The invaluable Baseball Crank has his top-25 least favorite Mets of all time; the quote below is typical:
2. Carlos Baerga. Before there was Alomar, there was Baerga, an allegedly 27-year-old lifetime .305/.454/.345 hitter entering 1996. The Mets traded Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino to get him; Kent could still be their second baseman, having outhit the Mets’ actual second baseman every year since then except 1999. Baerga is higher on the list here than, say, Alomar because the Mets gave up for him and suffered through him for longer, 2 1/2 years. In 2003 with Arizona, Baerga batted .343.
So, here’s my list of my 25 least favorite Rangers of all time. The list is in categories of a sort — not straight down the line, mind you, but there are some general groupings. The first is Disappointing Superstars:
25. Dean Palmer: It’s really not fair to have Deano on this list. He was a good guy, fought back through a horrid biceps injury, and was a solid player on some average Rangers squads. But he was at the plate for the single worst at-bat of my life, Game 4 of the 1996 ALDS. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, two on, Rangers down 6-4 to the hated New York AL squad. A homer wins it for the good guys. Palmer strikes out to John Wetteland, and that’s all she wrote. It was Palmer’s last post-season at-bat; he would be traded for Tom Goodwin the next year. I’d think he’d be higher on a Detroit list, though — in his last two years, for which he was paid sixteen million dollars , he played in thirty games, no homers, 6 RBI, 33 Ks.
24. Juan Gonzalez: Saw him just last night, in the black-and-orange of the Long Island Ducks. (He didn’t play.) Lackadasical defense in right field? Check. Excessive whining over The Ballpark in Arlington’s design? Check. Combined 3-for-33 in the ‘98 and ‘99 ALDS? Check. Might still be remembered with admiration were it not for his return to Arlington — as is the case with a lot of these players — for the disastrous 2002 and 2003 seasons, in which he was hurt most of the time and didn’t contribute much. And now, at age 36, he’s in the Atlantic League, hoping to hook up with the Yanks as a pinch-hitter the way Ruben Sierra did. Sorry.
UPDATE: Tom Hicks on Juando: “Well … there is one that really bothers me. We signed Juan Gonzalez to a two-year $24 million contract [in 2002] and got absolutely nothing out of him. Well, $12 million of that money was deferred over a six-year span, so we pay for that mistake every year, and that was just a horrible decision by the organization.”
23. Ruben Sierra. Speakinawhich. Never seemed to enjoy the game, never seemed to get his act together. Bounced around after the Canseco trade, coming back to Arlington twice and then leaving to do great things from the Yankees on the bench. Great player, just never the “caballo” he needed to be.
22. Alfonso Soriano. Soriano did exactly one thing in Texas; he solidified the shortstop position. Call it the Curse of Nelson Norman, but there hadn’t been a great shortstop in Arlington since the team’s inception. You had some good players (Kevin Elster), some bad players (Mario Mendoza) and some ugly players (Toby Harrah). Pay-Rod was brought on for just this reason (more about him later). When Soriano came along, he pushed Michael Young to short, and there you had it. Young became the first legitimate, full-time, All-Star shortstop for the Rangers who didn’t have a quarter-billion pricetag on his cap, like Minnie Pearl. Soriano did his job, got a lot of hits, but you never, ever not even once got the impression that he was happy to be playing outside of New York, and the constant trade rumors were just stifling.
21. Richie Zisk . Part of the big makeover before the 1978 season. Zisk came over as a free agent from Pittsburgh (so did Al Oliver, in the huge four-team deal that cost the Rangers Bert Blyleven and landed them Nelson Norman). This was the first big free-agent signing that the Rangers had ever had, and it was a sign that the team could be getting better, and I remember the Zisk signing with a fair degree of hope. That ‘78 team didn’t do too badly — 5 games behind the Royals — but the next two years were dismal. Zisk played about like you’d expect, but he wasn’t a superstar or a franchise savior or anything close to it.
Next is General Embarrassments:
20. Mario Mendoza. The term “Mendoza Line” was coined while he was a Ranger. Emblematic of the Rangers Shortstop Embarrassment of, well, all of franchise history, and part of an era best forgotten.
19. John Rocker. Could be higher. Made $2.5 million off the Rangers, recorded one save. Phooey.
18. Ken Caminiti. Big part of what made the disastrous 2001 season so bad. Way past his prime, of course, but that’s no excuse.
17. Richard Hidalgo. .221 BA, .289 OBP, bleh. Anyone get the reciept on him from last year?
16. Lenny Randle. For the Lucchesi fight, of course.
15. Frank Francisco. For the chair-toss, and (with the help of The Gambler) making the 2005 Rangers such a laughingstock. No, really, I’m still laughing.
Next, we get into people who earned infamy largely through no fault of their own:
14. Monty Fariss / Jeff Kunkel / Benji Gil. Fariss, a shortstop, was picked 6th overall in 1988. Kunkel, a shortstop, was picked third overall in 1983. Benji, a shortstop, was picked 19th overall in 1991. Anyone see a pattern? Benji had the best year of any of them, hitting .219 in 130 games for the 1995 team (and an inexplicable 4-5 in the 2002 World Series), but that was pretty much it.
13. Lee Mazzilli. He got homesick, would you believe? The Rangers traded Ron Darling and Walt Terrell for him, and he got homesick for New York, and they had to trade him to the Yankees for Bucky Dent. Just inexplicable. And now, he’s sitting next to Torre. I can’t stand it.
12. Ned Yost / Einar Diaz . Yost could be #1; he was who the Rangers got in the Jim Sundberg trade. He lasted one year. Dreck. Diaz came over from the Indians to replace Pudge Rodriguez. They gave up Travis Hafner to get him. Pain. They traded him away and got Chris Young, who’s pitching lights-out for my fantasy team, but in San Diego. And my fantasy team is named “Sons of Jim Sundberg”, which just goes to show that the universe is cyclical.
11. Gabe Kapler. At the time, the key to the Juando trade. Well, actually, Justin Thompson was the key to the Juando trade. Then he got hurt. (Thompson would have been much, much higher on this list if not for his gritty rehab and eventual comeback.) Then Francisco Cordero was the key. Now he isn’t. You get the idea. Never much better than a spare part, never developed into a leadoff hitter. And now he has a World Series ring.
10. Robb Nen. Drafted 1987. Toiled six years in the minors, sold as the Great Hope of future Rangers pitching staffs. Came up in 1993. Pitched in 9 games with a 6.35 ERA. Traded to the Marlins for a box of popcorn and a bag of magic beans. Won a World Series with the Marlins. Went to three All-Star Games. 14th on the all-time career save list. I remember when they made the trade; I was driving through rural East Texas, and Randy Galloway announced it on his old WBAP radio show, and he thought it was a great deal, because Robb Nen was a fairy tale, and he’d never amount to anything. Codswallop.
Now we get into the real Enemies List:
9. Kenny Rogers. The Gambler. Not for his perfect-game season, mind you, but for his first stint with the Rangers, going back and forth from the bullpen and back. And then there was his most recent stint, and the constant embarrassment that caused. Just not pleasant memories all around. (Baseball Crank has him on his list, and notes that he’s on a Yankees list as well.)
8. Todd Van Poppel. Fool me once (1998, 1-2, 8.84 ERA) shame on you. Fool me twice (2003, 1-0, 8.53 ERA) shame on me. Only got two stints with the Rangers — two more than he deserved — because he played his high school ball in Arlington.
7. Jose Canseco. Everybody remembers the 1993 pitching incident, nobody remembers that the team finished second, just six games back, and could have had a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing. And then there was the whole steroids thing.
6. Darren Oliver. Symbolic of every Rangers pitcher there ever was. Just brutal to watch, day in and day out. Best year was in 1996, the first playoff year, and never posted anything that good ever again. Career 87-79, 5.07 ERA (not counting current numbers with the Mets). Never did anything hateful or evil, mind you, just wasn’t very good, year in and year out, and never got any better.
Now we get to the worst of the worst:
5. Kevin Brown. His last year in Texas, he was 7-9, 4.82 ERA, and the player’s rep for the strikers. Oh, and the Rangers had a chance that year at the playoffs — not much of a chance, but some — and the strike wrecked it. So, on behalf of all the water coolers in Arlington Stadium, Kevin Brown makes the list. Bastard.
4. Harold Baines. The Sammy Sosa trade. And then, afterwards. Hit .321 for the Sox in ‘89, hit .285 for the Rangers. Thirteen dingers for the Sox, three for the Rangers. Then, part of the Sierra-Canseco trade. Just not a good time.
3. Oil Can Boyd. First, the Rangers gave up Joey Eischen to get him (a good, but not great, lefty reliever). Then, he basically mucked up the ‘91 Rangers, maybe the best collection of talent they ever had, going 2-7 with a 6.68 ERA. I can’t even discuss this intelligently.
2. Chan Ho Park. The second-worst free agent signing in franchise history, right behind…
1. Pay-Rod. I remember the first time I saw Alex Rodriguez in Rangers road gray; I was on vacation in Tampa-St. Pete, and I went to see the Rangers at the God-awful Tropicana Field. It was before the game, and he was playing catch with some batboy on the sidelines, bringing it pretty good, too. “For a quarter of a billion dollars,” I thought, “it’s just too damned bad he can’t pitch.” Two years, two last-place finishes, and a million broken hearts in North Texas later, it’s still too damned bad he can’t pitch. And Ivan Rodriguez is still playing for the Tigers, and the only free agent that wanted to come pitch for Texas in the A-Fraud era is playing for San Diego, and Tom Hicks is still paying George Steinbrenner for A-Rod’s contract. It could just make you choke.