Things are slow right now for 26 teams, including the Kansas City Royals who are no longer used sitting on the sidelines during the playoffs. Max Reiper of Royals Review spent some of his newfound down time looking into the best players to have just been awful while playing for the Royals.
Imitation being the highest form of flattery, I decided to flatter Max by stealing his idea, and taking it a step farther by building a starting lineup.
Here are the selection criteria: each player had to have played at least one game at the assigned position for the Rays (thus excluding, for example, Roberto Alomar and Carlos Baerga). Each player should have a clear record of MLB accomplishment (measured in part by fWAR) but have, to put it bluntly, stunk it up for the Devil Rays or Rays.
Starting Pitcher - Dwight Gooden
Career fWAR = 56.7
fWAR w Rays = -0.8
Doc Gooden was a hometown hero and an incredible pitcher who had the potential to be one of the best in the history of the game. However, off-field issues and injuries derailed perhaps the most impressive start ever to a career.
As a 19 year old pitcher, he accrued 8.3 fWAR, the next year he topped it with 8.9 fWAR...just incredible. Eventually his career unraveled and he became one of the biggest ‘what if’ players of all-time. He joined the Rays during the final season of his career to play in his hometown, but the results were disastrous and he only lasted eight starts, posting a 6.86 ERA and a FIP two points higher.
Who Missed the Cut? Juan Guzman, Eric Bedard, and Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona
Reliever - Troy Percival
Career fWAR = 11.4
fWAR w Rays = -1.1
The longtime Angels closer used to be one of the most lockdown arms in all of baseball. During his prime from 1996 to 2002, only two closers had more saves than him. In 2002, he recorded the final out for the Angels in the World Series, placing the exclamation on his career. Then the downward spiral began.
The Rays signed him in 2008 hoping that he’d be able to help solidify the back end of the Rays bullpen. Which he did, by being so awful that it allowed Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, and Dan Wheeler to take on more high leverage situations. Injuries and poor performance plagued Percival with the Rays and eventually it led to the end of his career in 2009.
Who Missed the Cut? Grant Balfour (the 2nd time around when he was broken)
Catcher - Charles Johnson
Career fWAR = 25.6
fWAR w Rays = 0.0
In 2005, the Rays brought in a four-time gold glove winning catcher, Charles Johnson, to serve as the back up to Toby Hall. Johnson at one time was among the top catchers in all of baseball as he brought a powerful bat behind behind the plate and was a stellar defender.
During his prime from 1997 to 2001, he slashed .256/.335/.455 with 103 home runs, averaging over 20 homers a season. He also accrued 17.9 fWAR (3.6 per season). However, when he joined the Rays, he was shell of his former self and played in just 19 games over a two month span before being released.
Who Just Missed the Cut? lol
First Base - Paul Sorrento
Career fWAR = 5.9
fWAR w Rays = -0.9
Sorrento was never a strong defender and that’s what hurt him the WAR department. He was almost always an above average bat throughout his career, with the exception of the time he spent with the expansion Devil Rays from 1998 to 1999.
Prior to taking his talents to St Pete, Sorrento had been a part of a fearsome lineup in Seattle where he clubbed over 30 home runs in 1997 and the Rays thought he’d bring that power to the Trop. Sorrento floundered though and after seven straight seasons of a wRC+ over 100, he’d put up 86 and 95 with the Devil Rays and his career would be over.
Who Missed the Cut? Dan Johnson (Sorry DanJo for even considering you, I still and forever will love you)
Second Base - Damian Easley
Career fWAR = 17.4
fWAR w Rays = -1.3
Easley had a strange career path as he started out fine as an above replacement level player, then he just fell off a cliff for three years with the Angels. Then he was traded to the Tigers and something must have clicked because he went from having 17 career home runs over five seasons to blasting 22 in 1997.
Easley would spend his prime seasons in Detroit, tallying up a couple of seasons with a fWAR north of four. He as able to turn this production into a lucrative extension and then fell off another cliff, thus making him popular among trivia buffs for being the most expensive player ever to be given an unconditional release. The Rays picked him up shortly after in 2003, and he struggled in every facet of the game. They released him after 36 games and he somehow remained in the majors for five more seasons.
Who Missed the Cut? Roberto Alomar (retired just so he wouldn’t make this list over a decade later)
Third Base - Vinny Castilla
Career fWAR = 18.1
fWAR w Rays = -0.5
The quintessential third baseman of the 1990’s, Vinny Castilla was one of the most feared hitters in baseball, especially in his home ballpark of Coors Field where he possessed a slugging percentage of .610 over 2,100 career plate appearances. Apparently the Rays front office were the last to hear about the Colorado mirage and traded Rolando Arrojo and Aaron Ledesma to acuire him. The rest is history.
Oh Vinny, what could have been! In some alternate universe, Castilla and the rest of the Hit Show lived up to their billing and Tony Saunders led the team to the playoffs at the turn of the millennium, but things just didn’t turn out that way in our realm of reality. Instead, Castilla played in just 109 games for Tampa Bay and hit just eight homers over that time before being released in 2001, only to refind his power stroke with the Houston Astros later that season.
Who Missed the Cut? Wade Boggs (Sorry Wade) and Hank Blalock (those Durham numbers though /attractive whistle)
Short Stop - Alexei Ramirez
Career fWAR = 16.6
fWAR w Rays = -0.3
In 2008, Evan Longoria won the AL Rookie of the Year award and Alexei Ramirez finished as the runner up (somehow with a fWAR below 1.0). For years he was a staple in the White Sox infield raking in a couple of Silver Slugger awards along the way. From 2009 to 2013, he averaged over three fWAR a season.
Unfortunately, a down year in 2015 and then just a disastrous turn in 2016 has put his future in jeopardy as he struggled to do anything right. He -2.4 fWAR was the worst in all of baseball (among qualified batters)— and it’s not even close at all as he was a full two wins below the next closest player. The Rays picked him up in September (solely to rub it in the faces of certain prospects that they’d play anyone over them) and he struggled..except on the one day they needed him to.
Who Missed the Cut? Ozzie Guillen and Kevin Stocker (Bobby Abreu.../sigh...curse you Lamar!)
Left Field - Pat Burrell
Career fWAR = 19.0
fWAR w Rays = -1.1
The 1998 number one overall pick just took under two years to make his major league debut and quickly displayed an above average bat...but well below average defense in the outfield for Philadelphia. However, his bat was well worth it. During his years with the Phillies he averaged just under two WAR a year, which reflected his 120 wRC+ over that time. He averaged 28 homers a season for nine years.
The Rays picked him after losing to him in the 2008 world series, and as if to punish the Rays for finally signing an exciting free agent, Burrell flat out stunk in Tampa Bay. During his painfully short, excruciatingly long tenure with the Rays, Burrell dealt with injuries, poor performance, and also poor relationships with the media, fans, and even teammates (heck, I think he even got divorced while with the Rays. Poor relationships all around). Then after being released, he helped lead the San Francisco Giants to the playoffs as if to rub salt into the wound.
Center Field - Grady Sizemore
Career fWAR = 28.9
fWAR w Rays = -0.1
Injuries just suck.
Grady Sizemore could have been one of the greatest of all-time if not for a rash of injuries suffered during what should have been the prime years of his career. By the time he was 26, he had already accrued over 28 fWAR over five seasons.
Then the injuries started. At one point he had undergone five surgeries in less than two years. These injuries caused him to miss significant time and hampered his play when he did make it onto the field. He was out of the game from 2012 to 2013. The Rays picked him up halfway through 2015 and although he was a below replacement level player, he was still an above average bat...just nothing close to how his career should have played out.
Right Field - Hideki Matsui
Career fWAR = 12.9
fWAR w Rays = -1.2
The former Yomiuri Giants star totaled 332 homeruns in Japan over 10 seasons, then he made the jump to the states and joined the Yankees for several years. He became a fan favorite, tallying four seasons of 20 homers or more. Sadly injuries played a hand in the downfall of his career, causing his production to slip.
By the time the 2012 season rolled around, not too many teams were yammering for his services and the Rays (having been ravaged by injuries) took a flier on the former star...and it was awful. He accrued -1.2 fWAR in just 34 games.
Who Missed the Outfield Cut? Ben Grieve, and maybe Gabe Kapler.
DH Manny Ramirez
Career fWAR = 66.3
fWAR w Rays = -0.3
Perhaps the most disappointing on this list as there was so much hope surrounding Manny Ramirez when the Rays brought him into the fold. After all, he was one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game and among the best of the past two decades. From 1994 to 2010, he had a wRC+ of 154 which is just ridiculous. He was a mainstay in MVP voting, as well as the All-Star game over this time as well.
Then, his legacy was tarnished as he dealt with steroid suspensions and off the field issues, allowing the Rays to pick him up for cheap in 2011. Five games into his Rays tenure, however, he tested positive for PEDs once more and was suspended for 100 games by MLB. Rather than serve his punishment, he abruptly retired...that day was just terrible.
Who Just Missed the Cut? Maybe Greg Vaughn, but he wasn’t so terrible the first couple of years. Also Luke Scott...
There you have it. A line-up full of disappointment for Rays fans to savor.
Who makes your all-awful team?