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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Deadspin: The 100 Worst Baseball Players Of All Time: A Celebration (Part 2)

Primer faves galore!

61. Mark Lemongello, 1976-1979 (Astros/Blue Jays)

Mark Lemongello’s career was short and mediocre. As a starting pitcher for the Astros and Blue Jays in the late 1970s, Lemongello showed flashes of both promise—decent ERA, a near no-hitter— and insanity—attacking fans, asking if Canadians “spoke American.” It was a few years after his career ended that things got interesting. With the help of ex-teammate Manny Seaone, Lemongello kidnapped his cousins Mark and Peter and robbed them of tens of thousands of dollars. Mark Lemongello was a professional bowler, Peter Lemongello an Italian-style crooner who sold millions of records in 1976 via direct advertising on television. Rumor and various unreliable blog sources have Lemongello as wandering the country, remaining one step ahead of his family and regular daily life.

68. Ray Oyler, 1965-1970 (Tigers/Seattle Pilots/Angels)

Ray Oyler was one of the worst baseball hitters of the modern era. He batted just .175 in his career and through the work of a clever disc jockey became a mascot for the futility of the short-lived Seattle Pilots. Over 15,000 Seattleites joined the “Ray Oyler S.O.C.I.T.TO.M.E .300 Club.” The acronym stood for “slugger Oyler can, in time, top our manager’s estimate” by hitting .300. Oyler never did, but his .165 average with the Pilots in 1969 was thirty points better than his previous season. After going “0 for August” for the 1968 Tigers, Oyler was yanked from his starting shortstop role shortly before the World Series in favor of an outfielder, Mickey Stanley, who had never played the position before. The Tigers won the World Series in seven games, partly because Ray Oyler didn’t get a single at-bat.

Repoz Posted: July 14, 2011 at 03:40 PM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: July 14, 2011 at 04:34 PM (#3877519)
If nothing else, the list reminded me of the greatest combination of base-running and commentary ever to grace baseball.
   2. RJ in TO Posted: July 14, 2011 at 04:59 PM (#3877556)
Lemongello was discussed for quite a while in the chapter on the 1979 Blue Jays, from this book. He sounded like an absolutely delightful person, and not at all like a tremendous pain in the ass.
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 14, 2011 at 05:01 PM (#3877561)
Peter Lemongello an Italian-style crooner who sold millions of records in 1976 via direct advertising on television

some of the worst ads in TV history. (But it was a unique advertising approach at that time)
   4. cardsfanboy Posted: July 14, 2011 at 05:07 PM (#3877570)
The list of unpleasant individuals is pretty informing.

and further down the road, there is a string of three Cardinals (almost)in a row(Ken Reitz, Sidney Ponson, and Craig Paquette). Paquette is the only one I actively disliked. Went to a game in which Cardinal fans from the ESPN boards put in for a party room, and I had been bagging on Paquette for a while, and then he goes out and has a fantastic game(made two good defensive plays, and had a couple of clutch hits)
   5. Answer Guy. Posted: July 14, 2011 at 05:31 PM (#3877614)
One thing I find interesting is how the SABR revolution has changed player evaluation.

I doubt a hitter as bad as Todd Benzinger could hold down a regular job on a contending team (which both Boston and Cincy were when he was there) at any of the positions he played (1B, LF, RF, none of them especially well, plus DH) these days.

I know we had J.T. Snow come along later but he was a little better, had a rep as good defensive 1B, and in any event everyone knew he was a weak link in the lineup compared to first sackers on other teams. I don't remember Red Sox fans talking of Benzinger as a weak link in that way, and the 88-90 teams were pretty good as producing offense.
   6. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 14, 2011 at 05:33 PM (#3877617)
Peter Lemongello an Italian-style crooner who sold millions of records in 1976 via direct advertising on television


When I think of him, I think of mood rings, CB lingo and pet rocks. One of the many fads from the Seventies.

some of the worst ads in TV history. (But it was a unique advertising approach at that time)


Total cheese, but yet strangely captivating. My brothers and I made fun of it for years.
   7. Rally Posted: July 14, 2011 at 05:53 PM (#3877637)
I doubt a hitter as bad as Todd Benzinger could hold down a regular job on a contending team (which both Boston and Cincy were when he was there) at any of the positions he played (1B, LF, RF, none of them especially well, plus DH) these days.


Benzinger had just one year as a fulltime player, 1989. He got the majority of time in 1988, and 1990, but the Reds reduced his role in 1990, and traded him a year later. Leaving aside stats which were not yet invented or only used by followers of Bill James in 1990, I don't think the Reds or Red Sox would have given him much playing time at all if he was billed as "a first baseman who can hit .250 with 12 homers and 64 RBI" - his 1988-1990 average season.

My impression is that Benzinger got as much time as he did because people thought he had a good swing or something and would improve. Another part is that they were probably fooled by some fluky stats he put up in 1987 - 323/363/564 at Pawtucket, and then 278/344/444 in Boston. His previous minor league seasons were as crappy as his subsequent major league seasons, but he probably had some people thinking that at age 24 he had turned a corner. And then when he didn't hit as well in 1988, thinking he just needs to make some adjustments to get back where he was.

There will always be some players like Benzinger, even at corner spots. As long as there are players who are above average, there will be players who are below average. At some point in the future people will look back and wonder how current teams gave so much playing time to Mark Teahen, Jeff Francoeur, Austin Kearns, Jeremy Hermida, or Conor Jackson. They don't have much defensive value, how come teams let them offer such crappy hitting as long as they did?

The answer is that people thought they should have turned out better than they actually did.
   8. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: July 14, 2011 at 05:55 PM (#3877639)
Peter Lemongello an Italian-style crooner who sold millions of records in 1976 via direct advertising on television.


A friend of mine got married in 1990 and moved into a condo in Center Moriches Long Island, two weeks after he moved I went out there for a house warming party, on his wall was a flyer he said came from the Condo's rec room- "Grand Piano for Sale, $1,000 or best offer- P. Lemongello 516-###-####"

I said, someone is trying to sell their piano, so what?
So what? It's Peter Lemongello!
Peter Lemongello? Was that the guy who never won a game?
No that was his brother Mark, on the Astros, this was the singer..
Singer?
Late night TV ads? Kind of like Slim Whitman, but with less talent, my mother bought one of his albums once to piss off my dad (His Dad was a huge collector of 40s and 50s pop music)- she bought it played it once, he broke the album in 20 pieces and stuffed it into the BBQ...
I said it Still didn't ring a bell...
   9. Steve Treder Posted: July 14, 2011 at 06:05 PM (#3877654)
The answer is that people thought they should have turned out better than they actually did.

That's right. Benzinger was always "on the verge" of blossoming into a star. Until it was apparent that the blossoming was never going to happen, at which point he was just another utility guy.

There are always these kinds of careers. The 1950s version would be somebody like Rip Repulski.
   10. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 14, 2011 at 06:10 PM (#3877659)
Late night TV ads? Kind of like Slim Whitman, but with less talent,


They actually appeared at all times of the day, at least in the NYC area. You couldn't get away from that commercial if you wanted to. :-)

As for Whitman, he was actually a legitimate star during the early '50s. Elvis even opened for him at the start of the King's career. In the UK, Slim was huge (though he really didn't sell more records than Elvis and the Beatles there, as his commercials stated - one of his songs did chart longer than any of the singles from the other two, however).
   11. Swoboda is freedom Posted: July 14, 2011 at 06:25 PM (#3877678)
You guys are forgetting about Boxcar Willie and Zamfir, master of the pan flute.
   12. just plain joe Posted: July 14, 2011 at 06:38 PM (#3877693)
They actually appeared at all times of the day, at least in the NYC area. You couldn't get away from that commercial if you wanted to. :-)


If you ever watched WTBS, back when Ted Turner first took over the operation and took it nationwide, all of the ads were like this, as far as I know. TBS used to rebroadcast many of the Braves games at 1:00 AM CDT, ostensibly for Hawaii but I suspect it was just cheap progamming to run through the night. I had a job then (this was ca 1980) working second shift and many of my summer nights went like this - leave work at midnight, stop at liquor store for cheap sixer, go home and drink sixer while watching Braves, go to bed at 4:30 and then get up in time to eat breakfast and be at work by 3:30. I saw many an ad for Ginsu knives, the Popeil Pocket Fisherman and god knows what else. I'm surprised I have any brain function left at all.
   13. Answer Guy. Posted: July 14, 2011 at 06:41 PM (#3877700)
I don't recall Benzinger as a touted prospect like most of the guys AROM listed.

Perhaps a better example would be Ken Reitz. Superficially his numbers looked decent, if unspectacular, for a 3B of his time.
   14. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: July 14, 2011 at 06:42 PM (#3877701)
Zamfir, master of the pan flute.
He once completed 26 of 32 passes.
   15. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: July 14, 2011 at 06:44 PM (#3877707)
At some point in the future people will look back and wonder how current teams gave so much playing time to Mark Teahen, Jeff Francoeur, Austin Kearns, Jeremy Hermida, or Conor Jackson. They don't have much defensive value, how come teams let them offer such crappy hitting as long as they did?

The answer is that people thought they should have turned out better than they actually did.


Or in some cases you still have people who think Francoeur was actually good when he had 100 RBI...

Plus, everyone of those guys has had at least a moment when they actually hit- if you ave someone who you think can hit 120 (OPS+) and then in some 300 at bat (or more) stretch he really does hit 120- that will just confirm for you that he's a 120 OPS+ hitter, nevermind the 90 he put up his first 750 PAs- he wasn't ready yet,. or he had a long adjustment period, nevermind that 90 he put up the next 750- he was hurt, he was misused, his BABIP was low etc etc...

Someone like Conor- he wasn't terrible 2006-08 (OPS+ 103 to 109)- he didn't hit like you'd want your starting 1B/LF to hit he wasn't terrible, his minor league numbers suggested some upside beyond that, he's been terrible since then of course.
   16. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: July 14, 2011 at 06:51 PM (#3877713)
Late night TV ads? Kind of like Slim Whitman, but with less talent,


They actually appeared at all times of the day, at least in the NYC area. You couldn't get away from that commercial if you wanted to. :-)


I remember Whitman's ads, Boxcar Willie's and Zamfir's, but for the life of me I have no recollection of Lemongello's
   17. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 14, 2011 at 07:00 PM (#3877719)
I remember Whitman's ads, Boxcar Willie's and Zamfir's, but for the life of me I have no recollection of Lemongello's*

consider yourself lucky--like Gramma Murphy said, in NYC, in the mid 70s--you couldn't avoid them

EDIT: these ads even reached a level of fame to be parodied on early SNL--Chevy Chase did an ad for singer "Peter Lemon-Moodring"

*although, to be fair, they never reached the level of oversaturation achieved by JGE Appliance ("What's the story, Jerry?") or Crazy Eddie
   18. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 14, 2011 at 07:07 PM (#3877728)
I'm surprised they missed Donnie Sadler, quite possibly my most actively disliked Rangers player ever. Nothing personal, he was just so terrible for so long there was no reason for Texas to give him 200 PA's over two seasons after 4-1/2 years of OPS+ values of 71, 66, 41, 18, and 21 at the point they acquired him.
   19. Gamingboy Posted: July 14, 2011 at 07:08 PM (#3877730)
Marty Bergen was actually quite the defensive player, which is ironic because he never had to defend himself in a court of law.
   20. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: July 14, 2011 at 07:18 PM (#3877738)
Perhaps a better example would be Ken Reitz. Superficially his numbers looked decent, if unspectacular, for a 3B of his time.


look at his career splits, amazing for his # of PAs, .314/.351/.424 in April, his next best month was June: .259/.290/.366

most years his number through the ASB were decent, BA heavy, and overrated at the time, but decent, his career 1st half numbers were .271/.301/.374, league was .267/.334/.390- no one (not named Pete Palmer) looked at OBP back then, .271 was good, no one looked at ISO, he hit doubles, 2 years he had decent HRs, basically most years- DURING the year he LOOKED like a decent enough 3B...

of course his 2nd half numbers were excruciatingly bad- even for the era, even if AVE-HR-RBI is your uberstat of choice..

He was the the type of guy who if you were the a fan of another team, you'd see him play a few times a year, and many times you'd see a .320 line in the middle of May, and maybe a .280 or .290 in July, and maybe if you see his team in August you might not even notice that he was down to .265- so the one year you get his Topps card and you flip it over- expecting to see maybe 1-2 .300 years and a raft of .280ish seasons, but instead you see a great series of suck and wonder, how did that happen, not my impression of this guy at all...
   21. . Posted: July 14, 2011 at 07:51 PM (#3877771)
In my only visit to Fenway, July 31, 1988 (**), Todd Benzinger hit fifth (one spot ahead of "Hall of Famer" Jim Rice), and went 1 for 3 with a walk, raising his average to .282 -- generally validating the prevailing notion that with Ellis Burks, Mike Greenwell, and him, the Red Sox had a terrific nucleus of young position players with whom to create their future.

My sister was just out of college, got us great seats, and was having boy problems at the time. When Todd Benzinger came to the plate in the middle of the game, I offered the following: "Why don't you go out with someone like that?" I'm still scratching my own head over that one and have, really, no idea what I meant.

(**) In the middle of the Sox' hot streak that ultimately gained them the American League East title.
   22. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 14, 2011 at 08:02 PM (#3877784)
The guy's name was really Lemongello? That can't be true. What was his sister's name, Blancmange?
   23. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: July 14, 2011 at 09:26 PM (#3877866)
I remember Whitman's ads, Boxcar Willie's and Zamfir's, but for the life of me I have no recollection of Lemongello's


You & me both.
   24. Morty Causa Posted: July 14, 2011 at 09:41 PM (#3877874)
Bill James wrote about Reitz in one of the abstracts. For a while there, Reitz would begin the season like gangbusters, or what seemed like gangbusters to some numbnut sportswriters, and those writers would actually promote Reitz for the All Star game over Schmidt (and others). The next year they never remembered how his previous season had petered out, and they'd do the same damn thing all over again. It was absurd, and James's take was in the nature of a dressing down of those writers in that abstract entry.
   25. Guapo Posted: July 14, 2011 at 09:54 PM (#3877878)
Little known fact: Benzinger got his shot in the majors when the Red Sox put Bill Buckner on the DL in June 1987. About 9 months too late.
   26. Repoz Posted: July 14, 2011 at 10:11 PM (#3877888)
BTW...that's Mike Lemongello not Mark, who was the bowler.

I remember him from some hot NY area pot/action bowling nights in the 70's.
   27. Kiko Sakata Posted: July 14, 2011 at 10:29 PM (#3877900)
I doubt a hitter as bad as Todd Benzinger could hold down a regular job on a contending team (which both Boston and Cincy were when he was there) at any of the positions he played (1B, LF, RF, none of them especially well, plus DH) these days....

I don't remember Red Sox fans talking of Benzinger as a weak link in that way, and the 88-90 teams were pretty good as producing offense.


If BB-Ref's WAR is to be believed, Benzinger was an improvement over the guy he replaced. Bill Buckner has to have the record for longest run of playing time as a sub-replacement-level player. From 1984 - 90 (ages 34-40), Buckner played in 791 games and got 2,956 PAs, while amassing a grand total of -4.9 WAR.

In 1986, he put up -0.5 in 1986 (and that doesn't even count the World Series) and -1.5 in 1987. Benzinger wasn't great, certainly, but he managed to post 1.2 WAR in 1987 and -0.3 in 1988 (compared to Buckner's -1.4 split between CAL and KC).
   28. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: July 14, 2011 at 11:09 PM (#3877926)
I expected to find a Braves shortstop on the list but it wasn't supposed to be Rafael Belliard.

Andres Thomas was the worst major league player I've even seen in a major league uniform for an extended period of time. The essence of those late 80s sucktastic Braves. I'll put his '89 season - 571 PAs of .213/.228/.316 with 29 errors and no range - against anything on that list.
   29. GregD Posted: July 15, 2011 at 12:32 AM (#3877958)
Surprised this hasn't been posted yet. I never heard of him before. I'm skeptical he sold "millions in 1976." Millions overall? A million in 1976?

I hope he and Boxcar Willie had some jetskiing around Branson before the big conductor in the sky took Boxcar home.
   30. puck Posted: July 15, 2011 at 01:08 AM (#3877981)
I remember Reitz for his high fielding percentages at 3rd. In those days, that seemed like a big deal.
   31. smileyy Posted: July 15, 2011 at 01:13 AM (#3877985)
Todd Benzinger's claim to fame (when the Reds traded for him) seemed to be that he hit really well with the bases loaded or something. The poor defensive rep thing was interesting, because in the 1990WS, he'd play first base while Hal Morris DHed, and would frequently be a late-inning defensive replacement for Morris.
   32. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 15, 2011 at 02:53 AM (#3878040)
Surprised this hasn't been posted yet.

it was--see post #3
   33. Jose is an Absurd Kahuna Posted: July 15, 2011 at 03:00 AM (#3878044)
Benzinger had a walkoff homer during the "Morgan Magic" period in 1988. For some reason I remember that he had a friend in the record industry and was making a big deal about Edie Brickell in the locker room before her album hit it big.

I got crappy grades in high school in college but that little piece of useless ####### trivia has stuck in my head for a quarter of a century. God has a sense of humor people, he has a sense of humor.
   34. Answer Guy. Posted: July 15, 2011 at 03:28 AM (#3878056)
I remember Reitz for his high fielding percentages at 3rd. In those days, that seemed like a big deal.


Not long before this Aurelio Rodriguez was able to hold down a job at 3B with some pretty awful hitting numbers based largely on defensive rep, and Graig Nettles was a perennial All-Star. So I might be viewing things a bit too much thru the prism of 1990-present.
   35. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: July 15, 2011 at 03:39 AM (#3878061)
Bill James wrote about Reitz in one of the abstracts. For a while there, Reitz would begin the season like gangbusters, or what seemed like gangbusters to some numbnut sportswriters, and those writers would actually promote Reitz for the All Star game over Schmidt (and others). The next year they never remembered how his previous season had petered out, and they'd do the same damn thing all over again. It was absurd, and James's take was in the nature of a dressing down of those writers in that abstract entry.

This sounds familiar. Did the Atlanta Journal-Constitution write so many fawning articles about him at age 23 that many fans considered him rage-inducingly overrated for the rest of his career? Did he have a blog newsletter where he wrote about how great Delta Airlines was?
   36. DCW3 Posted: July 15, 2011 at 04:46 AM (#3878079)
Paquette is the only one I actively disliked. Went to a game in which Cardinal fans from the ESPN boards put in for a party room, and I had been bagging on Paquette for a while, and then he goes out and has a fantastic game(made two good defensive plays, and had a couple of clutch hits)

Oh, I *loved* Paquette. It seemed like every time I would go to a game during his Cardinals tenure, he would do something fantastic. It was a great disappointment to me when I discovered sabermetrics to find out how bad his career actually was (although, in fairness, he did top a 100 OPS+ in two of his three years in St. Louis).
   37. DCW3 Posted: July 15, 2011 at 05:25 AM (#3878090)
I remember Reitz for his high fielding percentages at 3rd. In those days, that seemed like a big deal.

It is still an article of faith in St. Louis that a number of Mike Schmidt's Gold Gloves should have gone to Reitz.
   38. bjhanke Posted: July 15, 2011 at 07:37 AM (#3878109)
Being from St. Louis, I have to dispute #37, although there probably are some STL fans who still think Reitz was a great glove. He certainly was never anything like Mike Schmidt. What I can add is WHY people thought this: Ken Reitz had the quickest hands on defense of any ballplayer I have ever seen. Several times a year, someone would hit a grounder down to third with a runner on first, and it would look like Ken just smacked the ball with his right hand, without looking at second base at all, and it would zing over to second like a hard line drive, perfectly placed for the keystone man to turn the pivot, and he'd get a DP. It was an amazing visual that those of you who have never seen him should really look up on video. Unfortunately, he had very slow feet, and therefore, no range at all. But he LOOKED like the best glove out there, and no one was counting stats at the time to expose him. He also had the perception, mentioned several times above, that he was better than he actually was, because he did all his hitting in April. Remember, if you do that, your stats will still look good in June, and OK in August. So for half the year, people would "remember" that Ken was hitting this year, and there would be only one month were it was clear that he was failing again. By that time, a lot of fans just plain had their perceptions set in stone. The final numbers would never convince them, because they had spent three months looking at batting averages dropping from the low .400s to about .280, which still looked good. That's certainly one way to get on a list of the hundred worst players, and deserve it. - Brock Hanke
   39. Bob Evans Posted: July 15, 2011 at 10:49 AM (#3878114)
I wouldn't have minded being called the worst major league baseball player ever as long as "major league baseball player" was mentioned.

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