Life has ups and downs, and baseball, as life itself, can’t be alien to this reality. This is the case of baseball which sees a good number of players come to stardom and suddenly move to a different condition. The reasons are diverse, some because of the normal deterioration that comes with age, others because of their off-field behavior. Then you have those who simply seem lost on the ground, as if someone had "stolen" that special skill and ability that made them occupy an elite state in a league with a lot of competition (as in Space Jam).
Whether for one reason or another, these players are no longer the same ones that won awards in the recent past, but quite the opposite. Some wander among minors, Asia, Europe and Independent Leagues trying to recover or rediscover that necessary spark they have lost. Sometimes, a few of them are fortunate and find it, while others give up on the road. In a sport as complicated as the bat and ball game, constancy and consistency are 2 elements highly valued by Major League Baseball organizations. The player who "loses" or doesn't have them is simply released by teams who prefer to lose their services instead of spending large sums of money on them.
If there is something we must be clear is that Baseball is a business. A great and extremely lucrative business. Today, The Sportster presents 15 former-starting players who today are simply a bench player (at best). Play Ball!
15 Ichiro Suzuki
We all know Ichiro. Since he arrived in the Majors in 2001 with the Seattle Mariners, he's been a batting machine. The Ichiro-mania seized the MLB from the outset, as Ichiro in his first season (2001) was selected to the All-Star Game, won the Gold Glove, the Silver Slugger, and the American League Batting Title. He was the best stealer in the majors, in addition to adding the MVP and the American League Rookie Of The Year trophies.
And all that only in his first year. Ichiro's successful MLB career is undisputed, most thought he would remain with the Mariners franchise player until 2012 when he was traded to the Yankees. He played for 3 seasons with ups and downs, leaving a good impression more not enough to continue with the Bronx Bombers, this took him to the Miami Marlins, where he now has a more discrete role. While the numbers don't lie, a player as disciplined as Ichiro, who will surely enter Cooperstown is now a reserve player, trying to earn a place in the starting lineup like any newbie.
14 Geovany Soto
Soto is another case of someone who was aiming to be the franchise player, and one with a lot of faithful fans like the Chicago Cubs. In fact, Soto reached quite remarkable numbers and prizes that made him place in the Elite of the Majors, with 2008 being his best year winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award and being selected to the All-Star Game of the same season. But ... What happened next? Soto had a very bad campaign in 2009, perhaps by the pressure of his Sophomore Year or the high expectations that generated his previous season, hitting barely .248.
Apart from this, he tested positive in marijuana in the World Baseball Classic made that year where Geovany played for the Puerto Rico national team, the ancient IBAF suspended him internationally for two years. Soto never was the same, he went on to play for several teams, including the Rangers, A's, White Sox and Angels. Earlier this year, Soto signed a Minor League contract with the Chicago White Sox in an attempt to retake his form and return to the Big Show.
13 Chris Coghlan
Coghlan was one of the future players of the Miami Marlins organization, it was even thought that the team would be built with young players like him, José Fernández, José Reyes, Giancarlo Stanton etc. However, the South Florida team decided to dispense with the services of the 2009 National League Rookie Of The Year, as Chris headed to the windy city to play with the Cubs.
He played two complete campaigns with the Cubs but didn’t manage to impose outstanding numbers. He would go to the West Coast afterwards, specifically to Oakland to help the A's in an eternal reconstruction. After a season and a half with very low batting averages, he was traded to the Cubs where he would be apart of the team that broke the Billy Goat curse. No longer as a starter, however, a World Series Title is a World Series Title.
12 Bryan LaHair
LaHair debuted with the Seattle Mariners in 2008, taking up the Richie Sexson's space after being released by the club at mid-season. However, his path with them was unsuccessful as he left in 2011 for Chicago the Cubs where he managed to be the starter first baseman, having good numbers and a solid defensive game style during the campaign, in which he was selected to the 2012 season All-Star Game.
However, this success was the shooting star itself, the second half of the campaign was not so good and ended up hitting for .259 on average. After this, Bryan did not get bigger opportunities in the Majors. However, he accepted an offer of the Japanese Baseball by signing with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2013 in a non-leading role. Nonetheless, he is still active in organized baseball.
11 Tim Lincecum
"The Freak" was undoubtedly the ace of the rotation of the San Francisco Giants and the Majors during the early years of this decade. In fact, Tim is partially responsible for the successes of the Giants/ dynasty. The right-handed pitcher has been selected 4 times to the All-Star Game (2008-2011) and has won twice in a row the Cy Young Award. Additionally, he has won the World Series three times.
Not bad, right? Lincecum began to be strongly batted, and his pitches weren't as effective. His relationship with San Francisco came to an end in 2015. A year later, Timmy agreed to a deal with the Angels, where he didn't do well, only having 9 starts while he batted a career-low of 9.16 ERA. Following the lack of interest of many teams, Lincecum has signed an agreement with the Chicago Cubs for this 2017.
10 Jarrod Saltalamacchia
While Saltalamacchia is not considered a star by many, it is clear that he was a very good defensive catcher for many years with the Boston Red Sox. After leaving, "Salty" hasn't had the greatest of times with the Miami Marlins. During the 2015 season, he was released following a poor campaign.
Afterwards, he was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks where he had an acceptable average of .251 in 70 games. Despite all that, he was again released and acquired by the Detroit Tigers, where he struggled with his batting for just an average of .071. More recently, the Toronto Blue Jays offered him a minor league with a Spring Training.
9 Joba Chamberlain
The ancient New York Yankees prospect is the next on our list, Joba was the promise to take care of the Yanks pitching during this decade. We know that if you are with the Yankees, everything you do is magnified or minimized and this was the case of Joba. He won the World Series with the Yankees in 2009, where he would continue playing until 2013.
In 2012, he had a series of injuries as he struggled with his health. Joba never had the same effectiveness once he returned and the Yanks decided to release him. He signed with the Detroit Tigers where he played for a pair of seasons without much success. In 2015, he arrived at the Toronto Blue Jays via a minor league contract. More recently, Joba signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers with an invitation to Spring Training.
8 Joe Nathan
Nathan played for the Minnesota Twins Joe averaging 35 saves per season, peaking at 47 in 2009. These impressive numbers earned him the league's 2010 Reliever of the Year award, as well as 4 All-Star Game invitations. In 2011, he signed with the Texas Rangers where he maintained the pace for 2 seasons as he was selected to play in the All-Star Game.
He signed with the Detroit Tigers in 2014, and then went to the Chicago Cubs two years later. By 2017, Joe signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals that includes a Spring Training invitation.
7 Dan Uggla
Originally from the Florida Marlins, Uggla was considered a fearsome hitter by rival pitchers. He had consecutive seasons with more than 30 HR and 100 RBI, Uggla was an elite second baseman in the Majors. These numbers earned him a Silver Slugger in 2010 and 3 invitations to the All-Star Game. In 2010, he rejected a contract with the Marlins and was traded to the Atlanta Braves with whom he would sign an agreement for 5 years and 62 USD million. His first season with Atlanta was quite good, not quite as good as his previous seasons, but he connected a good amount of Home Runs (36) with 82 RBIs.
In 2012, he had a bad season with an average of .220 and .179 in 2013. Atlanta left him off the roster as he was eventually released. He was taken by the San Francisco Giants where things didn't change. In 2015, the Washington Nationals gave him an opportunity as a backup player. He would finish the campaign by hitting .183, the team didn't renew him. Since then, he keeps wandering between free agency and minor league invitations.
6 Ryan Vogelsong
Vogelsong was part of the San Francisco Giants who were able to claim the World Series titles of 2010 and 2012. His career is full of ups and downs, including a stint at Japanese baseball in 2009 with the Orix Buffaloes. He returned to the Major League Baseball once again with the San Francisco Giants in 2011.
In 2015, Vogelsong reached an agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates where he had an average season. He would be the veteran player who would guide the rookies with his experience. In 2017, he signed a Minor League contract with the Minnesota Twins with a Spring Training invitation in a new effort to relaunch his career and reach the Majors again.
5 Erick Aybar
The native of Bani in the Dominican Republic was one of the best shortstops in the baseball. In fact, he was an undisputed starter with the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels, winning the Gold Glove Award as the best Shortstop of the American League in 2011. He also was selected to the All-Star Game in 2014. Aybar was an important figure in the title victory by the Dominican Republic in the 2013 World Baseball Classic edition.
Everything seemed to go great in Aybar's career, but he was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2015, where he was underwhelming. In 2016, Atlanta traded him to Detroit, where he arrived as a substitute for José Iglesias the shortstop holder who suffered a serious injury. Once he recovered Detroit let Erick go, as he went on to sign a minor league contract for the San Diego Padres.
4 Coco Crisp
Covelli Loyce "Coco" Crisp is a baseball veteran, he was always a starting player in every team he played with, initially with Cleveland, where he had to leave the team as management was betting on the development of young Grady Sizemore. Afterwards, he played for the Boston Red Sox.
With the Red Sox, he managed to win the 2007 World Series. He would go on to play for the Kansas City Royals in 2009. The following year, he joined the Oakland Athletics where he would remain for six and a half seasons, when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. Coco is part of the team that reached the World Series, although he could not win another title. He's currently a free agent and has indicated that he's not ready to retire.
3 Carl Crawford
"The Perfect Storm" is another example of a baseball player career decline. Crawford was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' franchise player. In fact, most of the club's offensive records belong to him. With the Rays, he managed to collect several individual trophies such as the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2010, 4 American League Stolen Base Leader titles (2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007) as well as 4 All-Star Game invitations (2004 , 2007, 2009 and 2010).
However, Crawford opted to go to a more competitive team in 2011 by signing with the Boston Red Sox for 7 years and USD 142 million. After two regular campaigns, he decided to leave the team and went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he had a couple of good campaigns. In the past two seasons, his numbers have been considerably low to the point of losing the starter position.
2 Pablo Sandoval
“The Kung-Fu Panda” is one of the most emblematic cases of this list. A key piece in the San Francisco Giants with them was selected twice to the All-Star Game, also winning 3 World Series championships, while scooping the 2014 World Series Most Valuable Player. This performance aroused the interest of many teams of the Big Show when he became a free agent at the end of that season.
The Boston Red Sox get the services of Sandoval with a five-year and USD 90 million deal. However, in his first season at Fenway, “The Panda” was replaced in full spring training by Travis Shaw by not having the expected yield. This in addition to his poor form and a subsequent injury made him lose the rest of the 2016 campaign.
1 Josh Hamilton
And here we are... the first place on list is occupied by Josh Hamilton, yes, the same one that has been a 5-time All-Star, The American League Batting Champion in 2010, 3-time Silver Slugger winner (2008, 2010 and 2012), American League RBI Leader in 2008, American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2010, and American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player (ALCS MVP.)
Hamilton's talent for batting is unquestionable, the problem has always been his conduct outside the ballpark, including drug use problems and alcoholism that have led him to relapses. In 2013, Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels where he had a very good first year, but his physical problems and addictions started to affect his performance. In 2015, he's traded again to the Rangers to occupy a new role, where he has had considerably low numbers. In 2017, Texas again offered him an opportunity with a Minor League contract that includes a Spring Training invitation.
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