The World Series has essentially become as much a part of Americana as it has been an annual sporting event. Since 1903, this championship series has provided us with unforgettable memories and great teams that baseball fans still talk about with awe. Among those great teams, there are usually a handful of players that had no hand in contributing those unforgettable memories. In fact, this group of players generally didn't do anything spectacular in their career, yet were along for the ride during a title run.
Some of them lasted only a few years in pro baseball, and some were veteran players who despite their mediocrity, remained in the league for a long time, but all of them under-performed for most of their careers. Instead of contributing much in the way of production for these championship winning seasons, they rode the coattails of all-time greats such as Mike Schmidt, Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken Jr.. No harm in that, many other players would have done the exact same thing. Maybe they were good teammates to have in the locker room, or the card game on the plane ride during road trips needed an extra player. There had to be something more at play than just their on-field activity, because it remains an interesting consideration how they managed to stay on rosters that were so historically talented.
In the end, they got their ring. Even though they generally contributed poor batting averages and laughable home run threats, they managed to remain on the one team league-wide that won the Fall Classic. Now, these mavericks of mediocrity are finally getting the recognition they (didn't) deserve. These are the top 15 worst major league players that ever played for a World Series winning team.
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15 John Vukovich - IF
A member of the 1980 Phillies squad that won the franchise's first world title, Vukovich was a seldom used utility infielder. Less than feared at the plate, the highest batting average he notched during his ten-year career was .211 when he played for the Reds in 1975. He hit a grand total of six home runs during his career.
His original position was third base, and needless to say, with Hall of Fame inductee Mike Schmidt manning the hot corner for the Phillies that season, Vukovich wasn't going to get many opportunities to prove his worth. Given his statistics, it was likely for the better.
14 Jose Molina - C
I know backup catcher isn't exactly the most high-demand position on the diamond, but Molina certainly milked it for all it was worth, riding his way to two World Series rings in 2002 with the Angels and 2009 with the Yankees respectively. The brother of two other big league catchers, Benjie and Yadier Molina, Jose was the least talented of the family.
A 15 year pro career yielded just 39 home runs and a .233 batting average. While he probably wasn't being counted on to provide an offensive spark, his production certainly didn't give his teams a reason change that mindset.
13 Andy Fox - IF
Fox was a member of the 2003 Marlins title-winning team. He hit a robust .194 that year. The following three years that he spent in the league, which were also his last, he failed to hit over .100 each season. To me, that seems like a fair average to use as a benchmark if a players belongs in the pro game or not. Fox clearly didn't at that point.
Without question, there wasn't much use for Fox in a Marlins that boasted the likes of Mike Lowell and Luis Castillo. With a batting average that poor, the team was probably happy to relegate Fox as a spot starter and bench body.
12 Glenn Hubbard - 2B
He may not have been the "worst" player on a title winning team, but Hubbard was so decidedly average, that his career fits the same mold. After playing nearly a decade on middling Braves teams, he somehow sneaked onto the 1989 Athletics roster that won the Fall Classic. He would retire the next year. Well played.
Hubbard finished his career with a .244 average and 70 home runs. Again, not terrible, but to say he carried the A's to the World Series would be more than a little bit of an exaggeration. For him, he was in the right place, in the right time, and then immediately retired, which shows his smarts, but not his hitting ability.
11 Kevin Elster - SS
Elster was on the 1986 Mets roster, but you wouldn't have known it at the time. He totaled no home runs, no RBIs, and a .167 batting average that year. Yet he still got his ring that year, thanks in large part to the heroics of players like Keith Hernandez, Mookie Wilson and of course, Bill Buckner.
What's amazing is that Elster managed to stay in the league until 2000, when he retired as a member of the Dodgers. In fairness, his numbers did marginally improve over the years, but he still finished his career with a lowly .228 average. Ironically, it was his worst statistical season, that yielded his best overall accomplishment.
10 Allen Watson - P
Watson was a career journeyman pitcher who somehow ended up on a Yankees roster in 1999 and 2000 that won big. He certainly didn't have anything to do with that.
Watson posted a career ERA of 5.03 and surrendered the most home runs in the league as a member of the Angels in 1997, with 37. He wasn't a strikeout threat, in 892 innings he only rung up 592 batters. In his career as a starter, he never finished with a personal record above the .500 mark.
Using just about every metric, he was just wasn't a force on the mound. Usually, bad pitchers are out of the league quickly, given that they provide no value as a fielder, but Watson somehow hung around long enough to be credited for a couple of World Series victories before retirement.
9 Fran Healy - C
Add another backup catcher to the list. Healy never amounted to much in his nine year career in the 70s. He totaled 20 home runs, and 141 RBIs, and by the time he got to the Yankees as a part of their title winning team in 1977, his career was essentially left in the dust.
Still, he remained on Billy Martin's roster as a backup, and certainly qualifies for this list. He's another testament to big league players who just hung around long enough to luck out in a winning situation. Not surprisingly, he retired after the World Series year in the Bronx.
8 Doug Baker - SS/2B
Truly an odd case, Baker never batted above .185 in his six-year career, except in 1989 as a member of the Twins where he batted over 100 points higher. Still, Baker was a confirmed non-threat at the plate. He failed to hit a single home run in his entire career. I understand his value came as a fielder, but really?
He notched a World Series with the Tigers in 1984, his first season in the majors. He could have claimed a second world title in 1991 if he would have stayed one more year on the Kirby Puckett-led Twins team, but whatever value he contributed seemed to be running thin at that point.
7 Benny Ayala - OF
Again, this is a case of a player who wasn't so much "awful", as one that just barely hung around a team long enough until something good happened. In his early career, Ayala bounced around from the Mets and Cardinals, until he finally found some sort of stability as a member of the Orioles in the 80s. His numbers actually steadily improved, until the Orioles won the Fall Classic in 1983, and Ayala had one of his worst seasons in the majors.
Still, he gets the credit. He stuck around for two more years in the majors after winning his championship, and then promptly retired. Notice a running theme here?
6 Dane Iorg - OF/1B
Iorg may actually be the best player on this list, because he really wasn't an awful hitter. It's just that he didn't do anything that three dozen other players of the era couldn't. He also found some luck in his landing spots, winning a World Series with both the Cardinals in 1982, and the Royals in 1985.
Again, not a bad career, just so decidedly "blah". Another case of an average talent being in the right place at the right time, which is sometimes all that matters.
5 Buddy Biancalana - SS
Biancalana on the other hand, could certainly qualify as "bad". In fact, he was Iorg's teammate on the 1985 Royals. Great minds think alike.
In his five-year career, he hit a destitute .205, and only mustered six home runs. In the Royals title winning year, he posted a dreadful .188 average. Clearly, his presence was thought of as the utility variety, and was never going to sustain a long big league career. Still, when you're a bad player that is surrounded by the likes of George Brett, your chances at winning a championship increase exponentially. Props to Biancalana for realizing that.
4 Greg Pryor - IF
The third on this list in a row that was a member of the 1985 Royals, Pryor's .219 average that year certainly warrants his inclusion.
He totaled 14 home runs in his 10-year career, despite getting at least 100 at-bats most of his years in the league. Knocking in runs was clearly an issue as well, with only 146 to his name in that time-span. Still, as has been proven, mediocrity coupled with persistence can pay dividends. Just like his teammates above, Pryor struck gold in 1985, and retired shortly after the conclusion of that season.
3 Dale Berra - SS
Talk about not living up to the family name. Yogi's son, Dale Berra somehow stuck around long enough to be a member of the 1979 championship winning Pirates team. He posted a .211 average that year, and never fared much better through his career, which shockingly continued for another eight years, including stops with the Yankees and Astros.
Probably not the worst player on this list, but considering he was a legacy to one of the most legendary Yankees in history, he deserves to be ranked high. Thankfully for him, the Pirates had Willie Stargell to carry the bulk of the load that season.
2 Mike Kelly - OF
Kelly was only in the league for five years, but somehow managed to stay on the Braves roster in 1995 to claim a ring, despite batting .190 for the year. He struck out 49 times in 137 at bats, and his career generally just never panned out.
For how much playing time he received that year, Kelly truly had an awful season. Luckily for Atlanta, their pitching staff included future Hall of Fame pitchers Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine, so some leeway could have been given to their batting lineup. Kelly clearly wasn't complaining and by the latter half of the decade was out of the league.
1 Clay Bellinger - OF/IF
The definition of "right place at the right time", doesn't apply to any major league player in history, more than it does to Clay Bellinger. Bellinger essentially played three full seasons in the pros, all with the Yankees from 1999-2001. In short, he stumbled into a dynasty in the making, reaped the benefits, then got out of dodge.
In his brief career, he never batted above .207, despite receiving over 200 at-bats in the 2000 season. He finished with 12 home runs and 60 hits total in his career. Yet, he ended up with two World Series rings in his first two seasons, and an appearance in his third and final season. His only value to Joe Torre's team was that he evidently could play anywhere on the field. He ended up playing all three outfield positions, as well as first and third base in his career.
He may be the definition of a "lucky utility player", but who could blame him? If we all ended up on the Yankees teams of that era, we would have done the same exact thing.
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