Ahhh… “The Big Show”. Most players treat their opportunity to play in the ‘Bigs’ with the respect it deserves, and therefore thrive in it. Take a second or two and consider the current player stereotype. There’s five different types. Most players might make it, but largely flirt with Minor League affiliates and hop around the country, like a real life Crash Davis. Others only become a regional hero, recognised within a state, but make the rest of us around the country say, “WHO?!” when they get mentioned. Some become All-Stars, players voted in each year by fans because they hit over .300 or have almost 20 home runs by early July, or because someone from their team had to be in the game because of the league’s ‘fairness’ rules. A select few become Hall of Famers, members of that museum in Cooperstown that is becoming more and more selective, like the overly assertive doorman at a nightclub.
But there are those who shamefully squander the unbelievable opportunity (opportunities even) they get. Whether through a lack of dedication to their craft, being easily distracted by other perks of being a pro, repeatedly catching the dreaded injury bug, or plain bad luck, our favorite teams all have one or two (or many) culprits who unfortunately fit into the latter category. So here are 15 of the worst, eating away at our teams, like parasites who survive on cash, sunflower seeds and big league chewing gum.
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15 Tim Lincecum - Los Angeles Angels
Long gone are the days of “The Freak” dominating batters while with the San Francisco Giants (what is it with Giants players declining when they leave? Hmmm). Lincecum appears to be a shell of his former self, struggling with consistently hitting the strike zone and finding that unbelievable velocity of only a few years ago. Joining the Angels seems to be a place good veterans go to die, his 9.16 ERA is indicative of his epic decline. He just can't seem to rebound to where he used to be.
The flowing black hair that flapped around the pitching mound seems to be rather thin and limp these days. It's sad to see that once one of the best pitchers in the game, Lincecum's baseball career is now hanging on by a thread.
Here’s to hoping he finds his mojo again while out on assignment.
14 Ubaldo Jimenez - Baltimore Orioles
That weird ‘frog-in-a-blender’ style pitching action was never going to be sustainable. Jimenez’s ability to locate the strike zone has slowly deteriorated since he left the Rockies back in 2011. He lets far too many players get on base, but often peculiarly has some ability of not letting them reach home, for now. It feels like this is a tight rope he is walking each time at the plate, and given Baltimore’s precarious position at the top of the AL East, you feel like it’s starting to topple for the 32-year-old from the Dominican Republic. This will be even more of an issue in the postseason, should the O’s make it this year.
His unbelievable 2010 season in Colorado seems so long ago. The heat on the fastball is not as consistent as it used to be and unfortunately he never quite developed a curveball, possibly because of that awkward pitching action he is famous for. With $26 million still owed, the Orioles will be praying for some more consistency from Jimenez.
13 Ryan Zimmerman - Washington Nationals
Zimmerman is another one of those players who appears to be getting away with poor production because of the efforts of those around him, or simply just the attention devoted to those around him. However, this has been a trend for a few seasons with him now in the Washington Nationals uniform. The injury bug has certainly bit him, but what is made to be more concerning this year is the dips in both his slugging and on-base percentages. The Nationals thought that a move to first base from third would help (especially given the amount of injuries to his shoulder), but it appears to be an exercise in futility. Gone are the days of his exceptional clutch hitting also.
The Nationals appear stuck with him as it’s unlikely teams will be bashing down their door to take Zimmerman and his whopping contract, of which he is still owed $48 million until 2019.
12 Miguel Montero - Chicago Cubs
Montero has largely escaped the wrath of Cubs fans in 2016 due to the rest of the team’s outstanding performances. He looks to have been made the second (even third) string catcher now with the emergence of young Wilson Contreras. The Cubs don’t need to worry too much about defense from the catching position, something Montero was actually not too shabby with. So really, all they need is a catcher who will hit when necessary, something Contreras seems to be doing much better than Montero. It doesn’t help that David Ross often catches Jon Lester’s games also, due to their close relationship.
Long gone it appears are the days when Montero was an emerging talent on with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now he appears to be a struggling catcher on a team that is cruising along to the postseason. He’s not getting any younger and is on a contract that is far too high when compared with his production, which is never a good sign.
11 Curtis Granderson - New York Mets
Granderson was once an interesting asset for the Yankees to have, but ultimately they deemed him expendable to their plans when they signed Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston. As a leadoff hitter, Granderson has been a peculiar commodity as he wasn’t a great contact hitter, rather hitting more home runs than probably was ever expected of him, a nice little bonus of course. But now that those have dried up and he’s not getting on base anywhere near enough, Mets fans are growing frustrated with him. Leadoff hitters are the foundation of the innings, but when you have more strikeouts than hits, as is the case with Granderson in 2016, you’re simply not doing what you’re paid to do.
This is a Mets team desperate for hits, and when you are paid $16 million a season, it’s understandable for fans and front offices to feel annoyed with you.
10 Chris Davis - Baltimore Orioles
I look at Chris Davis similarly as I look at Prince Fielder, except he hasn’t had anywhere near the success of Fielder. Davis is still an outstanding home run hitter, with 23 so far in 2016. But his batting average is an appalling .219 and he has 152 strikeouts, indicating he is capable of either the sublime or the subpar. Production like this is awkward for teams like the Orioles. Do you replace him, or move him in the lineup given his lack of production? Or is that the day when he will go out and hit two dingers? The competition in the AL East makes this a hard one for the Orioles, and their front office must be feeling the pressure, given the pursuit of the Blue Jays and Red Sox, teams with infinitely better lineups, rotations and bullpens than Baltimore. With another six years left on a contract paying $23 million a year, I don’t envy the their front office’s position.
9 Todd Frazier - Chicago White Sox
Certainly he has been the king of the Home Run Derby in recent years, but little else in the grind of the regular season. He seems to be the embodiment of the White Sox season, with consistency being very hard to establish. Frazier has hit 30 home runs, but also has 106 strikeouts. The South Siders are a peculiar team at the moment… We’ve seen the Chris Sale jersey cutting episode, Adam La Roche leaving the team because his son was told he couldn’t be in the locker room, the team had a hot start to the season, but are now in a very long fade. It’s been odd to say the least.
Frazier’s season is symbolic of the team's season, some flash but little substance. While he is loved in the clubhouse, that stat sheet is a harsh mistress who isn’t in the mood to reciprocate.
8 Alex Gordon - Kansas City Royals
It’s become more than obvious to even the most casual of baseball observers that Kansas City is suffering a dreaded World Series hangover in this season. The pitching has suffered, especially surprising given the famous bullpen that was so integral to their success last year. Additions were made this year but it appears that inconsistency has hindered them, and the dynamic Cleveland Indians have capitalized on that. But no one appears guiltier of the Royals' misgivings in 2016 than Alex Gordon. His defensive metrics are still outstanding, but his batting average is down almost 80 points from the .271 mark he hit last season. Gordon is striking out far too often also.
The ‘Small Ball’ philosophy of 2015 doesn’t appear to be carrying through this year for the Royals, and this cannot be better indicated than with Gordon’s poor season so far.
7 Carl Crawford - Los Angeles Dodgers
Crawford is a much-maligned figure, largely because since leaving Tampa Bay in 2010, his production has failed to live up to his enormous contract. Is that his fault? Probably not. Crawford can’t be faulted on signing a contract with such a sickeningly high amount of dollars attached to it. That’s the team's fault for not properly researching the player holding the pen. I’m looking squarely at you Boston. Injuries have eaten away at a once promising career, which appears to be all but done since the Dodgers released him earlier this year. It’s quite a bizarre list of injuries too, including Tommy John surgery… for an outfielder.
Crawford is one of those players that would almost destroy a franchise in any other sport, but in a league where money, for most teams, is simply an afterthought, he’s merely going to be just another addition to a collection of well paid retirees, with almost $22 million coming next year (insert green vomiting emoji here).
6 Alexei Ramirez - San Diego Padres
Ramirez's numbers at the plate are more than concerning. In a recent 15-game span, he hit a paltry .190 and has 14 fielding errors at shortstop so far this season. At present Ramirez is less "Cuban Missile" on the plate, and more "Cuban Sandwich". It may feel harsh to simply scapegoat him for all the many, many faults of the Padres, which let's face it are too numerous to mention, but his decline in production had been obvious even prior to him declaring for free agency with the White Sox at the end of the 2015 season.
Surely the Padres would have looked at the White Sox (another franchise in a similar position to them) and taken a hint from them! Of course not. The ambitious rebuild of the Padres a few winters ago has long been destroyed, yet Ramirez still remains.
5 Clay Buchholz - Boston Red Sox
Where do we start with Clay? The lack of consistency in finding the strike zone since 2013? The death of that great changeup pitch? The lack of velocity in his fastball? Or the injuries? Oh the injuries, so many, many injuries. Buchholz started his career with such tremendous fanfare, pitching that famous no hitter in only his second game. But for a career that promised so much, it’s hard not to understand the frustrations of the Red Sox faithful. This year it appeared that it was the final straw with him, as he was demoted to the bullpen.
Given his experience as a starter, one would think that this would simply be a temporary measure for him to find his rhythm. Buchholz doesn’t look like he’s moving back to the rotation any time soon though, despite their massive struggles with consistency. The Red Sox won’t use him as a closer, they have plenty of those. His future with Boston appears doomed unfortunately, especially with 2017 being a team option on his contract.
4 Ryan Howard - Philadelphia Phillies
Howard’s decline has been witnessed by Phillies fans for some time now. It might even be said that this commenced on the day of the signing of his huge deal back in 2010. His batting average has steadily declined over the last five seasons since, culminating with a paltry .186 so far in 2016, where he will earn $25 million. Howard is one of those players who epitomizes the arguments about not signing anyone north of 27 years old to a long term, big money type deal, which was certainly the trend some five years ago. The Phillies went all in on a few names and neglected their farm system and scouting. They are now reaping what they’ve sown. Howard is a constant reminder to the league, and suffering Phillies fans, how not to construct a franchise after postseason success. While they have shown signs of rebuilding in 2016, it’s clear Howard won’t be part of it much longer, and it’s hard to see him in another team’s lineup.
3 Pablo Sandoval - Boston Red Sox
“Kung Fu Panda” was beloved during his time with the San Francisco Giants. Who could forget his seemingly Herculean efforts in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series where he smacked 3 home runs, achieving something only ‘The Babe’, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols (heard of those guys?) had done before. Sandoval had always struggled with his weight during his time with the Giants, but it was looked over as a glaring red flag by the Boston Red Sox when they signed him for the 2015 season onwards.
He would go on to only hit .245 last year, and is missing the whole of 2016 with injury and was also replaced by Travis Shaw at third base. He has a long way to go to live up that 6 year, $107 million contract, and Boston is not the sort of city that is patient, nor understanding, with its athletes who underperform from its all too often excessive expectations.
2 Yasiel Puig - Los Angeles Dodgers
Puig came into the Majors like a wrecking ball. His bat was powerful, his arm in the outfield was incredible and he brought some swagger to a Dodgers roster that was a little sterile. At the time many thought his .400 plus batting average would be reined in by pitchers once they got familiar with his strike zone, which it was, but he still hit a whopping .319 at season’s end. Since then we have seen a rapid decline in his production. Swing issues are hindering him, and Dodgers management appear exasperated by his inability to adjust. Puig’s clubhouse personality issues aren’t being glossed over now either by his production with the bat.
The Dodgers have sent Puig down to Triple-A Oklahoma City to help him get back on track, after they couldn’t get him traded, despite trying really, really hard to. Of course true to form though prior to his first game, Puig was late to warm ups and batting practice.
1 Alex Rodriguez - New York Yankees
It was the worst kept secret in baseball that 2016 would be A-Rod’s final year with the Yankees. However, 2015 was an interesting year for Rodriguez, as he appeared to have bounced back from his mammoth PED suspension, hitting 33 home runs at the ripe old age of 39. It would ultimately prove to be totally unsustainable though. This year he has been barely used, hitting only just above the .200 mark and looking every bit of 40 years old.
The Yankees didn’t even want him around to possibly hit his 700th home run, despite only needing four to reach it. This is a sad end to a career for a player who, despite extensive trouble with PEDs, should still be regarded as one of the best of his generation. But is it that sad when he’s still owed $21 million for 2017, when he will supposedly be a Special Assistant for the Yankees? Hardly. And the rumors have started about how ‘final’ this retirement is. I think he’ll be fine.
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