.
End of entry.
Green, the 10th overall pick in the 1991 Amateur Draft out of Wichita State, won a career-high eight games in 1995, all prior to the All-Star Break. Those eight wins earned him a surprise All-Star berth. However, he failed to win a game the rest of the season, finishing the year 8-9 with a 5.31 ERA and third on the Phillies in wins behind Paul Quantrill and some guy named Mike Mimbs. After a 6-12 season in 1998, Green was done in the majors.
His MLB numbers over the course of four seasons: 18-25, 5.16 ERA, 1.53 WHIP
His minor league numbers: 29-47, 5.19 ERA, 1.51 WHIP
In short, he sucked.
3. Ed Sprague (1999) – An 11-year MLB veteran and admitted cheater, Sprague spent much of his big league tenure with Toronto (1991-98) and batted a modest .247 for his career with 152 home runs and knocked in 558 runs. I lived in Atlanta in 1992, and I remember Sprague because he broke my heart when he hit a ninth-inning, game-winning home run against the Braves in Game Two of the 1992 World Series.
Sprague’s best statistical season came in 1996 when a player who hit a combined 46 home runs in 1,876 plate appearances (five seasons), belted 36 home runs with 101 RBI in 591 at-bats. After retiring in 2001, Sprague admitted to being a subscriber of the Mark McGwire Diet. He told The Stockton (Calif.) Record of his Andro usage:
“It could have been ’96…I could have taken Andro then…and I might have. I don’t remember everything I took.”
Now the head coach at the University of the Pacific, Sprague also admitted to using amphetamines, which were prevalent in MLB clubhouses, and claimed he hit a home run with a corked bat.
“Well, amphetamines are illegal now too, and I took those, so am I going to stand on one side and not the other side? I took Andro, and they banned that. So, am I the cleanest guy? No, but I tried to be as strong and as healthy as I could as long as I could for my career.”
Ah, a pragmatist. Toronto traded Sprague to Oakland for a minor leaguer and after 27 games with the A’s, Sprague signed a free agent deal with Pittsburgh. In 1999, his only season with the Pirates, a 31-year old Sprague shockingly received an All-Star bid. Sure he led the league in HBP (for the second time in his career), but Sprague finished fourth on the Pirates in home runs, behind the likes of Kevin Young, Al Martin and Brian Giles.
On a more positive note, only Mike Seaver had a better seven-year stretch during the mid-1980s to early-1990s. In 1987, Sprague won the first of his back-to-back College World Series titles at Stanford, won an Olympic gold medal in 1988 and picked up consecutive World Series wins with the Blue Jays (1992-93). He is the only baseball player to win a CWS title, Olympic gold medal and World Series ring.
4. Gary DiSarcina (1995) – An Angels’ lifer and career .258 hitter, DiSarcina’s All-Star selection is still a head-scratcher. DiSarcina hadn’t hit above .260 in his first five seasons prior to 1995. So when he flirted with .300, people must have assumed he was having an absolutely phenomenal year. I mean when .307, 5 HR and 41 RBI is your best offensive year, the bar isn’t exactly high.
The AL’s starting shortstop in the 1995 All-Star Game was of course, Cal Ripken. And while baseball’s Iron Man might have played 2,632 consecutive games, a full nine innings wasn’t in the cards. So the AL needed another shortstop. And pickings were slim. (Remember this was before Derek Jeter and A-Rod). Despite the glaring omission of Boston’s John Valentin (who finished the season with 27 HR and 102 RBI), there weren’t really any other worthy candidates. Ozzie Guillen and Omar Vizquel were light-hitting defensive whizzes and so it was between DiSarcina, Minnesota’s Pat Meares and Seattle’s Luis Sojo. Either way the AL went, the selection would have landed on this list.
DiSarcina, Italy’s first base coach in the World Baseball Classic, now manages the Red Sox’s Short Season-A team, the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League.
5. Jason Dickson (1997) – I seriously don’t remember this guy. I have to look it up just to figure out which team he played for. Before I do, I’m going to guess Angels. Let’s see…Yes. Wow, pulled that out of my ass. Honestly. Dickson pitched four seasons for the Angels and compiled a 26-25 career record with 4.99 ERA. After his final MLB appearance in 2000, Dickson toiled in the minors and struggled with injuries.
A Canadian, Dickson narrowly missed out on a bronze medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics, where the Canucks placed fourth. In 2006, he decided to run for the New Brunswick Liberals in New Brunswick’s provincial election. However, he lost the right to run for the Liberals in the riding of Miramichi-Bay du Vin nominating convention. He placed third in a field of four candidates with 91 of 531 votes. Instead of sitting in Canadian local government, Dickson was sitting down out-of-work fishermen pitching in the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League with the Chatham Ironmen, where he posted a 4-0 record and 2.15 ERA. Pretty decent, eh?
6. Roger Pavlik (1996) – While he finished his career with a winning record (47-39), Pavlik should never have been an All-Star. His best season came in 1993 when he went 12-6 with a 3.41 ERA with the Rangers. OK, decent numbers, but it wasn’t until three seasons later, in a year he finished 15-8 with a 5.19 ERA, that Pavlik was named an All-Star. Pavs was one of four starters on the AL All-Star team that year (the others being Charles Nagy, Chuck Finley and Andy Pettitte). He threw two innings in the 1996 All-Star Game and gave up two runs, including a solo home run to the late Ken Caminiti.
Some evidence that Pavlik was a horrible All-Star is the fact that while, yes he won 47 career games, he also didn’t make it out the first inning on six different occasions. Despite my assessment of Pavlik’s awfulness, this guy respectfully disagrees with me. He’s got Roger Pavlik ranked No. 48 among the Greatest Rangers of All-Time. Who’s 49? Steve Buechele?
Fick’s All-Star resume was helped by the fact he played catcher and besides Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodriguez there wasn’t much else at the position in the AL. To his credit, Fick did hit 36 home runs between 2001-02. After his 2002 All-Star season, Fick landed with Atlanta and made headlines in the 2003 NLDS when he slapped Eric Karros’s arm as the Cubs first baseman was trying to catch a throw. And in typical annoying Cubs’ fan fashion, someone made a song about it. Fick admitted it was intentional and was fined $25,000.
The Braves released him shortly after. He bounced around with San Diego and Tampa Bay before playing two seasons for the Nationals, last appearing in 2007. With the Nationals, Fick developed a reputation as a serial curser. Former Nats teammate Ray King told Washington Post writer Dan Steinberg, “You’re trying to get an interview without Fick sweaing? Good luck. Get him while he’s sleeping.”
While Fick definitely sucks as far as All-Stars go, he did manage at least one historical feat. On Sept. 27, 1999, Fick’s rooftop grand slam was the final hit recorded in Tiger Stadium and was the ballpark’s 11,111th home run.
9. John Jaha (1999) – Being one of the best Lebanese baseball players in MLB history doesn’t count for dick on this list. A 10-year pro, Jaha battled injuries for much of his career, but always had power. Whether that power has chemically-enhanced is unclear. In 1996, Jaha managed to stay healthy enough for 148 games for Milwaukee and hit 34 home runs and knocked in 118 runs. Two seasons later, the Brewers gave him up for dead and Jaha signed a minor league contract with Oakland. You know that Billy Beane, always looking for a bargain. Well, Jaha had quite the year, with 35 home runs and 111 RBI. He was named the AL Comeback Player of the Year and earned his only All-Star appearance. Jaha hit just one more MLB home run after that magical 1999 season and retired during the 2001 season.
10. Jeff Zimmerman (1999) – This Canadian took a rather interesting route to The Show. After attending TCU, Zimmerman played in the French Elite League with the Montpelier Barracudas and pitched for the Canadian Olympic team, though they failed to qualify. He took time away from the game to earn his MBA and in 1997, he played with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League. (On a side note, I’ve been to Winnipeg at least six times and have indeed gone to a Goldeyes game.)
The Rangers signed him in 1998 and he made his MLB debut a year later. Zimmerman found a home in Texas’ bullpen and tied the Major League record for most consecutive winning decisions to start a career when he opened the year 9-0. That hot start got Zimmerman some attention and a deserved All-Star berth. After struggling in 2000 (4-5, 5.30 ERA), Zimmerman was named the Rangers’ closer, and saved 28 games in 2001 with a 2.40 ERA. Texas rewarded him with a $10 million contract, but Zimmerman needed three major elbow surgeries, including two Tommy John operations, and never pitched in the majors again. In all, he played three seasons won 17 games, saved 32 others and had a 3.27 ERA.
Dishonorable Mention: Scott Williamson (1999), Ken Harvey (2004), Danny Kolb (2004), Aaron Boone (2003), Joe Mays (2001), Ricky Bones (1994), Erik Hanson (1995), Chris Capuano (2006), James Baldwin (2000), Lance Carter (2003), Heathcliff Slocumb (1995), Kosuke Fukudome (2008).