One of the most pressure-filled positions in all of sports has to be that of a baseball pitcher. All eyes are on you to start every single play, and there are moments where you can feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Some guys step up and become legends, either becoming Hall of Famers or making their case for the Hall of Fame someday.
For every Clayton Kershaw or Greg Maddux, there are dozens of guys that failed miserably in the Major Leagues. Yet, a lot of these guys end up getting multiple years in the league despite never showing their ability to become solid players. Today, we want to look at some of those players. We could pick on the guys that made one start and gave up a run or two without recording a single putout, but that’s not too fair.
Instead, we look at some of the worst living pitchers that were given multiple chances to succeed in the MLB. We’ll also take a look at what they’re up to these days. Some have found more success off the mound, while others have run themselves into trouble. Here are 15 of the worst pitchers in MLB history, and what they are up to these days.
16 Mike Kekich
Back in the 1970s, there wasn’t a lot of scoring in baseball. However, there seemed to be a lot of scoring between the players and their wives. At least, that was the case for Mike Kekich of the New York Yankees. Kekich is mainly remembered for exchanging wives with teammate Fritz Peterson. It’s an unprecedented move that would never happen these days (or so we think), but that wasn’t too crazy in the 1970s.
Overall, Kekich was not a good pitcher, as he posted a 39-51 record and 4.59 ERA. For that era of baseball, those numbers are awful. Since leaving baseball after the 1977 season, Kekich has been in hiding because people only ask him about the wife swap. When he was finally found in New Mexico for an interview in 2011, he wondered just how someone was finally able to find him.
15 Kei Igawa
Kei Igawa was lighting up Japan as a member of the Hanshin Tigers for a brief time, then struggled, then dominated again, then struggled once more. Despite his ups and downs, the Yankees saw potential and signed him to a five year deal worth $20 million. Igawa made his debut with the Yankees, and pitched just 71.2 innings over two seasons. The numbers were bad, with a 2-4 record and 6.66 ERA.
Igawa would be demoted to the Minor Leagues, and spent several years there before his contract mercifully came to an end in 2011. Since then, Igawa has returned to Japan, signed a two year deal with the Orix Buffaloes in 2012. Now a free agent, it’s a bit of a mystery what the 37 year old is up to these days.
14 Ambiorix Burgos
If you were a Royals fan during the mid 2000s, and let’s be honest, even the diehards weren’t watching then, you might remember Ambiorix Burgos. Burgos played in 2005 and 2006 with the Royals, and then in 2007 with the Mets. Overall, Burgos failed miserably as a closer, posted a 4.60 career ERA and 8-10 record. In his first full-time season as a closer in 2006, Burgos posted just 18 saves in 30 opportunities.
Though his career might have continued, Burgos underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008 and became a free agent. Before he could be signed again, Burgo was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend and being sent to jail. While that trial was still going on, he was arrested for a hit-and-run. When those charges finally cleared up, Burgos found himself in trouble again for kidnapping his ex-wife and trying to kill her. That was back in 2010, and we can only assume that attempted murder means that he’s still in jail. Hopefully.
13 Bobby Ayala
Bobby Ayala started his Major League career in 1992 with the Reds, and posted a 9-11 record and 5.31 ERA in his first two seasons. It should have been a sign that Ayala wasn’t going to be effective out of the bullpen, but the Mariners rolled the dice anyway. Ayala spent five seasons in Seattle, and seemed to get worse every year, never reaching the 20 save mark. Things came to a head in 1998 when he finished 1-10 with a 7.29 ERA.
Ayala finished his career in 1999 when he pitched ineffectively for the Expos and Cubs. Ayala would try a comeback, but never made it past the AAA level for the Cubs and Dodgers after that season. Ayala is reportedly living in Arizona, but has been trying to stay away from baseball fans. Mainly because if he sees you wearing a Mariners cap, he might awkwardly check his watch and start walking the other way.
12 Wayne Franklin
After getting his start in the bullpen with Houston in 2000 and 2001, Wayne Franklin joined the Brewers in the 2002 season. Franklin was tabbed to be a starter, but only made four starts before having to sit out the rest of the season. In 2003, Franklin returned and had a putrid season, finishing 10-13 with a 5.50 ERA. Franklin went back to the bullpen for San Francisco, New York (AL) and Atlanta before his MLB career ended in 2006.
Franklin started to play independent baseball, and even headed to Taiwan for a brief period. Franklin ultimately returned to the United States to play semi-pro ball in 2010, and became the manager of another semi-pro team in 2014. The next year, Franklin would take his current job, which is as the Campolindo High School baseball coach in California.
11 John Rocker
The man that some consider to be the real-life inspiration for Kenny Powers, John Rocker was a completely enigma. In 1998, he made a strong debut, and had some solid seasons with the Braves when he posted a 2.63 ERA in 195.1 innings pitched. Those are solid numbers, but it fell apart when he was sent to Cleveland (not too long after calling every New Yorker every slur in the book).
Rocker finished after 2003 after posting a 5.45 ERA with Cleveland, 6.66 (fittingly) ERA with Texas and 9.00 with Tampa Bay. Rocker would pitch in the independent leagues before even getting cut from there in 2005. Rocker still likes to have his voice heard sometimes, especially among conservative websites. He even made it onto reality series “Survivor” in 2014 and still writes while heading the public affairs department for Save Homeless Veterans.
10 Tommy Lasorda
Memorable manager? Yes. Memorable pitcher? Only if you want to talk about some of the worst pitchers of all-time. Lasorda’s career as a pitcher lasted for just three seasons with Brooklyn and Kansas City, as he threw just 58.1 innings. Lasorda finished an earned run average of 6.48 and an 0-4 record. 20 years after his retirement, Lasorda would become the manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Thankfully for Lasorda, he would end up staying in the position for 20 years, reaching the Baseball Hall of Fame. Lasorda would end up retiring in 1996, but he has stuck around the game of baseball ever since. Lasorda holds a part-time job as an ambassador for the Dodgers organization, and has been active as a public speaker. Now nearing 90 years old, we hope he never leaves the game.
9 Andy Larkin
Through the first 100 years of baseball, there was one player that stood out as having the worst earned run average for any pitcher that had at least 100 innings, and that was Andy Larkin. Larkin made his debut in 1996 with the Marlins to pitch just five innings before coming back in 1998 with the Marlins again, and then spent 2000 with the Royals and Reds.
Overall, Larkin would finish with 105.2 innings pitched, a record of 3-11 and an 8.86 ERA. Larkin would stick around baseball in the minors for some time, but made his last appearance in the MLB in September 2000. After retiring, Larkin moved to Gilbert, Arizona. Since then, he has been working as a firefighter. He can put out real fires, but the not the metaphorical ones in baseball.
7 Mike Maroth
While the Detroit Tigers might have some stability in the past decade, there was a time in the early 2000’s when the team was an absolute mess. It came to a head in 2003 when the team finished with a historically bad record of 43-119. Among the starting pitchers was second year man Mike Maroth, who finished 9-21 with a 5.73 ERA that season while giving up 34 home runs.
Maroth played a total of six seasons with the Cardinals and Tigers, and his career spanned from 2002 to 2007. Maroth finished his career with a record of 50-67 and an ERA of 5.05. After bouncing around in the Minor Leagues for a few seasons, Maroth finally retired in 2011 and joined the Tigers Minor League coaching staff. Maroth is now working with the Atlanta Braves as their Minor League rehab pitching coordinator. It’s a fitting job for a guy who pitched like he was always recovering from injury.
6 Adam Bernero
Mike Maroth isn’t the only pitcher that struggled with the 2003 Detroit Tigers, as Adam Bernero had a miserable record of 1-12 and an ERA of 6.08 to “lead” the starting rotation. Bernero had been with the Tigers since 2000, and 2003 would be his last. Bernero then joined the Rockies, Braves and Royals before missing the 2007 season and eventually becoming a Minor Leaguer and then free agent.
Bernero finished his seven year career with an 11-27 record and 5.91 ERA over 37 games. Bernero went back to school following his career, attending Oregon State University. While enrolled in school, Bernero also decided to become a baseball coach, becoming the varsity coach of Mt. View High School in Bend, Oregon. He also spends a lot of his free time doing photography and hiking.
5 Kris Benson
Quick, what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Kris Benson? If it isn’t the strange marriage between he and Anna Benson, then you truly only pay attention to what’s happening on the field. Benson started his career promising enough in 1999 with the Pirates, though he would never show improvement. In fact, injuries started to mount, and he would never reach his potential.
Overall, Benson finished with a 70-75 record and a 4.42 ERA after two awful and short seasons in 2009 and 2010. Benson is currently living in Atlanta, and spends a lot of time doing philanthropy work. His marriage with Anna Benson finally came to an end in 2012, but he has moved on. That’s because Benson is currently with Brittany Page, the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Diamond Dallas Page.
4 Alan Embree
Alan Embree (Pictured Left) certainly had a lot of ups and downs in his career coming out of the bullpen. Without making a single start in his career, there would be times where Embree would post a 2.18 ERA (like in 2002), but then would have a disastrous season like 2005 when he finished 2-5 with a 7.62 ERA...in 65 appearances. Overall, Embree finished 39-45 and an ERA of 4.59, which is not what you want from a reliever.
Embree ended his career after the 2009 MLB season, and started to focus on coaching youth baseball. Embree started coaching an Elks team in Bend, Oregon, but is now with Summit High School in the same town. He goes toe-to-toe with Adam Bernero, though Embree has Richie Sexson as an assistant coach.
3 Jaime Navarro
Way back in 1989, Jaime Navarro made his debut for the Milwaukee Brewers. After six seasons with the team, Navarro would end up with the Cubs, White Sox, Brewers (again) and Indians. All in all, Navarro spent 12 seasons in the MLB, and all of his success came as a Cub. While with the northsiders, Navarro posted a 29-18 record and 3.62 ERA. Outside of that, Navarro’s record was a paltry 87-108, and his career ERA was 4.72.
After spending a few seasons playing professional baseball in Italy, Navarro returned to the United States to join the Mariners Minor League staff. By 2011, he had been brought up to the big leagues to be the team’s bullpen coach. That wouldn’t last, though, as he was let go from his job in 2015. So who replaced Navarro? None other than legendary rollercoaster pitcher Mike Hampton.
2 Jason Bere
On May 27, 1993, Jason Bere made his Major League debut for the Chicago White Sox. Exactly 10 years and four teams later, Bere would make his final start with the Cleveland Indians. Along the way, Bere showed some promise as he was an All Star in 1994. Things would get much worse for Bere, as he saw his 24-7 start to his career eventually fall to an overall record of 71-65 and an ERA of 5.14.
Even after the Indians decided to give him another chance, Bere was eventually sent to the Minors, and he called it quits. Only die hard Indians fans know what Bere is up to these days. Shortly after retirement, Bere was named to the front office as a special assistant in baseball operations. Since 2015, Bere has been attending every Indians game as the team’s bullpen coach.
1 Sidney Ponson
Some people tend to forget that Sidney Ponson was in the MLB for more than a decade, if you can believe that. The 260 pound hurler had a decent start to his career, and things looked promising in 2003 when he finished the season with a 17-12 mark with a 3.75 ERA. Things would go downhill fast, and his career would be riddled with injuries and inconsistent play. Overall, Ponson finished with a 91-113 record and 5.03 ERA.
Ponson would pitch his last game in 2009 with the Royals, and was named by ESPN as the “Least Valuable Pitcher” of the decade. Ponson has been incredibly quiet for the most part since retiring, and his current occupation is unknown. There was, however, a return to the news when Curt Schilling got into a Twitter beef with the pitcher. The only problem was that it wasn’t actually Ponson using the Twitter account. Whoops.
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