How many sports can you think of where a greater proportion of the athletes are fat or overweight? Sumo wrestling might come to mind – but Sumo wrestlers train to be that size for an advantage. Perhaps darts or billiards, but we’re not considering bar stool sports. If you guessed, baseball, you’re still not that clever. Even so, without question the most popular team sport in the world where one can be fat, yet productive, is indeed baseball. John Kruk, the festively plump and outspoken ESPN analyst who played in the early 90s once said, “Lady, I ain’t an athlete. I’m a professional baseball player.” Being mindful of that, we’re taking a look at the fattest baseball players in Major League Baseball who were actually good, from the 2000s up until today.
It’s already March and baseball season is getting under-way, so we’re going to have some cake and a bit of fun with the opening festivities. Every season after an exciting first week of baseball, a few weeks pass and suddenly mid-July is sitting in front of us. It is in this month that regular fans are reminded of how awfully slow televised baseball can be. In terms of playing, it’s a simple fact that the most grueling mental aspect of baseball is sitting or standing for 95% of the game with nothing to do – and that’s without mentioning the players in the bullpens and snoozers on the bench. With all of the inaction, guys need something to do. So, they chew pounds of gum, split and hawk sunflower seeds, and dip tobacco to keep themselves from going insane. There’s no shame in it. However, there’s a lot of unused energy for the body to handle – especially with 162 regular season games. Suffice it to say, players are fat. Especially catchers, pitchers and designated hitters. I really wish we could show a picture of St. Thomas University pitcher Ben Ancheff for illustration. He is a big boy…to put it mildly.
One important note is that we’re not listing player weight, because just like basketball teams adding an inch or two for a player on rosters, baseball teams are generous with the weight of their players. For example, Mo Vaughn is listed at 6’1, 225-pounds on Baseball-Reference. If Mo is only 225 then Barry Bonds never took steroids and I’m Putin’s right-hand man. Additionally, we’re not going to consider steroids in ranking how good a player is. So, kick back, grab a bucket of cheesy poofs and join us in this obese venture for greatness.
15. Jumbo Diaz
Entering his third year in the majors at age 32, Jumbo, born Jose Rafael, took on his name for very good reason. He entered the league at an inordinate size, despite having played his way up the minors for several years. Currently playing in Cincinnati and originally from the Dominican Republic, Jumbo pitched in 61 games last year recording 70 strikeouts in 60 and 1/3 innings pitched. His ERA and WHIP numbers are nothing to drool over at 3.88 and 1.25 respectively, but they definitely are above average in a league where bullpens are filled to the brim with guys being sent back to the minors for improvement. Jumbo is a fantastic name and we hope he’s here to stay.
14. Livan Hernandez
Cuban-born Livan Hernandez, half-brother of the clutch Yankee playoff pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, had a long career in the majors despite his weight and unpredictable pitching. Defecting from Cuba to earn a $4.5 million, four-year deal with the Florida Marlins in 1996 was a true flash point for other Cuban players in that it accelerated the habit of them leaving the island for international contracts. Livan enjoyed a long, 17-year career in the majors mostly thanks to his 1997 World Series MVP award with the Marlins. Looking back, it’s very puzzling that he won the MVP award considering his 5.27 ERA in his two World Series starts. Either way, that label stuck with him and cemented his popularity among General Managers striving to sign a big name. He retired with a career average ERA of 4.44 and a record of 178-177.
13. Dmitri Young
One of only three players in league history to hit three home runs on opening day, Dmitri Young is one of our favorite large ball players. In just his second season in the league in 1998, Dmitri tied for the second most doubles in the league with 48 – just three shy of Craig Biggio’s 51. Older brother of current Baltimore Oriole Delmon Young, Dmitri bounced around the league a little bit until his final season with the Nationals in 2008. Nicknamed “Da Meathook,” he finished with a very respectable career average of .292 and and On-base-percentage of .351. Despite being overweight during his career, Dmitri has since become unrecognizable after slimming down to half his playing weight.
12. Juan Uribe
Juan Uribe has managed to win, win, and keep on winning despite his age and – shall we say, stocky form. He has played in three World Series with three different teams, winning in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox, and again in 2010 with the San Francisco Giants. Uribe has earned his keep as a utility infielder and a clubhouse cool-guy. This season, Uribe will join his seventh team with the Cleveland Indians recently signing him as a free agent. While he doesn’t look any thinner than he did last season, he’ll have a two-way influence on the younger players’ diets and work ethics.
11. Bartolo Colon
Besides his weight, Bartolo Colon has two interesting facts that few may know. One is that he somehow won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award despite posting a 3.48 ERA and the other is that he is the only former Montreal Expo to still play in the MLB. Despite turning 40 in 2013, Colon has still managed to win at least 14 games in each season since then. He owns a career ERA of 3.97 with an impressive career record of 218-154, and a very heavy weight. For comparison, Maria Sharapova is three inches taller than the 5’11 Colon and is listed at less than half of Bartolo’s weight. If that’s not impressive, maybe we should just stop trying at everything, just like Colon did with his body image.
10. Mo Vaughn
Remembered fondly by Red Sox and Angels fans alike, Mo Vaughn had a surprisingly short career for an AL MVP-winner. Starting at age 23 in 1991, Mo decided to retire after the 2003 season when he could take no more of battling injuries. He hit .300 or better for five straight seasons from 1994 to 1998, and finished with an impressive career average of .293 to go along with 1,064 RBI. A power-hitter with no fear of swinging for the fences, The Hit Dog twice led the majors in strikeouts. In fact, Mo’s 1995 MVP season was one of them. That year, Mo struck out 150 times and hit 39 home runs – 11 fewer than runner-up Albert Belle who had just as many RBI with 126.
9. Jonathan Broxton
If you have ever seen Broxton pitch, you know he and his body are a force to be reckoned with. It must seem to an opposing batter that about a third of the field in front of them is blocked by his massive body. Since having success and then a bit of failure with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Broxton has found himself with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he will likely win a World Series within the next five years. Broxton has an impressive 685 strikeouts in just under 600 innings pitched, with a strong career ERA of 3.23. Like most others on this list, he’s a good ol’ southern boy having grown up in Augusta, Georgia. There’s nothing like a good basket of fried food to maintain one’s rotund shape.
8. Carlos Lee
Carlos Lee was with the Chicago White Sox through their lowly years until just before their 2005 World Series Championship. Prior to that season, he was traded to Milwaukee for speedster Scott Podsednik and relief pitcher Luis Vizcaíno, before moving on to the Houston Astros for a strong five-year stretch that would see him cement his name as one worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. He, like many on this list, played first base or designated hitter for the latter portion of his career due to a lack of athleticism. Despite the issues with weight, Lee consistently hit near .300 throughout his career and drove in 99 RBI or better for seven consecutive years beginning in 2003.
7. David Wells
Famous for pitching a perfect game in which he later admitted to being half-drunk and hungover with a raging headache, David Wells is a man of many tales. Ironically, Wells is listed as 187-lbs and 6’3″ on Baseball-Reference. It’s a statistic that I said would not be of importance, but that I mention only because of the incredulity one feels about the number. He is easily in the mid to upper 200s and likely has the finest beer belly we’ve seen since the turn of the millennium. He helped the Yankees win the 1998 World Series, but was soon traded to Toronto for the coveted Roger Clemens before bouncing around between the East and West coast teams in his final seven years.
6. CC Sabathia
Easily the richest fat pitcher of our generation, CC Sabathia made a name for himself as a 2007 Cy Young Award winner with the Cleveland Indians. Soon after Sabathia became a World Series winner in the Bronx – or a sellout, however you want to look at it. After becoming the highest paid pitcher in MLB history, he has raked in $24 million per season since 2010 with the Yankees and will amass $25 million in 2016, Sabathia’s ERA numbers ballooned badly over the last four seasons. Before said decline, he was consistently leading the league in either wins, innings pitched, shutouts, or complete games. After dropping weight in 2013, he put back on nearly thirty pounds in an attempt to return to his “fat” days of productive pitching. Soon to turn 36, CC is likely in his last seasons with the Yankees as his contract expires in 2017 with possibility of a buyout.
5. Pablo Sandoval
“Kung Fu Panda,” as his San Francisco Giants fans kindly dubbed him, was a super-productive player before joining the Red Sox in 2015. He won three World Series rings with the Giants over his tenure in the bay area and took home the 2012 World Series MVP after hitting going 8-for-16 with three home runs in their sweep of the Detroit Tigers. In his postseason career, Sandoval owns a .945 OPS and has never lost a series in which he has played. Despite his heftiness, the Panda has managed to stick it out at third base and make a few highlight-reel defensive plays. We’re not sure whether he’ll continue that into his 30s, but hopefully he just had an adjustment year in 2015 and will be back to his old tricks come this season.
4. Prince Fielder
Following in the food-steps of his father Cecil Fielder, Prince has held on to his festively plump figure from day one. Despite once being convinced by his wife to try out a meatless diet as it was widely publicized, Prince has since said that he lasted just three months before giving up. For anybody who has seen Prince’s ESPN Body Issue cover, you will understand that he does not have the body of a vegetarian. It’s not necessarily a body full of fat as much as it is big-boned and meaty. All the same, he is a slow-poke who could stand to shed a few pounds. In the first few years of his career with Milwaukee, Prince was a ball-smasher and an RBI machine alongside Ryan Braun. Since then he has significantly changed his approach, decreasing his strikeout totals at the expense of power and run-production. He’ll never be a threat to run out a bunt or steal a base, but he is certainly feared by many a pitcher.
3. Tony Gwynn
Rest in peace, Tony Gwynn. Perhaps the most amazing baseball statistic is that in four seasons, Bryce Harper has already struck out more times, 449, than Tony Gwynn did in his entire 20-season career, 434. One of the game’s greatest hitters, Gwynn’s accolades and hitting style were on par with the likes of Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, and Wade Boggs. Even at age 37, Gwynn hit a startling .372 and thereafter never dropped under .320 in his final four seasons. There’s no doubt Gwynn was a great hitter, but he also could have done a better job managing his weight. If he had, he could have easily stolen 30-40 bases per season with how often he got on base. Gwynn is the player who has come the closest to hitting .400 since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. Gwynn’s quest was stopped short at .394-and-rising in August of 1994 when there was a MLB Players work stoppage that cancelled the remainder of the season. Even if Tony only played two seasons in the 2000s, he qualifies for this list. Let’s raise a glass to one of the game’s finest hitters.
2. Miguel Cabrera
When it’s all said and done, Miggy will go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time. There is no doubt about that, but what we do doubt is his level of fitness. At 6’4″, it’s no surprise that Cabrera holds a lot of weight and he certainly uses his mass to drive pitches to all parts of the ballpark. When Miggy came into the league with the Marlins we was but a skinny lad, playing predominantly in the outfield. As the years and his weight have progressed, he has migrated to the infield corners. It’s a known fact that slow players switch to first base when their managers no longer trust their athleticism. Well, look at Miggy’s belly and you will understand why he hits so many long singles, and led the league in GDP (double plays grounded into) in 2012. If he can keep his weight from ballooning, his knees will give him several more productive years and he might just leapfrog our top-ranked fattest player who is actually good.
1. David Ortiz
Despite being a sprightly 40-year-old, the legendary Big Papi announced that 2016 will be his final season. Let’s enjoy his fatherly, happy-go-lucky personality while we can. Meanwhile, it’s hard to blame Ortiz, one of the greatest hitters of all time, for putting on a few pounds over the years. When you don’t even play in the field, it leaves plenty of time to frequent the clubhouse food platters. Ortiz’s belly has certainly changed over the years, but his undeniably clutch and productive hitting ability will forever be in the hearts of Bostonians and Red Sox fans alike. The 86-year “Curse of the Bambino” was lifted from Fenway Park under his tenure as a Red Sox and he has led them to continued greatness with three World Series Championships since 2004. “Salud, Papi.”
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