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July 12, 1999

AL East Notebook

Five guys with no All-Star chances

by Joe Sheehan

"Tuesday? Oh, I Guess I'll Go Fishing..."

60 players will divide 18 innings and, if recent history is any indication, about six hits among them during Tuesday night's All-Star Game in Boston. With the brouhahas over players being snubbed or backing out already fading, let's take a look at a handful of guys who were, well, just outside the periphery of All-Star discussions. Keeping in mind the "one-player-per-team" rule, here are the worst players in the AL East this year:

5) Jorge Posada, New York. Hey, I don't understand it, either, and the Yanks are puzzled enough to have sent Posada to have his eyes checked. Posada has followed up his .825 OPS of 1998 with a terrible .203/.299/.358 performance so far in 1999. He has not progressed defensively and save for a mild hot streak in mid-June, hasn't shown any sign that this is just a slump.

Posada's disappointing play has been one of the keys to the Yankees' return to the pack in the AL East. With the bottom of the lineup not producing, their offense has slid to the middle of the league. For the Yanks to score enough runs to repeat, Posada will have to return to his 1998 form.

4) Trot Nixon, Boston. Like many poor players, Nixon is a great story, having fought off back problems that threatened his career and advanced to the majors. He has spent much of the year as the Sox' right fielder. The problem is, he's not hitting. His good plate discipline has been completely overshadowed by his lack of power: just 16 extra-base hits and a .365 slugging average.

It's probable that Nixon will keep his job, as he's an organizational favorite, and frankly, the Sox have no one better. Unless he can locate the lost power, though, he'll continue to be among the worst right fielders in the league.

3) Scott Erickson, Baltimore. Erickson ranks ahead of Posada and Nixon due in part to his cost: he's in year one of a five-year, $32-million contract extension. That's a stiff price to pay for a 6.34 ERA and abysmal peripherals, especially given Erickson's penchant for blaming that performance on everyone around him. His claim that his rough start was caused by "too much rest" was a welcome bit of levity in the dreary Oriole season.

2) Randy Winn, Tampa Bay. In a very close race, Winn is just barely edged out by someone whose performance is even worse. Scary, given Winn's .261/.301/.343 effort, with a matched set of nine stolen bases and times caught stealing. This isn't a fluke: it's about what you can expect from him, and with Tampa Bay lacking other options in center field, he'll be playing every day. By the end of the year, he may well be the worst player in the division.

Before we unveil that honor, we should toss out a few honorable mentions. Any and all Yankee left fielders, take a bow. Hey, you Blue Jay DHs! All of you! Stand up and be recognized. And if you've started on the mound for Tampa Bay this year, well, now's your chance to be acknowledged for your efforts.

But it's another indoor starting pitcher who tops the list today. New to the American League, he went on the disabled list after two starts with an ERA of 19.29. And to his credit, he's managed to cut that by more than half (!) since coming back in late May. The league's hitting about like Mike Sweeney (.349/.408/.516) off him, and like Erickson, he recently signed an expensive long-term deal. Ladies and gentlemen, the worst player in the AL East so far in 1999...Joey Hamilton!!!

So when you're watching that parade of 1-2-3 innings on Tuesday night, and basking in the greatness of Ron Coomer, take a second to remember these guys. On an empty stomach, please.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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