The San Francisco Giants have many strengths.
Their pitching is phenomenal—from ace Tim Lincecum to closer Brian Wilson. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was an All-Star last year and is primed for a breakout season. Even the outfield, while unproven, is looking improved with newcomer Melky Cabrera and potential left fielder Brandon Belt in the fold.
The biggest glaring weakness is the middle infield. Giants fans will note this not a new issue for the club, having hosted a rotating door of declining veterans and green prospects for the last several seasons. At present, former everyday second baseman Freddy Sanchez will be starting 2012 on the disabled list. The most likely scenario will be Manny Burriss stepping in for Sanchez and Brandon Crawford manning shortstop.
Crawford is gifted on the defensive front, but his offense is lacking. Given Bruce Bochy's eternal flame for giving time to veteran bench players over their younger competition, it's entirely likely Ryan Theriot could make some starts when Crawford's lack of bat becomes too much to bear. This brings us to a solemn question: does a Theriot/Burriss double play combo rank amongst the worst of all time?
Follow along as we take a trip down (a better forgotten) memory lane with five of the worst double play combos in San Francisco Giants' history.
It feels like it was only yesterday.
The Giants entered 2011 with Miguel Tejada signed to play shortstop. At 37, Tejada had covered a lot of ground in his MLB career. The question was how many miles could he have left. The answer was next to none.
His forgettable slash line of .239/.270/.326 was second only to his abhorrent defense. Aside from occasional, time machine worthy flashes of his former self, Tejada was a glaring hole at short. Things only got worse when Freddy Sanchez dislocated his shoulder in June.
To "fix" this problem, Brian Sabean traded for Orlando Cabrera at the deadline. While Cabrera was originally brought aboard to spot Tejada while he was on the disabled list, there came a point where both were thrust into action.
Look, I love Rich Aurilia too.
However, 1996 was a year in which he played as part of a DP combo with Steve Scarsone. Steve Scarsone was the easy player to hate, namely because he was worthless in all facets of his play. Sadly for Aurilia, it really only takes one rotten, rotten egg to tank a middle-infielder combo.
In 89 games played, Scarsone recorded only 167 putouts, which is less than two per game. Aurilia had 142 putouts in 103 games, which is roughly 1.3 per game. In addition, the combo barely registered a 100 double plays throughout the course of the season.
Trust me, I appreciate everything Rich Aurilia did for the club, and I don't mean to drag his name through the mud. 1996 was an ugly year in a solid career. I can't say the same for his partner.
1983 was a like a running gag of mediocre infielders.
Joel Youngblood, Duane Kuiper, Johnnie LeMaster, Tom O'Malley and Brad Wellman highlight a class that never should've graduated. LeMaster headlined the team with 23 errors, with Evans, Youngblood and O'Malley close behind.
O'Malley's woes continue with a .940 fielding average, only slightly worse than Youngblood's .946 and Joe Pettini's .955. Foraging ahead to Rtot, which accounts for the number of runs a player was worth on average with his glove, Youngblood sported a dismal -12, with O'Malley and Kuiper following at -9.
Not much more can be said about the squad from '83, except that we're all glad it's behind us.
Let's take a break from the statistics and focus on a human interest angle.
Johnnie LeMaster was an infamously bad infielder. As exasperated fans are sometimes prone to doing, they took their displeasure out on him. He became a bit of a whipping boy for all the problems of the team during the years he played. As Lincoln Mitchell of The Faster Times points out:
He personified the worst period in the history of the Giants. The 16 years between 1971-1987 in which the Giants did not appear in the post-season was the longest period of this kind in franchise history. LeMaster’s career fell right in the middle of these years. LeMaster joined the team three years after Willie Mays left; and was traded away shortly before the arrival of Will Clark.
Apparently LeMaster either agreed with fans' assessment of his performance, or he had the world's greatest sense of humor. Whatever the case may be, he took the field at Candlestick in 1979 with the word "Boo" replacing his name on the back of his jersey. Johnnie Disaster, as fans not-so-affectionately called him, is a part of Giants lore and possibly the worst middle infielder in franchise history.
And here we are again.
The tandem of Theriot and Burriss does not inspire much confidence. Theriot is 32, and coming off a World Series win with the St. Louis Cardinals. He has certainly done his part for a number of teams, but a mediocre spring and a declining arm have tempered expectations. Burriss is a career also-ran. Since 2008, he has played four partial seasons as a Giant. His offense is uninspiring, and his lack of consistent time at the major league level has left him susceptible defensively.
There are a lot of looming question marks as Opening Day draws near. Even a healthy Freddy Sanchez may be subpar as a defender, at least for a substantial period as he regains himself. Without Sanchez, the Giants will be forced into another patchwork assembly of infielders.
Better keep a couple of Boo jerseys around, just in case.