Yesterday, as I was driving home from Massachusetts, I was listening to the Boston Red Sox's postgame show, "Red Sox Rewind," on WEEI in Boston.
Among the endless calls bashing Terry Francona, most of them prefaced by "I appreciate the four championships in two years, but..." were a lot of callers wondering why Francona wouldn't pinch-hit for Jason Varitek.
Varitek is no doubt the heart and soul of the team, but he’s mired in a 3-for-28 slump and has posted a .661 OPS, on pace for the worst in his career by far.
Red Sox fans have to wonder how much longer Varitek can be a starting catcher. His numbers are of someone who is about to be designated for assignment.
Needless to say, when I glanced at the All-Star roster, I was stunned when I saw Varitek's name. I assumed Red Sox fans had voted him in as a starter, but no. The players voted Varitek in as the third catcher.
Varitek clearly is not deserving of the All-Star team, but his inclusion made me wonder where he fits in on a list of the worst All-Stars in recent memory. Here's a list of the 10 worst All-Stars in the last 10 years.
Note: I'm only including backups, guys who were not voted in by the fans. Guys like Cal Ripken Jr., who were continuously voted in based on popularity, are not included. Also, these are the worst selections based on first-half stats, not careers or full-season stats.
10. Ken Harvey—1B, Kansas City, 2004
The numbers: .305 BA, .353 OBP, .452 SLG, 10 HR, 34 RBI
Bottom line: The 2004 Royals were an example of a team without an All-Star. MLB rules mandate one player from every team, however, so Harvey made the team and, by extension, this list. His numbers aren't awful, but for a first baseman, the standard is much higher.
9. Brian Wilson—RP, San Francisco, 2008
The numbers: 0-1, 4.37 ERA, 24 saves, 1.40 WHIP, 39 Ks, 35 IP
Bottom line: Wilson leads the NL in saves, but his peripheral numbers, other than strikeouts, are awful. What puts Wilson on this list, however, is that San Francisco already had an All-Star in Tim Lincecum. If San Francisco happened to have a real closer, and Wilson pitched any other inning, Wilson wouldn’t even get a vote.
8. Lance Carter—RP, Tampa Bay, 2003
The numbers: 5-3, 4.05 ERA, 15 saves, 1.24 WHIP, 30 K, 46.2 IP
Bottom line: Carter’s ERA and WHIP were about league-average, and he was not overpowering, but the fact that he was a closer and that he wasn’t doing a terrible job made him Tampa Bay’s representative for the 2003 game. He now pitches in Japan.
7. David Eckstein—SS, St. Louis, 2005
The numbers: .284, .370, .358. 2 HR, 46 R, 24 RBI
Bottom line: Eckstein is lauded for his grit and hustle, but All-Stars need more than that. Eck is a nice, little hustle guy, and he can be a starter, but by no means is he an All-Star.
The 46 runs are nice, but that’s largely a product of how high he hit in the order. He also made the All-Star team the next season with similar first-half numbers.
6. Freddy Sanchez—2B, Pittsburgh, 2007
The numbers: .296, .326, .383, 2 HR, 33 R, 32 RBI
Bottom line: Sanchez’s numbers took a dive after leading the National League in batting average in 2006. He played like a run-of-the-mill infielder, but, thanks to the Pirates' lack of talent, and Sanchez’s one-year track record, he was voted in as their representative.
5. Ron Coomer—1B, Minnesota, 1999
The numbers: .282, .312, .458, 11 HR, 27 R, 37 RBI
Bottom line: The Twins went 63-97, so the fact that Coomer was their best player isn’t so surprising. Aside from his on-base percentage, his numbers aren’t terrible, but you'd expect to get better numbers from an All-Star splitting time between first and third base.
4. Cesar Izturis—SS, Los Angeles, 2005
The numbers: .275, .322, .338, 1 HR, 38 R, 20 RBI
Bottom line: Izturis started off 2005 on a tear, hitting .345 as late as June 1. Unfortunately, he proceeded to hit .105 in June, dropping his average .070 points in one month. By the time the All-Star game came around, his numbers had completely tanked, but he made the team nonetheless.
3. Mark Redman—SP, Kansas City, 2006
The numbers: 6-4, 5.27 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 32 Ks, 82 IP
Bottom Line: Redman was the ace of the Royals’ staff in 2006. Look at his numbers, and you can see why Kansas City struggled that year. He was even worse in the second half. He’s a classic example of someone who is an All-Star solely based on what team he played for.
2. Mike Williams—RP, Pittsburgh, 2003
The numbers: 1-3, 6.44 ERA, 25 saves, 1.74 WHIP, 19 Ks, 36.1 IP
Bottom line: Like Wilson, he was only nominated for having a large number of saves; however, Williams’ numbers make Brian Wilson look like Mariano Rivera. Pittsburgh finally learned from its mistake of pitching Williams so often by moving him to Philadelphia soon after the All-Star game.
1. Jason Varitek—C, Boston, 2008
The numbers: .219, .301, .360, 7 HRs, 18 R, 27 RBI
Bottom line: Varitek has by far the worst numbers of any offensive All-Star. It’s not like he’s an All-Star every year. This is a respect nomination; he hasn’t made the team since 2005. That, coincidentally, is the last time Francona managed the American League All-Stars.
2002: Robert Fick
2003: Shawn Chacon
2003: Rondell White
2003: Dmitri Young
2004: Ted Lilly
2005: Scott Podsednik
2006: Jose Lopez
2006: Mark Loretta