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October 2, 2013
The Lineup Card
Ten Players Who Could Back into World Series Rings
1. Casper Wells, Oakland Athletics
2. Joel Hanrahan, Boston Red Sox
At the time, most considered the deal fairly even. The Red Sox gave up quantity and got quality. Naysayers in Boston pointed to the total years of control their team gave up as well as Hanrahan’s less than stellar 2012 campaign. Debby Downers in Pittsburgh thought the move downgraded the 2013 club and were upset by the relative lack of upside they received in the process.
As we know now, Pirates fans should not have been upset.
Hanrahan threw 7 1/3 innings for the Red Sox this year, and those innings were not good. The 32-year-old gave up eight runs in that span, recording just five strikeouts and six walks. Hanrahan did manage to grab four saves, though, so yeah.
If the Red Sox do manage to go all the way, Hanrahan will get a ring, just like the rest of them. But his biggest contribution to the Red Sox was taking a seat so that Koji Uehara could work his magic.
Thanks for the memories, Joel. —Ben Carsley
3. Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers
4. B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
This is what sets Upton apart from other contenders for today’s dubious honor. Plenty of players have coasted, whether injured or pine-riding or late-arriving, on the doings of their successful teammates to gain a shot at a World Series ring. Others have had a handful of pointless at-bats or tossed a few inconsequential innings as their bid for post-season jewelry. Upton, though, did not merely do nothing to help; he actively worked against the Braves’ prosperity, costing them two wins all by himself. He’s fortunate that his team didn’t need them. That the Braves are on the hook for four more years of Upton must terrify them. —Adam Sobsey
5. John McDonald, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox
Which means he's played for one-third of the remaining postseason teams. There's a theory going around that he purposely hit poorly so he would be traded to enough teams that eventually one of them would win the World Series. This theory has yet to be proven and only exists in my head. —Matt Sussman
Young, meanwhile, was not even playing well enough to stay on the Phillies’ 25-man roster. He was sent to Triple-A in mid-August after providing not even marginal value. He was at -0.1 WARP and a .397 slugging percentage, with his usual subpar defense.
The Tampa Bay Rays decided to gamble on Young and took him off waivers on August 22. They signed him to a minor-league deal and called him up on September 1 with the roster expansion. Remember, Young has disappointed Tampa before. And he wasn’t good enough to stay on a non-contending team that paid him to stay skinny.
In 14 games from September 1–20, Young had a .226/.314/.355 slash. This was somehow good enough to convince Joe Maddon to play him in the most important stretch of the season; Young started and finished eight of the last nine games of the pennant chase, including Monday’s all-important tiebreaker. Heck, Maddon loves him.
So here he is. The wild card game is tonight and chances are Delmon Young will be DHing. I guess you gotta admire his perseverance in spite of off-field issues and mediocre play … and credit organizations that repeatedly seem to think they can capture the magic that never was for Dmitri’s little brother. —Dan Rozenson
7. Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta Braves
The images are the same every year—the final out of the World Series, a dugout’s worth of players spilling onto the field in a jubilatory wave, champions drenching each other in champagne. It’s an exclusive group of major leaguers that can look back on their career and recall such experiences as participants on the field and in the clubhouse. A slightly larger collection of players can look down to their hand to find a World Series players ring commemorating the championship. That’s because tradition holds that every player to suit up for the World Champion during the season, regardless of duration on the roster, or whether the player is even still a member of the organization come October, receives a ring.
Each year players are awarded World Series rings after watching the final games of the season from the sidelines. Players have been awarded rings after being traded in April, or while missing a season due to injury. In 2010, Bengie Molina entered Game One of the Rangers-Giants series knowing that, regardless of results, he would have a World Series ring come 2011 (Molina began the year with San Francisco before being traded to Texas mid-season). The Rangers lost in five and Molina now possesses a ring commemorating his team’s defeat, gifted by the organization that beat them.
This year, the Atlanta Braves finished the regular season 10 games ahead of the second-place Nationals, meaning the Braves won nine more games than they needed to in order to make the playoffs. Lining up each of the regular season contributors for the club, it’s tough to envision a player having less to do with their playoff berth than Christian Bethancourt. Bethancourt entered the year as Atlanta’s fifth-best prospect per Jason Parks’ Top Ten Prospects List. He earned himself a September call-up after the close of the Minor League season, making his major-league debut on September 29th—the second to last day of the season and a week after the Braves clinched the division title. Bethancourt’s debut consisted of a pinch hit appearance, which resulted in a strikeout. He did not make any other appearances.
To recap, should the Braves triumph this postseason, thanks to his pinch hit strikeout a week after the Braves had clinched their division, Bethancourt will receive the same ring as Rookie of the Year candidate Julio Tehran. Hey, at least he isn’t suiting up for the opposition, right? —Nick J. Faleris
8. Brayan Villarreal, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers
All of those players got lucky that they were called up to join what would be a World Series winning major league roster. They essentially had a 1-in-30 chance and they hit the flush on the river. Brayan Villarreal has something over them all, however. Namely, an extra 1-in-30 shot. Villarreal has pitched (badly and non-essentially) for both this season’s Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox. If the Tigers win the World Series, he gets a ring. If the Red Sox win the World Series, he gets a ring. It’s like Oprah. And you get a ring, and you get a ring, and you get a ring! Only each of you is Brayan Villarreal.
Villarreal threw all of 4 1/3 innings for the Tigers acquiring a 20.something ERA in the process (when your ERA starts with “20” what comes after the decimal doesn’t matter). He gave up 10 runs in those 4 1/3 innings, walked eight (to six strikeouts) and gave up a homer. It was enough to get him traded. Which he was. To the Red Sox, in the deal for Jose Iglesias. Villarreal came east with Jake Peavy of the White Sox. He joined the Red Sox in late August and made his one appearance in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tied game. He came on with two outs and the bases loaded and proceeded to walk Marco Scutaro on four pitches, walking in a run and losing the game.
I’m sure the other authors in this Lineup Card feature have come up with worth candidates for the honor of least deserving player who could get a World Series ring, but I defy you, I defy everyone reading, to find someone who has done less and has a better shot to win the World Series than Brayan Villarreal. —Matthew Kory
9. Tony Cruz, St. Louis Cardinals
10. Josh Wall, Los Angeles Dodgers
The right-hander, a second-round pick in 2005, took the mound six times in April and logged seven innings. In those seven innings he gave up a whopping 14 runs on 17 hits and six walks. Wall faced 44 batters, and those batters combined for a .486/.548/.800 triple-slash line. Miguel Cabrera dreams of hitting .486/.548/.800.
After coughing up seven runs in two innings of mop-up duty on April 29, Wall was demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he spent three months before getting shipped to the Marlins as part of a three-player package for Ricky Nolasco. That was his most meaningful contribution to the 2013 Dodgers. But if Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, and company take home rings, Wall will have a shiny souvenir by which to remember his 18.00 ERA and 3.29 WHIP. —Daniel Rathman