Scott Miller's 2015 Anti-All-Star Team, Position by Position
Baby, if you've ever wondered, wondered whatever became of me…
No, we're not here living on the air at WKRP in Cincinnati. The guys you're probably wondering whatever became of? Don’t worry, they're safe and sound and cared for thoroughly. I know, because I've corralled them for my annual Anti-All-Star team.
See, that's the point.
Time was, many of them qualified for the real All-Star team. Then their swings slowed or their cellphones chirped or their gloves rusted. Now, as real All-Stars descend on the Queen City of Cincinnati in a few days, these poor misfits and down-in-the-mouths aren't even candidates to win Les Nessman's coveted Silver Sow award.
Nor would they even be favored in a softball game against WPIG.
So as baseball's annual midsummer carnival takes center stage, that's where my annual Anti-All-Star team comes in. The criteria are simple: The voting body is...me. And I can't resist outlandish behavior, sitcom-like underachievement and sheer lunacy any more than Herb Tarlek could resist Jennifer Marlowe. (But c'mon now, Bailey Quarters is where it's at. Talk about underrated. But that's a different team.)
As for this team, please unspool the red carpet down the bridges over the Ohio River. Here we go, introducing the 2015 Anti-All Stars.
First Base: Mike Napoli, Red Sox
Not only is his slash line (.192/.294/.358) more hideous than most slasher movies, but Napoli has been so bad with the glove that the Red Sox actually started David Ortiz at first base the other day.
Think about that. Ortiz is the complete opposite of "Moves Like Jagger." He moves like the Jefferson Memorial. Last time that guy started at first base in an American League ballpark, it was Aug. 5, 2006, and The Da Vinci Code was the hot movie.
The Red Sox Codes this year have been impossible to crack.
Poor guy. The year started with such optimism, after Napoli finally had corrective surgery for a lifelong sleep apnea condition. This spring he felt like a new man. Maybe after getting away from things over the All-Star break, he'll feel like a new man once again.
Second Base: Omar Infante, Royals
Really, the choice here probably should be Robinson Cano, who this season is colder than the top of Mount Rainier. Cano, or as Derek Jeter always called him, Canoe, couldn't paddle his way out of the kiddie pool the way things are going in 2015. Talk about almost single-handedly destroying the Mariners' playoff hopes (OK, so he's had some help there).
Instead of Cano, though, in a nod to Kansas City fans who nearly did to All-Star voting what various all-you-can-eat denizens do to their plates at the buffet—stuffed them to the point of bastardizing their good names—Infante is our guy.
This guy came so close to being voted into the American League starting lineup in Cincinnati next week that the National Guard was nearly called into duty. Infante is playing his role on what well might be the AL's best team, but it is just that, a role. He is not carrying the Royals. Not with a .232 batting average, no homers and 24 RBI.
Given baseball's close brush with All-Star humiliation, not only will we take Infante on our team, but we just named him captain and poster boy of the Anti-All Stars. Congratulations, Omar! Now please pass out Popsicles.
Also under consideration: Stephen Drew. Because of this guy, the Yankees at times are starting a second baseman named Jose Pirela, who is batting .212. Again, .212! Why not just call Horace Clarke out of retirement?
Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Nationals
A team with serious World Series aspirations whose strength is its starting pitching simply cannot employ a shortstop who leads the NL with 20 errors, can it? Yes, the Nationals can! Shockingly. Ian Desmond has butchered balls at home and botched balls on the road as a veritable anti-Mark Belanger within our Anti-All-Stars club.
It would be one thing if he was killing it with his bat, but alas, over a 32-game stretch into this week, he struck out 43 times against just 16 hits. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid Monday. So, in a nutshell, not only has he been a defensive liability, but he couldn't hit the Potomac River if he fell out of a boat.
Nationals manager Matt Williams, drawing from his own career, says all Desmond can do is to "continue to play." You wonder if eventually the Nationals will ensure that he continues to play...somewhere else.
Also seriously considered, and nearly named, was Oakland "shortstop" Marcus Semien. Not only are his 27 errors a major league high, but Semien's adventures with a glove were a large part of the reason why Oakland pulled the emergency ripcord and hurriedly named a new coach to Bob Melvin's staff midway through the first half: Ron Washington.
Washington helped former Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez so much that Chavez wound up winning six Gold Gloves and giving one to Washington.
For now, forget any Gold Glove notion. We'll settle for Semien simply not needing a guide dog to find the ball at short.
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox
If you dig this choice, quick, click the "Like" button. And if you don't dig it, well, I've got a panda mask to sell you that says the free-agent signings of Panda and Hanley Ramirez have been exquisite. Yeah, right.
There was no more quintessentially modern baseball moment than Pablo Sandoval padding into the Red Sox clubhouse to go to the bathroom during a game a couple of weeks ago and then getting busted for liking a photo of an attractive girl on Instagram while he was in there. And, yes, we repeat: The game was going on.
The sheer beauty of this is that it hearkens back to a Boston tradition of clubhouse misbehavior but modernizes it. Think of the old chicken and beer incident as an Ethernet moment and the Panda/Instagram fiasco as a Wi-Fi moment.
Worse yet, it isn't as if Panda's at-bats are Snapchat-worthy, either. His batting average (.267), on-base percentage (.310) and slugging percentage (.391) at the moment all are career lows. Dislike.
Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Diamondbacks
Not to be too Salty, but can a player be released twice in one season? Our guy is going to test the limits.
The Marlins threw Jarrod Saltalamacchia back on May 5, when he was hitting .069 (2-for-29) with 12 strikeouts in 33 plate appearances, opting to eat nearly two seasons of the three-year, $21 million deal he signed. His .362 slugging percentage last year was the worst of any regular starting catcher, and his 15 errors were the most by a catcher since 2003.
The trend didn't exactly reverse this year. And since the D-Backs scooped him up out of the lost-and-found heap, he's hitting .217/.324/.350 in 19 games.
Also considered: The Mariners' Mike Zunino (of course). But while his .160/.228/.300 slash line is more anemic than an iron-deficient puppy, his 629 innings caught are fourth in the majors. So we'll at least give him credit for his work behind the plate.
Left Field: Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox
How bad are things in left field in the lyric little bandbox known as Fenway Park? Let's just say: not very lyrical. And to non-Red Sox fans, it leans toward the hysterical.
As we speak, Boston baseball historians are arguing that Hanley Ramirez may be the worst left fielder in Red Sox history. As in ever. As in, forever and ever. As in, even worse than Manny Ramirez.
Remember the way Charlie Brown lost his clothes every time someone drilled a line drive back through the box? That's Hanley in left field.
Given that Boston signed him and Panda for a combined $183 million last winter, cavalierly figuring Ramirez could move from shortstop to left field with nary an audition, it is fair to say the Red Sox are reaping what they sowed. They should equip Hanley with a smartphone while he's in left field. Forget Instagram—he could use GPS to help him play left.
Center Field: Ohio
Unable to decide between Cleveland's Michael Bourn and Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton, we'll take both.
As my longtime colleague Danny Knobler says, Hamilton of Hamilton County (county seat: Cincinnati) steals every base but first. Great line.
Yes, Hamilton leads the majors with 42 thefts. The guy is greased lightning, faster than a speeding bullet, Cool Papa Bell quick. How quick was Cool Papa? As Satchel Paige used to say, when Cool Papa turned off the light switch, he was in bed before the light went out. Another great line.
But Hamilton's slash line is not great or even mediocre. It's .221/.271/.290. Ugh.
To the north in Ohio resides Bourn. With Houston in 2009 and 2010, the guy led the National League in stolen bases with 61 and 52 respectively, and he led the majors in swipes in 2011 with 61, splitting the season between Houston and Atlanta. Now? He has seven for Terry Francona's Indians. And that's in 11 attempts.
Granted, he's now 32, and the joints need a little more WD-40 than they once did. Still, Bourn's slash line is .228/.297/.276. At four years and $48 million, the Indians aren't exactly getting a great return on their free-agency bucks.
Moral of the story: In center field in Ohio, they need to learn, all together now, you can't steal first base.
Right Field: Matt Kemp, Padres
No team has been more disappointing this summer than the San Diego Padres. And within that, no player has been more disappointing than Matt Kemp.
At $21 million this year and $21.5 million per in each of the next four seasons, this has a real chance to go down as one of the worst contracts in history. Good news for the Padres: The Dodgers are paying $18 million of the total this year, leaving the Padres with just $3 million. The bad news: The Dodgers are paying only $3.5 million of the $21.5 million in each of the next four seasons.
Kemp has seven—count 'em—homers this season. In the second half of last year, he had 17 and looked like the Kemp of old following significant ankle and shoulder surgeries. Now, he just looks like a lyric to a Taylor Swift song: I think we've got problems, and I don't think we can solve them.
Let's just say the Padres are on their knees in prayer.
Designated Hitter: Adam LaRoche, White Sox
There are many reasons why President Obama's favorite team is the antithesis of the old "Yes We Can" campaign theme. No, they can't, in no small part because Adam LaRoche, one of last winter's key moves that got everyone excited about the White Sox, has been abysmal. Nine homers, 33 RBI and .229/.336/.385.
Where have you gone, Paul Konerko?
Starting Pitcher: Ervin Santana, Twins
Oh, were there ever candidates. Rick Porcello, we're looking at you. Stephen Strasburg, you too. But in the end, if you're talking true Anti-All-Star, it is impossible to overlook the guy who signs a four-year, $54 million deal...and then is suspended for failing a performance-enhancing drug test on the eve of Opening Day.
For all of that dough, the Twins finally got their first start out of Ervin Santana on Sunday. Yay!
As for starters who have been clean all summer, Boston's experiment with Porcello has been abysmal. The former Tiger was a No. 4 or 5 starter in Detroit for a reason. Bumped up to a No. 2 in Boston, he sure hasn't pitched like it. His 5.90 ERA ranks last in the American League. It's one more reason why the Red Sox are less attractive in '15 than dirty water.
Meantime, Strasburg continues to come up small (and hurt) in big situations. Baltimore's Bud Norris is 2-9 with a 6.98 ERA. And the Brewers' twin terrors, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza, send Milwaukee hardball fans scurrying for the blindfolds every time they pitch. Lohse is 5-10 with a 6.29 ERA, while Garza is 4-10 with a 5.55. In hindsight, the Brewers did former manager Ron Roenicke a favor to keep him from having to watch that every night.
Closer: Brett Cecil and Miguel Castro, Blue Jays
Toronto's lineup leads the majors in runs scored. The bullpen owns the fewest saves in the majors at 14. That combination is even worse than a jumbo-sized helping of Cincinnati's famous Skyline Chili right before bed.
Pitching is an issue the Blue Jays must address before the July deadline. They need a starter. And they really need someone who can navigate the ninth inning with a one-run lead, the crowd screaming and October on the line.
Not only do the Jays have the fewest saves in the majors, but they've blown a full 48 percent of their save opportunities, 13 of 27. Cecil battled shoulder soreness this spring, so Castro started out as closer; then he was more flammable than a 1974 Pinto, so Cecil took over. But Cecil was more tasty to opposing hitters than the ribs at Cincinnati's famed Montgomery Inn, so he was out.
All in all, Cecil has converted five of seven opportunities, and Castro four of six. Aaron Loup is 0-of-3, Liam Hendriks is 0-of-2 and Steve Delabar is 1-of-3.
So call this in the Blue Jays', uh, favor. They narrowly edge out Seattle's beleaguered Fernando Rodney, a prime architect of the Mariners' poor start.
Manager: Bryan Price, Reds
Seventy-seven F-bombs in five minutes. Our admiration is off the charts. This nice guy who lost it might not be managing the Reds long-term, but we're sure willing to offer him a long-term deal as the manager of the Anti-All-Stars following that language seminar.
General Manager: Ruben Amaro Jr., Phillies
The walking, talking, texting, phone-calling modern-day version of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. The Phillies are a mess, and they're going to be a mess for the next several years thanks to Ruben Amaro's inexplicable failure to act before things went totally off the rails.
To hang on to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jimmy Rollins all the way into last winter was the worst plan of action since the folks at WKRP planned a promotional turkey drop. As God is my witness, I thought the Phillies could keep flying. Splat! Welcome, Andy MacPhail.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.