When you are an All-Star you are an All-Star for life. Alfredo Griffin and Kent Bottenfield may turn up only two hits in Google, but I assure you they say, “former All-Star” before their name.
For as many superstars bas aseball has, nothing showcases players with rare good seasons (in many cases half-seasons) than the All-Star game. Many of these “breakout” years amounted to nothing much in the end; that’s part of the reason I love the All-Star Game.
Heck, some of the players aren’t even all that good, but were merely the best players on their respective teams (which also probably were not that good) for one half of a season. For those who don’t know, MLB invites at least one player from every team, even if that team is a collection of complete bums. This has lead to a few more head scratchers.
So as much as I love baseball and the positive vibes the Derby and All Star Game carry, I want to have some fun remembering the worst All-Stars of the past decade. (Jerod is going to kick my ass as several White Sox grace this list.)
I obviously loved the 2000 AL All-Star Team. Travis Fryman and Mike Bordick I have already written about for this site. Throw in the ever enjoyable David Wells starting, after going 15-2 in the first half, and this team was a dream come true. Even the worst player wasn’t that bad.
Baldwin went 11-4 in the first half. That’s exceptional. His 4.28 ERA was not. He went 3-3 with a 5.27 ERA the rest of the way and finished the year with an ERA+ of just 108 (league average is 100). A classic example of people looking at just Wins in electing a player. Baldwin would never even have a season again where he beat those 11 first half Wins.
Shane Reynolds P HOU
7-8 5.22 ERA
How an Astro from this year didn’t have a name starting with “B” is baffling enough. How Reynolds got in the 2000 All-Star Game and no other is more baffling. In 1998 and 1999 Reynolds had 19 and 16 Wins, respectively, to go along with better stats in every category. Yet 2000 is the year he gets in? Don’t think about it too long. You’ll need to lay down.
Cal Ripken 3B BAL
.239/.276/.361 14 HR
Yes, this seems blasphemous to say, but really, 2002 Ripken was awful, with career lows in average and on-base percentage. This was purely a sentimental choice by fans as it was Ripken’s final season. He was hitting just .240 with 4 HR and an OPS+ of 56 at the time of the All-Star Game.
Ripken also provided one of the great feel-good moments in baseball on that day when Alex Rodriguez switched places with Ripken so he could play shortstop, and later, when he hit a home run in his first at-bat of the game. In an awful season, he won game MVP in a great moment.
When looking at the roster, I really expected Paul Quantrill to be my guy. Then I looked at his 2001 stats. 11-2 in 80 relief appearances? How was that real? How did I forget about that completely? I will be writing about him very soon.
Jimmy Rollins SS PHI
.274/.323/.419 46 SB
I will never understand the love affair people have with Jimmy Rollins. Rollins made his first All-Star Game here in 2001, the first of many; also, the first of many he had no right playing in.
He sure did steal 28 bags in the first half, but considering his on-base percentage was .309 at the break, he must have stolen two bases every time he got on. Despite a better second-half (fewer steals though), he still finished below the league average in hitting (an OPS+ of 92). But he sure was fast.
Tony Batista 3B BAL
.244/.309/.457 31 HR
For every Jays fan (myself included) who worried that Jose Bautista would fall off this season, we have our reasons. There was another Ba(u)tista who played third about ten years ago that hit 41HR in 2000 before falling off the face of the earth: Tony Batista.
Batista made it in 2000, really deservedly, but 2002 with the Os? Not as much. I mean, he wasn’t awful, but just the worst player on one of the best All-Star Teams of this era. Besides, it gives me a chance to mention that insane batting stance.
Batista was hitting .269 with 19HR at the break, which was just okay. His defense was also just okay. He finished with an OPS+ of 105, which is pretty okay. He wasn’t actively bad. He was just very unusual to watch and definitely not an All-Star.
Jimmy Rollins SS PHI
Just looking at the rosters, Junior Spivey is RIGHT THERE. I would love to include him as this is both a list of bad picks and guys who seem really out of place having been All-Stars. Problem with including him is despite a forgettable career, he was hitting .328 at the break and Rollins was somehow even worse in 2002 than in 2001.
Rollins finished 2002 with an OPS of .686 which isn’t even good if you’re a pitcher. His OPS+ was 85. League average is 100! Are you kidding me? He sure was fast though, with 31 steals (14 at the break) but he was caught 13 times (8 at the break) so he was doing more harm than good there too.
I’m starting to think baseball people just love the band Black Flag and got their Rollins’ mixed up.
Lance Carter P TB
26 SV 4.33 ERA
Carter was a rookie back in 2003, one of those players that the Rays really were counting on to develop and help the team. This was the 2003 Rays though, so that was never in the cards.
Carter is a classic example of a guy who made it simply due to the player-per-team rule. He finished with a 13-12 record and a 4.12 ERA in 253 2/3 innings in his career before shipping off to Japan. I was an avid baseball fan during this time and I needed to use Google to remember what he looked like.
Mike Williams P PIT
28 SV 6.14 ERA
Say what you want about the current All Star selection process and added emphasis on the outcome of the game, but at least now middle relievers will get in if more deserving than closers.
Mike Williams made the NL squad despite a 1-3 record and a 6.44 ERA during the first half of the year. Yep. He actually improved it to 6.14 by season’s end. While he had 25 saves, he allowed 41 hits and 22 walks in only 36 1/3rd innings pitched. He also somehow had only 19 strikeouts.
The most telling statistic? Williams never pitched in the bigs again after the 2003 season.
Esteban Loaiza P CHI
10-7 5.70 ERA
I have an issue with Esteban Loaiza. First of all, the Jays traded Michael Young to get him, then he went 25-28 with a 4.96 ERA with the team while Young could have prevented Eric Hinske from making me question my Toronto loyalty.
This isn’t purely a pick out of spite though. Loaiza was undeniably not worthy of being here.
Loaiza’s nomination to the AL’s ’04 team is a classic example of wins and losses carrying more weight than actual pitching ability. Throw in him finishing 2nd in the 2003 Cy Young race and he got his golden ticket.
Loaiza’s 8-4 record wasn’t even that good, especially when matched with his 4.77 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Loaiza gets the nod here over Kansas City’s Ken Harvey simply because of who he beat out. Loaiza made is while Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez got snubbed.
Johnny Estrada C ATL
This NL All-Star team was really strange. Despite Griffey, Piazza, and Sosa all having less than great seasons, their first halves were all worthy of selection. Despite Liván Hernandez and Ben Sheets having awful records, they were both great pitchers in 2004 but had to pitch for the Expos and Brewers.
This will be an example of a player who was good for only one season ever: Johnny Estrada.
In the wake of Javy Lopez leaving Atlanta for Baltimore (where all good careers go to die), Estrada was an overnight sensation in 2004. In the first half he hit .332 for the Braves. The problem was he was only good for one year.
He played 8 seasons on 5 teams with a career OPS+ of 84. He didn’t even have a good season throughout the rest of his career (he wasn’t a total albatross for the 2006 Diamondbacks at least). But in 2004 he was “the future”.
Shea Hillenbrand 3B/1B/DH TOR
.291/.343/.449 18 HR
How did this even happen? The Jays also sent Roy Halladay to the All Star Game in 2005 so this was not a case of a lone representative making the big game. I attribute this to Hillenbrand’s .390 April batting average (which was followed with 5 mediocre months of playing).
Hillenbrand is one of those ballplayers referred to as scrappy (this means white guy without any obvious skill). He didn’t walk, ever. His .343 OBP came from 26 walks and being hit by pitches 22 times. He played such poor defense that Eric Hinske was the finer choice in the field.
He played 7 seasons of below average baseball in every way imaginable. The only thing that makes him memorable is he actually called the Red Sox GM a “faggot” when he got traded. No one even remembers that, because no one remembers Hillenbrand.
Cesar Izturis SS LAD
Cesar Izturis is a rare case. Not only does he not fit as a man billed as a “former All-Star”, he also had an outright awful season in 2005. He was so bad I can’t even put Jimmy Rollins on here for a third time.
Izturis was named to the 2005 All-Star team, despite a .275 average with just one home run in the first-half of the season. Looking further, the “better” Izturis brother had 34 strikeouts and just 15 extra-base hits during those first 72 games. He ended the season with a whopping 66 OPS+. He managed to go 8 for 16 in stolen base attempts, which proves he was a liability in every regard but defense.
Mark Redman P KC
11-10 5.71 ERA
Even in a year with Alexis Rios and Gary Mathews Jr. making the cut, this isn’t even close.
Redman had a 6-4 record with a 5.27 ERA and 1.45 WHIP at the break, which was good enough to be the Royals’ representative that year. Yes, obviously Mike Sweeney was too injured, and by this point Damon and Beltran were not in Kansas anymore.
These were thin years for KC. Mark Quinn ruined his career with karate. Joakim Soria was a couple years away. Next to the 2006 Royals, Mike Aviles is a hall-of-famer. Nobody will get that joke because no one else knows who he is.
Redman also carries the distinction of being the first MLB starter since 1900 to give up 10 or more runs in the first inning, while still completing the inning. He accomplished this feat as a member of the Colorado Rockies against the host Los Angeles Dodgers April 26, 2008.
David Eckstein SCRAP STL
How do you have a lower slugging percentage than on-base percentage? Eckstein found a way. Just like he “found a way to win” and other such nonsense. Eckstein would be the poster boy for players defined as “scrappy”. The problem is nobody would buy the poster since he looks like a used Q-Tip. He could potentially make an All-Ugly team comprising a middle infield with Jhonny Peralta (whose head looks like a Tetris piece).
Terrible hitter and terrible fielder, but he was built like a jockey and tried really hard so people loved him. Unless he was on your favorite team.
At least Eckstein brought that scrapfulness to TNA Wrestling. I wish that were a joke.
Alexis Rios OF TOR
.297/.354/.498 24 HR
This selection didn’t seem too bad at the time. Rios is a classic example of a guy with amazing natural talents who does not live up to his potential. He also can’t deal with any ball that approaches the outfield wall without fearing for his life.
There was once a time, 2007 to be exact, that Rios was the “future” of the Blue Jays. Around this time he was even rumored to possibly be dealt for Tim Lincecum. By 2009 he was waived and picked up by the White Sox without any return. Since joining the White Sox he has hit .250/.297/.389 with an OPS+ of 84. He also makes $12M dollars a season.
According to some, he would qualify as a “bum.”
Brian Fuentes P COL
20 SV 3.08 ERA
Don’t let that ERA fool you; it was 4.06 heading into the break. Fuentes made the All-Star team and then immediately lost the closer’s role, recording 0 Saves afterwards. But, Colorado needed someone there, and Fuentes was unfortunately the best option.
Jason Varitek C Bos
Every team has this guy: that player that has been there forever who hasn’t been good in years but he’s “part of the team”. Up north we deal with John McDonald providing 3-4 outs per game when Yunel Escobar or Aaron Hill need a night off. The difference, John McDonald will never come close to an All-Star game. But you know, RED SOX NATION and all. Ugh.
Varitek ended the first half of the season hitting just .218, and he had more strikeouts (73) than hits (56). He also hasn’t been able to throw out a runner in years. But Tim Wakefield sure likes to pitch to him so who needs some “talented” player taking up valuable bench space?
Christian Guzman SS WSH
Guzman is here simply because of who he beat out. He had a .313 average at the break, but also only 5 homers, 30 RBIs and a .765 OPS. Throw in the fact he is incapable of playing shortstop effectively and it’s a true case of being the best player on the worst team.
Who didn’t make it? Jose Reyes .302 average, 10HR, 32 SB and JJ Hardy’s .283, 13 HR and .827 OPS.
Brandon Inge 3B DET
.230/.314/.406 27 HR
Obviously whoever chose the rest of the AL team in 2009 had Inge as their fantasy baseball catcher (he only played 3B in 2009 but had eligibility from the 2008 season). 27 dingers is pretty good, but none of the other stats going on there are. Inge, to this day, is an ugly player to watch hit and at no point has he been close to one of the three best Tigers hitters.
He did lead the AL with 161 games played though. So at least he was out there being lackluster on the regular.
Zach Duke P PIT
11-16 4.06 ERA
Duke is one of the few players named here that ended up leading his league in a category. Unfortunately, that category was Losses. Duke was a respectable 8-8 heading into the break, but at no point was he thought of as a dominant pitcher that season. His selection is even more confusing since he was one of two Pirates on the team. Freddy Sanchez made sense, Duke did not.
So in summary: two Orioles, two White Sox, two Blue Jays, two Pirates and two Jimmy Rollinses grace the list. Despite the amount of slandering I just did, I love the fact the these outliers get into the All-Star Game. It’s one of the charming imperfections than make the game fun.
So enjoy tonight’s game where Scott Rolen and Blockhead Peralta will warm my heart and soul. I sure will. They give me something to write about.
* – James Baldwin photo credit: Bleacher Report
* – Jimmy Rollins photo credit: Mark Duncan/AP via I Love Bubba Dogs