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June 30, 2011

The BP Wayback Machine

Un-Stars

by James Click

While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.

Everyone loves discussing All-Star snubs, but what about the undeserving players who did make it? James did some digging and came up with the following list of misguided selections, which originally ran as a "Crooked Numbers" column on July 7, 2005.

In an unusual coincidence, players and fans have publicly agreed on the All-Star teams--or the starters, at least--this year, marking one of the first years in which the media and players haven't struck up a magnificent din in response to perceived slights or favoritisms. Sure, some deserving players like Morgan Ensberg are missing, but whereas in the past players like Nomar Garciaparra or Barry Bonds may have been elected despite their injuries or complete absence, this year fans elected a largely deserving crew of exciting and talented players.

In the spirit of Steven Goldman, we're going to take a trip down memory lane today and do our best to assemble a slightly different squad: the worst All-Stars of all time. The only requirements being that these players were--for one season--representatives for their league in the annual summer classic and accumulated the worst VORP ever for their league and position. Some of them certainly deserve to be on the team based on their defense (a skill VORP overlooks) but we'll address those as we come to them. And some may have been having decent seasons before the break, but for many we don't have their day-by-day stats, so we'll have to use what we've got.

That's about all there is to it, so let's jump right in, starting with the American League:

  • Catcher - Sandy Alomar Jr. (Cleveland Indians, 1998, -6.1 VORP) Barely edging out Jeff Newman (1979) and Jim Hegan (1949 and 1950), Alomar and his .235/.270/.352 line (for the season) snuck past security into Coors Field for his sixth and final All-Star appearance. The 1998 Indians--the defending AL champs--sent six All-Stars to the midsummer classic that year, but while nearly all the rest were deserving, Alomar's presence suggests the use of Voodoo or Jedi Mind Tricks on manager Mike Hargrove to get into the game. Nevertheless, he managed an RBI single in his only at bat, helping the AL to a 13-8 victory. Alomar should send Sherri Nichols a thank you card; the old axiom that a catcher's defensive reputation is inversely proportional to his offensive production was never more true.
     
  • First Base - Dick Siebert (Philadelphia Athletics, 1943, -2.7) His team's sole representative--a phrase that surprisingly doesn't apply to many of the members of this squad--Siebert (.251/.295/.328) somehow managed to start over the Tigers' Rudy York (.271/.366/.527), but only long enough to get him one at bat. Likely chosen largely on the basis of his impressive 1942 season, '43 was Siebert's lone All-Star appearance and came while Jimmie Foxx missed the season.
     
  • Second Base - Bobby Richardson (New York Yankees, 1957, -4.4) One of eight Yankees on the '57 squad, Richardson joins Elston Howard (-4.1 VORP, see below) as the only teammates on this distinguished squad. Richardson never managed to see action in the game as the White Sox's Nellie Fox played the whole way in a 6-5 AL victory. A 21-year old rookie at the time, Richardson would go on to a total of seven All-Star appearances before his career ended after the 1966 season, just one point shy of a .300 career OBP.
     
  • Third Base - Cal Ripken Jr. (Baltimore Orioles, 2001, -4.9 VORP) This entry obviously deserves a huge asterisk as Ripken was one of the greatest shortstops of all time and was voted back to the All-Star game in his final season as a gesture from fans who wanted to see the man of The Streak one more time. Starting shortstop Alex Rodriguez, in one of his classiest moments and a bit of foreshadowing of his upcoming career moves, insisted Ripken play shortstop for the first inning while Rodriguez manned the hot corner. In his first at bat, Ripken famously homered off Chan Ho Park, providing everyone a fantastic final memory of one of the game's great statesmen.
     
  • Shortstop - Billy Hunter (St. Louis Browns, 1953, -26.4) Ladies and Gentlemen, the worst All-Star of all time. A 25-year old rookie, Hunter (.219/.253/.259) joined none other than Satchel Paige as the two representatives of the 54-100 Browns, managing only a brief appearance as a pinch runner for Mickey Mantle in the seventh inning. Over a six-year career, Hunter played for five different teams, managing a .219/.264/.294 career mark. His single appearance on the All-Star team was no doubt a result of his fielding (25 FRAA), but Hunter's glove declined so quickly that he managed to give back 23 of those runs over the rest of his unremarkable career.
     
  • Left Field - Ken Berry (Chicago White Sox, 1967, -4.2) Berry was one of the best defensive outfielders of the 1960s, but he could not hit. At all. His .241/.310/.330 line was just below average for the Sox outfielder, who switched from left to center during the '67 season. Adjusting Berry's career for the offensive levels of the '60s and '70s, he comes out to a .276/.328/.395, but there was nothing remarkable about this 1967 season that warranted an All-Star selection. After the NL scored in the top of the 15th, manager Hank Bauer decided it was finally time to bring in Berry's bat, pinch hitting him for Catfish Hunter with two outs in the bottom half of the inning. He struck out.
     
  • Center Field - Elston Howard (New York Yankees, 1957, -4.1) Though later a catcher, Howard split time in '57 between left and backstop, but we'll stretch things a bit and say he can play center. A member of the aforementioned troop of eight Yanks to make the team this year, Howard remained a fixture on the All-Star team, joining the squad every year from his initial appearance here until 1965. Howard eventually turned in some impressive seasons later in his career--most notably '61, '63, and '64--but his selection in '57 was a bit premature; he never saw the field.
     
  • Right Field - Reggie Jackson (California Angels, 1983, -6.3) In his second year with the California Angels, Mr. October became Mr. Disappointment, managing a measly .194/.290/.340 line on the season. Though largely selected for his past achievements, Jackson's '83 was the most forgettable season of his unforgettable career.
     
  • Designated Hitter - Don Wert (Detroit Tigers, 1968, -7.9) While 1968 was the heart of the greatest pitching-dominated stretch of all time, a line of .200/.258/.299 for a third baseman still doesn't warrant All-Star status. Wert--who is the only player to ever hit more than 10 home runs while slugging under .300--actually managed one of only three hits by the AL that year as the junior circuit fell to the NL 1-0 on an unearned run.

Moving on to the NL....

  • Catcher - Chris Cannizzaro (San Diego Padres, 1969, -3.0) In a close competition with John Stearns, Cannizzaro takes the starting job in the first of our NL spots. In his lone All-Star appearance in a 13-year career, Cannizzaro was the sole representative of the first-year San Diego Padres. The fact that Cannizzaro (.220/.290/.297) led his team in IBB is an excellent indicator of the quality of the expansion team. Nate Colbert was certainly more deserving of the honor, but Willie McCovey and Lee May's dueling home run race--ending with 45 and 38, respectively--meant the NL was forced to go with Cannizzaro who did his team proud sitting on the bench in RFK stadium.
     
  • First Base - Hank Leiber (Chicago Cubs, 1941, -1.4) In the year of the last .400 hitter and Joe DiMaggio's streak, the Cubs' first baseman managed to tag along with four teammates to the All-Star game despite a .216/.291/.377 line. In this year, when he made his third and final All-Star appearance, Leiber had the worst season of his career. In fact, Leiber made the team in '38 (.269/.327/.442) and '40 (.302/.371/.482), but not his career season, 1939 (.310/.411/.556).
     
  • Second Base - Burgess Whitehead (St. Louis Cardinals, 1935, -3.2) Perhaps Whitehead's selection to join the third midsummer classic can be excused by the newness of the game and everyone's inexperience with the selection process. Baseball hadn't yet figured out how to change the voting procedure every time someone felt slighted. One of seven Cardinals selected to join the fun, Whitehead managed to enter the game as a pinch runner, but the Cubs' Billy Herman played the entire 4-1 loss at Whitehead's position.
     
  • Third Base - Mike Schmidt (Philadelphia Phillies, 1989, 2.1) Much like Ripken's final game, Schmidt's selection in 1989 was more an acknowledgement of his fine career than anything else. His .203/.297/.372 line in 42 games was a difficult end to a fine career and though he didn't manage Ripken's storybook ending, Schmidt still stands as the greatest third baseman of all time.
     
  • Shortstop - Leo Durocher (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1938, -11.7) Though better known for his managerial career for four teams including the Dodgers and Giants, Durocher was a three time All-Star, though it's an open debate as to whether he deserved any of them. Though an above average fielder, Durocher's .219/.293/.284 in the middle of one of baseball's most offensively bloated eras stands as the second worst All-Star season of all time. Durocher managed to work his way into the starting lineup, going 1-for-3 and scoring a run in a 4-1 National League victory.
     
  • Left Field - Bobby Thomson (New York Giants, 1948, -4.6) In his second full-time season, Thomson hit .248/.296/.401, a line not nearly as bad as some seen elsewhere on this list. But with players like Stan Musial and Ralph Kiner setting the pace, Thomson's lack of OBP looks that much worse. In his first of only three career selections, Thomson came up with his team trailing in the bottom of the ninth and struck out. He managed a little better in a similar situation a few years later.
     
  • Center Field - Augie Galan (Chicago Cubs, 1936, -1.5) Easily one of the most marginal selections for this group, Galan's .264/.344/.365 is one of the best on this list. However, as All-Star teams are usually filled with "outfielders" rather than "centerfielders," etc, it's difficult to find pure centerfielders who were selected despite objectively terrible seasons. Galan played the entire game in '36 and lead off, going 1-for-4 with a home run in a 4-3 NL victory.
     
  • Right Field - Carl Furillo (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1952, -4.8) Furillo was a solid outfielder from 1949 to 1951, averaging 18 home runs a season and hitting for a high average. He was finally selected to the team in 1952, just in time for him to hit .247/.304/.351 in by far his worst season. A career .299/.355/.458 hitter, Furillo was selected one more time the following season, but he never saw the field in either game. In the game in '52, at least he was spared the frustration of batting because the game was called on account of rain after five innings.
     
  • Designated Hitter - Eddie Miller (Cincinnati Reds, 1946, -4.0) Ah, those halcyon days when shortstops batting .194/.258/.288 were featured in baseball's great showcase. In his sixth of seven All-Star selections, almost all of which were during World War II, Miller failed to push Marty Marion (.233/.318/.325) from the game. It hardly would have made a difference as the AL crushed the NL 12-0, allowing but three hits as Ted Williams--finally back from the war--went 4-for-4 with five RBI and two home runs to lead the rout.

So there you have it. Surprisingly, very few of these players were the single selection on a terrible team. Instead, most seem to have had either long, impressive careers or strong defensive reputations. Barring any historical second half collapses, this year's squads don't look to be replacing anyone on this team--Cesar Izturis is the closest with a mere 6.1 VORP--but there's always next year.

3 comments have been left for this article.

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