Perhaps his mother would prefer that he be called nondescript, and maybe that would be more kind, but I believe I’ve identified the least exciting player in the game today. But before we reveal the identity of said player, let’s investigate exactly how he earned this dubious distinction. How does one become the most boring player in baseball?
It’s a fairly lengthy path, an honor earned by flying under the radar for several seasons while doing very little to draw attention to oneself. It’s not a heavy burden, so there’s not really much effort required. Actually the less effort, perhaps the better, because if you try not to be noticed, oftentimes that’s exactly when you do something to get noticed.
The first step in being a boring ballplayer is to play for teams that aren’t flashy. You can’t be inconspicuous if you’re a New York Yankee, a member of the Boston Red Sox, or part of the new-money Dodgers. Even if you’re the 25th man on the roster, reporters will say and write things about you because of the constant media scrutiny those teams receive. Find a small market and enjoy the anonymity.
Actually, the player I’m talking about has managed to find himself in a large media market, but he found a way around this problem: He plays for a bad team.
Bad teams don’t get nearly as much attention as good teams, and rightfully so. Sure, in the spring every team has some degree of optimism, a rosy outlook on the future required to get fans excited and to sell tickets, but some squads come into the year destined for the golf course instead of the diamond in October. If you play for one of these franchises, discretion is more likely.
One thing to be wary of is if your team starts to improve too much. If this happens, and you’re fighting for a playoff spot—or, heaven forbid, your team makes the postseason—forget it. ESPN, Fox Sports, TBS and countless others will be milling around your clubhouse, asking questions and comparing your team to its opponent. It’s just a matter of time before they focus their lenses and microphones on you.
If something like this situation appears on the horizon, jump ship. Maybe you get traded, perhaps you’re a free agent with plenty of low-key options. Talk to your agent and get out of the spotlight, pronto!
This is an area over which a player has some control. Sure, your opponents will do everything they can to get you out, but if you’re in the majors, you’re obviously a talented ballplayer. The trick is not to seem too talented. What you’re looking for is a mediocre level of skill across a broad range of categories. Don’t specialize in anything—power, speed, batting average, striking out or walking—or someone will bring it up.
The best bet is a broad base of skills. This type of player does poorly in Hall of Fame voting, and they certainly don’t get much press in the day-to-day coverage of baseball. The flip side is, you have to do well enough to keep a job. If you just plain stink, talking heads will be calling for you to be traded, cut, sent to the minors or even drawn and quartered. Do well enough to keep a job, just not too well. The player I’m talking about has averaged roughly 2.4 WAR per season. Perfect.
When it comes to power, well, everyone still digs the long ball. Home runs are popular. Don’t hit many of them. Baseball’s current leading non-leading man never has hit more than a baker’s dozen homers, nor has he poked fewer than five in a season, and who talks about a guy who only sometimes reaches double digits in long balls? Nobody.
The same rule applies on the basepaths. Sure, if you lack power, you’ll need to swipe some bags to keep your team happy, but don’t overdo it. Run once in a while to show some effort, but try to keep your annual total under 10. My guy snagged 11 bases one season, but he’s been good for only about seven a year, on average.
Try to keep the triple-slash line blasé, too. A decent batting average, acceptable on-base percentage and a dollop of slugginess should do the trick. Mr. Boring is roughly .280 hitter. While his OBP is over .350, which makes some number crunchers and front-office types take notice, most fans won’t be impressed. And a slugging percentage around .420 won’t get anyone’s blood flowing. The total package yields an OPS+ just a few points over 100. Excellent.
Defensively, don’t be too flashy. A Web Gem holds the risk of lingering if it’s a really good one, putting your mug on the tube night after night until someone tops you. Even better, if you can perform so non-spectacularly that your team shifts you around at times to accommodate other players, people are less likely to associate you with one defensive spot.
Naturally, winning awards—or even receiving votes—is frowned upon. Ditto in regards to leading the league in any category. Our non-hero did show up on a small number of Rookie of the Year ballots his first year, but that’s it. He’s never received an All-Star nod, a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger award. He led the league in getting hit by pitches one season but has no other blank ink on his ledger.
All of this mediocrity helps with another item: salary. If you make a bunch of money or sign a long-term deal, people will talk. Sure, your family would be thrilled if you hauled in hundreds of millions of dollars, but the paparazzi will be kept at bay if you ink solid short-term deals.
Speaking of paparazzi, this should go without saying, but don’t do anything that gets TMZ on your case. This means no mentions in PED investigations, no commissioning paintings of yourself as a centaur, and no sending ladies home with a gift basket after a night on the town.
Actually, when it comes to personal relations, being married is best, because stability is anything but newsworthy. Kids are good, but have them in the offseason so you don’t have to miss any games and have the birth publicized. And if you do have kids, have them one at a time. A Minnesota player’s wife having twins is too cutesy for the media to resist.
So, who is the guy I’m anointing the most boring player in the game? It’s David DeJesus. Go ahead, click on his name, check out his stats, and try to stay awake while doing so—I’ll wait.
Pretty darn boring, isn’t he? What does he do that’s flashy? Nothing.
You might ask how I even identified him, what got my attention about DeJesus. Well, he’s on my fantasy team for the second straight year, taken in the reserve rounds as “just a guy,” someone to fill in when a regular outfielder hits the disabled list.
Do you agree? Is DeJesus the most anonymous player in the game? If not, who’s your nominee? Let us all know in the comments below.