“Since the worst player in the majors plays with more skill and grace than 99 of 100 people do anything at all, it feels rude and boorish to point out that someone has to be that worst player” writes the New York Sun’s Tim Marchman, who goes on to identify his Least Valuable Player of 2008 just the same. “To be really awful you need not just to be bad, but to be bad in many opportunities ” and, I would argue, bad to no purpose…as stupid as many fans take their team to be, not many clubs are dumb enough to waste hundreds of at bats to no end.” Please take note, ladies and gentlemen, Andruw Jones has compiled 205 at bats this season.
Twenty-four-year-old Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francoeur, for instance, is hitting .233/.293/.356. Should he be written off or not? The Braves did send him down to the minors earlier this year, and he’s shown exactly no improvement since. However much potential he may have, it isn’t showing up on the field, and at some point any playing time given him has to be said simply to have been wasted. The same might be said of Houston center fielder Michael Bourn, 25, who has the absolute worst OPS among players with 400 or more PA, at an appalling .583, and he’s an outrageously bad fielder. Are at bats given such players investments in youth, or just good money thrown after bad players? Presumably the last three weeks will tell, but given how atrocious both these two have been lately ” Bourn hit .137 in August before being moved up to the leadoff spot for the stretch run ” one tends to think it’s the latter.
For my money, though, the one player who seems to be nearing a lock on the title of the least valuable in baseball has to be Gary Matthews Jr. of the Los Angeles Angels. The players mentioned above, and others such as Oakland’s Jack Hannahan, are young enough that any at bat they’re given can be at least theoretically written off as an investment in the future. This is not so of the wretched Matthews, who’s 34, hitting .236/.314/.344 with at best passable defense, and raking in $9.4 million this year. He may be better at playing ball than most anyone you’ve ever met is at doing anything, but anyone who makes $9.4 million for hitting like Melky Cabrera and playing much worse defense certainly deserves an award of some sort.
Indeed, though the Signature Pharmacies loyalty card probably can’t be traded in for anything of value at this point — much like Matthews himself.