GQ recently posted an article on The 10 Most Hated Athletes which was an interesting, if not particularly insightful read. However, this week, in lieu of a good idea (it‘s the dead of winter in Canada, people and my brain is out of antifreeze and refuses to start), I thought I’d follow suit and do my own personal baseball Wall of Shame.
Hopefully it’ll be an interesting, if not particularly insightful read at the very least.
For the record, my 10 candidates make the list generally for their on-field performance and not because they may or may not be despicable human beings. Plus, only players are eligible, so you won’t be forced to endure my frothing at the keyboard over the likes of Bud Selig, Jeffrey Loria, Bob DuPuy, David Samson and other assorted non-playing miscreants.
10. Steve Trachsel
It’s not one particular event or moment that makes Steve Trachsel stand out in my mind. In 2000, the Jays looked like they might make a run at the postseason for the first time since the strike. The Jays dealt for him at the trade deadline; ergo, he represented a dream of October baseball. He didn’t pitch well, but even that could be forgiven. What couldn’t be forgiven is that he took his own sweet time to suck. I mean, if you’re going to stink out the joint at least have the common courtesy to do it in a timely fashion, so we can get to bed at a decent hour. For helping to dash postseason dreams (however slight) and inflicting serious damage to my sleep cycle in the process, he makes the list.
9. Deion Sanders
Do I need a reason? I thought it was classless the way Deion Sanders dumped ice water on Tim McCarver after he criticized Sanders for playing football for the Atlanta Flacons during the 1992 NLCS. It was poorly timed. Had he done it within the last five years or so, I would’ve applauded him and done an article on why he belongs in Cooperstown, and renamed my daughters Deion and Neon.
However, I was actually glad he was a two sport star(?), because in the four games of the World Series against the Blue Jays, he went 8-for-15 with two walks, stole five bases and, along with Otis Nixon, (the guy with the Jolly Roger on his neck) generally made Pat Borders‘ life miserable. Although he was a Hall of Fame cornerback, I can’t help but wonder what kind of career he would’ve had if he devoted himself to baseball full time.
8. & 7. Erik Hanson and Joey Hamilton
It’s not one event with Erik Hanson or Joey Hamilton that stands out, but rather what they represent. They are Gord Ash’s folly. It’s probably not fair to single them out, because I’m sure they wish they could’ve been productive members of the Toronto Blue Jays. However, the facts remain; the Jays paid this duo a total of $26,350,000 (and this was before the era of the mega, mega-contract), and received 532 innings of 5.75 ERA pitching and a 27-37 record. You hope, you pray that these guys will be effective starters. They represent your hopes for coming seasons—a good future, pennant races and meaningful September games. Everything they may have accomplished in their careers is drowned out by two words uttered as a primal scream: “SUNK COSTS”!!!
6. Tony Castillo
Now you may wonder why a guy, who for three years with the Blue Jays (1993-95) posted ERA+ numbers of 130, 191 and 147, could make this list. Well there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. It never failed; whenever Tony Castillo got into the game, all you’d hear from the broadcasters was about how he was a valuable member of the Jays’ bullpen and they’d point to his always fine ERA. Meanwhile, the veins in my neck would begin to throb, I’d start smelling burnt toast and my wife would scramble frantically around the house hiding anything that could be used be as a projectile weapon (sadly, she often forgot about the cat much to the chagrin of Figaro, Figaro II, Figaro III, Figaro IV, Figaro V, Figaro VI, Figaro VII, Figaro VIII … there is much feline blood on Tony Castillo’s hands) as soon as he’d appear out of the bullpen.
The situation was always the same: the Jays would be up by one, the bases would be loaded with one out, and the opposition would be sending up some 20-yea- old Dominican lefty-hitting middle infielder picked up in the Rule 5 draft currently batting .150 (3-for-20 … all infield singles), who was pencilled into the lineup because the regular shortstop had “flu-like symptoms.” This kid—who would never be heard from again—would invariably hit a rope off the wall for a bases clearing double. Castillo would then retire the next two hitters, get seven or eight more outs, and maybe cough up an earned run of his own before being replaced. I always figured Castillo was then-manager Cito Gaston’s secret weapon for dealing with a pitcher who ran afoul of team rules. If he loaded up the bases after the fifth inning and you were in Gaston’s doghouse—he’d bring in Castillo to teach him a lesson.
5. Jaime Navarro
From 1991-93, the Milwaukee Brewers gave the Blue Jays fits. Nobody made life harder on the Jays than Jamie Navarro. Toronto only managed to hang one “L” on him those years (although they did beat the Brewers in a couple of his no-decisions). What made the situation even more infuriating was that no matter how well or poorly he pitched, the Jays couldn’t get the best of him. They’d have baserunners galore, but would elude the knockout punch. It’s amazing how you remember things. I went back to Retrosheet and was surprised that he made only seven starts against Toronto, yet pitched into the sixth and beyond in each outing. Navarro’s ERA over those starts was 4.40, but much of that damage came in his final start against the Jays in 1993 (5.2 innings/7 earned runs).
4. Tom Candiotti
On June 27, 1991 the Jays traded for Tom Candiotti and Turner Ward from the Cleveland Indians for Denis Boucher, Glenallen Hill, Mark Whiten, and cash. Adding a knuckleballer to a staff that included a red-hot fireballing Juan Guzman, hard throwing lefty David Wells, and soft tossing southpaw control artist Jimmy Key seemed like a good way to really mess with an opponent’s batting order.
Of course, that was the plan.
Come the ALCS against the Twins, Candiotti got the nod for Game 1 in hopes of his knuckler throwing off the timing of the Twins batters for the rest of the series—or at least until Candiotti’s next start.
One problem: Candiotti didn’t want to throw the knuckleball and instead elected to throw the pitches that made him a knuckleballer in the first place.
The Twins were suitably grateful, and tattoed Candiotti for 17 hits and seven earned runs over 7.2 innings in his two starts. The Jays lost in five, and two of the four losses came as a result of Candiotti throwing the only balls he appeared to have.
3. & 2. Bill Madlock and Larry Herndon
The Toronto Blue Jays’ epic collapse in 1987 began on September 24, in the third inning in Toronto. In the top of the third inning, Bill Madlock singled to left. Kirk Gibson came up and hit a grounder to second baseman Nelson Liriano, who flipped the ball to shortstop Tony Fernandez. There was a collision and Fernandez’s season was done. So were the Blue Jays. On October 4 in Detroit, Larry Herndon drove the final nail in the Jays’ coffin off Key with a second inning home run that was the only run of the game. The Tigers went to the ALCS and Toronto went home. Madlock injured one of my favorite players and Herndon ended their season. They are on my all-time master [insert common slang for feces] list for all eternity (but not at the top … yet—we‘ll get there shortly).
1. Rick Monday
(Out of respect for people‘s sensibilities and any young children who may be reading, I’ll say no more)