MLB’s Midsummer Classic showcases the best of the best in the game of baseball—or at least it’s supposed to. Every once in a while a player with less-than-All-Star-worthy numbers will find his way onto the roster. Believe it or not, playing alongside some of the greatest players of all time—like Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, and Greg Maddux—have been sub-.200 hitters and 20-game losers.
How is it possible that below-average (and sometimes downright bad) players make a team that is meant to be reserved only for the best in the game? There are a number of reasons that might explain it: Sometimes players are voted in based on what they’ve accomplished in the past, sometimes they’re voted in by their team’s fan base, and sometimes they aren’t voted in at all and instead make the team due to a last minute injury. And sometimes there is no explanation, and a guy like Billy Hunter finds himself on a roster with 10 future Hall of Famers.
Whatever the circumstances may be, here are the 15 worst MLB All-Stars of all time—what you might call the worst of the best.
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15 Alcides Escobar (2015)
Just going by the numbers (.257 BA, .293 OBP, .320 SLG), Alcides Escobar didn’t deserve his 2015 All-Star selection. Statistically speaking, there were several far better options at the shortstop position, such as Xander Bogaerts, who finished the year batting .320 with 81 RBI. But Escobar is living proof that stats aren’t everything. Despite underperforming on paper, he was seen as an integral part of the Royals’ 2015 World Series championship, as he acted as a catalyst on offense and a steady hand on defense. He proved his worth last year against the Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series by batting .478 in six games.
14 Cesar Izturis (2005)
Cesar Izturis enjoyed a lengthy career in the big leagues because of his stellar defense and his ability to play any position on the infield, but his bat left much to be desired. In 4,679 career plate appearances, he hit just 17 home runs with a .254 BA and a .293 OBP.
And it’s not like he broke out in 2005, the year he earned his All-Star selection, as he hit just .275 with one home run before the break (he would finish the season with a .257 average and one more home run). He also wasn’t on a great team, as his Dodgers would end up finishing 4th in the NL West with a 71-91 record, making his selection as one of the game’s best players that season all the more perplexing.
13 Mike Williams (2003)
What’s the opposite of lights out? Lights on? Whatever it is, that’s what Mike Williams was in 2003, when he made his second consecutive All-Star team. His 2002 selection was justified, given that he’d saved 46 games with a sub-3 ERA, but 2003 was a different story, as his ERA more than doubled and his saves total was nearly cut in half. He was so bad in the first half of the season, with more walks than strikeouts, that his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, did away with him altogether, at which point he was picked up by Philadelphia, where he wouldn’t perform much better, going 0-4 with a 5.96 ERA and an even 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Williams’s 6.29 ERA that year still stands as the highest ever for a relief pitcher selected to an All-Star team.
12 Mark Loretta (2006)
Versatile infielder Mark Loretta was selected to the All-Star team twice, the first of which, in 2004, was warranted (he hit .335 with a .391 on-base percentage and career bests in home runs and runs batted in, earning him a top-ten finish in MVP voting by the end of the year), but the second, in 2006, was not. It’s not that he had a bad year (he hit a respectable .285 with a .345 OBP); it’s just that it certainly wasn’t an All-Star year, with just 5 home runs and 59 RBI.
Loretta likely earned his starting role on the All-Star team (over a far more deserving Robinson Cano) thanks to the strong support of Red Sox fans.
11 Jason Varitek (2008)
Backstop Jason Varitek captained the Boston Red Sox to two World Series championships from 2004 to 2007, and he earned three trips to the Midsummer Classic in his 15-year career. The first two All-Star seasons, both of which he finished in the top 25 for AL MVP voting, were well deserved, as not only did he perform well on defense, turning out some of the best pitching in the 21st century, but he also contributed on offense, hitting 25 home runs and 22 home runs, respectively.
His third selection, however, which came in 2008, was another story. His batting average, which had been on the decline ever since his second All-Star selection, plummeted to a career-low of .220, and he had his lowest run production in seven years.
10 Mark Redman (2006)
Let’s play “Guess the All-Star Season”:
In 2003, Mark Redman went 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 190.2 innings pitched. In 2006, he went 11-10 with a 5.71 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 167 innings pitched.
Can you guess which year he was an All-Star? If you chose 2003, the logical choice, you would be wrong. If you chose 2006, then chances are you have Internet access.
Redman made the team that year by default, simply because he was the best pitcher on a horrendous Kansas City Royals pitching staff where all five starters had an ERA of at least 5 (one was even over 6).
9 Cal Ripken Jr. (2001)
No one’s arguing that Cal Ripken Jr. wasn’t one of the greatest baseball players of all time. With over 3,000 hits and 400 home runs and the record for most consecutive games played (2,632), you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would make that argument. That said, it’s hard to deny that Ripken’s 2001 All-Star selection was undeserved. That’s not to say, however, that it wasn’t understandable. After an incredible career up to that point, which saw him win two AL MVP Awards and 18 consecutive All-Star appearances, it made sense that the fans would honor him by voting him into one last All-Star game, even though he would finish the season hitting .239 with an on-base percentage well below .300.
8 Manny Trillo (1982)
Light-hitting Venezuelan infielder Manny Trillo made the All-Star team four teams with subpar numbers, but his third appearance was by far the worst. Trillo had never had much power, but in 1982 he finished with just 25 extra base hits, and not one of them was a home run. He also had an underwhelming batting average of .271 and an on-base percentage of .316.
Trillo, however, was a wizard with the glove, earning three Gold Glove Awards at second base and capable of playing any position on the infield, so his All-Star appearances weren’t a complete mystery.
7 Sandy Alomar (1991)
Every once in a while a player will make the All-Star team based on what he accomplished the year before, regardless of how he may be performing that season. A perfect example of this is catcher Sandy Alomar, who, after deservedly earning a spot on the All-Star team in 1990, when he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and a Gold Glove, unjustly earned a trip to the All-Star game the following season, despite playing in only 51 games and batting .217 with 7 RBI and no home runs. Alomar earned another questionable trip to the All-Star game the following season, when his numbers improved slightly to 2 home runs and 26 RBI with a .251 BA.
In total, Sandy Alomar (not to be confused with Roberto Alomar, as Norm MacDonald once pointed out on a segment of “Weekend Update”) was an All-Star six times, with his most deserving selection coming in 1997, when his offense caught up to his defense and he hit .324 with 21 home runs and 83 RBI.
6 Willie Mays (1973)
With 660 career home runs, 3,283 hits, 338 stolen bases, and 12 Gold Glove Awards, Willie Mays is quite possibly the greatest all-around baseball player of all time. From 1954 to 1973, the “Say Hey Kid” earned 20 consecutive All-Star appearances, but not all of them were equally deserved. In 1973, his final season in the majors, Mays, playing in just 66 games, hit .211 with 6 home runs and 25 RBI, a far cry from the numbers that he would usually put up.
Like Ripken Jr., his final All-Star appearance was mostly symbolic. There might have been players with higher career batting averages, more home runs, and more stolen bases, but no one was as consistently good for as long a time as Mays.
5 Reggie Jackson (1983)
Despite hitting 563 career home runs, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson had his ups and downs in the majors. He led the league in home runs four times, but he also led in strikeouts as many times. He was also the kind of player who could follow up a 47-home run season with a 23-home run season, only to rebound and hit 32 the following year.
Even with his inconsistencies, however, he made the All-Star team 14 times in his 21-year career, including a stretch of eight straight appearances from 1977 to 1984. In reality, though, it should have only been six straight, as his final two appearances were suspect at best. In 1984, while with the California Angels, he hit just .223 with 25 home runs, but those are MVP numbers compared to his ’83 campaign, when he hit below the Mendoza line with just 14 long balls.
4 Eddie Smith (1942)
There have been many 20-game winners in All-Star history, but very few 20-game losers. In 1942, while playing for the Chicago White Sox, Eddie Smith pulled off the impressive feat of leading the league in losses while still earning a trip to the Midsummer Classic. Not only did he lose 20 games (compared to just 7 wins), but he also walked more batters (86) than he struck out (78).
In general, Smith was not a good pitcher, with a career win-loss percentage of just .392. And before his questionable 1942 All-Star appearance, he made the team in 1941 with 17 losses and, once again, more walks than strikeouts. His best season came in 1940, when he won 14 games and had an ERA of 3.21 (he even managed to collect more Ks than BBs), but he didn’t make the All-Star team that year.
3 Alfredo Griffin (1984)
With a career batting average of .249 and just 24 home runs in 7,331 plate appearances (that’s an average of two long balls per 162 games), Alfredo Griffin is a prime example of a light-hitting infielder. His best year was his rookie season, when he had career highs in batting average (.287) and on-base percentage (.333) and won the Rookie of the Year Award, but he followed it up with some of the worst offensive seasons in Toronto Blue Jays history, including an atrocious 1981 campaign where he batted just north of .200 and didn’t hit a single home run.
His All-Star season came in 1984, when he hit .241 and somehow managed to collect just four walks in 442 plate appearances. Griffin’s status as an All-Star, however, comes with a caveat, since he was only named to the team after Alan Trammell went down with an injury and they needed someone to replace him at the last minute. Griffin, who just happened to be at the game as teammate Damaso Garcia’s plus one, got the nod from manager Joe Altobelli simply because he was the only other player in attendance—or, as Washington Post writer John Feinstein explained it at the time, “Manager Joe Altobelli named Griffin to the team, partly because he's a fine player, but mostly because he was here.”
2 Freddie Patek (1972)
What young baseball fan didn’t have a poster of the great Freddie “The Flea” Patek hanging on their bedroom wall growing up? After all, he swatted over 40 career home runs with an astronomically high batting average of .241—and with an OBP of .309, you practically couldn’t keep him off the bases!
Needless to say, we’re being sarcastic. Although a great base runner, with 385 steals over 14 years, Patek was an average batter at best, never hitting above .267.
Patek didn’t just make the All-Star team once; he made it three times, and each season alone would have earned him a spot on this list, but his 1972 selection was particularly strange. Not only did he not hit a single home run in 577 plate appearances, but he also batted just .212 with an on-base percentage of .280, making it the worst season of his career.
1 Billy Hunter (1953)
Here are some of the names from the 1953 All-Star game: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Stan Musial, Roy Campanella, Eddie Matthews, Ted Williams, Phil Rizzuto, Satchel Paige, Ralph Kiner, Jackie Robinson, Warren Spahn, Hoyt Wilhelm… and Billy Hunter? One of these things is not like the others. If you guessed Mickey Mantle because he’s a switch hitter, you’d be wrong.
St. Louis Browns infielder Billy Hunter had no business being amongst some of the greatest players of all time. We’ll just let his statistics that season speak for themselves: .219 BA, .253 OBP, .259 SLG, 1 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB, and a -0.4 WAR. What about that says All-Star?
Heck, Billy Hunter isn’t even the most famous person from his hometown of Punxsutawney—he got beat by a rodent!
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