last-place-ribbon

And the award for the worst player in baseball goes to …

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I wrote earlier this week about how Mike Trout is blowing away the competition in terms of Wins Above Replacement this season and is the first position player to reach double-digit WAR since Barry Bonds in 2004.

There’s a flip side to that coin, of course. It’s tough to identify the worst player in baseball because technically the worst player is probably some guy with zero hits in three at-bats or some pitcher with a 15.00 ERA in two appearances. They’re so bad that they don’t get any further opportunities.

The worst player in baseball who actually plays regularly is a different, more interesting story and I thought it would be a good time examine the lowest Wins Above Replacement totals this season via Baseball-Reference.com:

                      PA      WAR
Jeff Francoeur       528     -3.2
Michael Young        575     -2.6
Joe Mather           220     -2.2
Ryan Raburn          222     -2.0
Ramon Hernandez      196     -1.7
Ty Wigginton         338     -1.7

Wouldn’t you know it, a couple of longtime HBT “favorites” top the list. (And yes, those are negative numbers.)

Jeff Francoeur has followed up a strong 2011 season that got him a $13.5 million contract extension from the Royals by hitting .233 with a .286 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage in 129 games. According to WAR he’s been 3.2 wins worse than a replacement-level corner outfielder, which is pretty tough to do. For comparison, he had a WAR of +2.7 last season.

Michael Young has followed up a strong 2011 season in which he hilariously received a first-place MVP vote from a Dallas writer by hitting .269 with a .299 on-base percentage, .359 slugging percentage, and 23 double plays in 137 games. According to WAR he’s been 2.6 wins worse than a replacement-level DH/first baseman/infielder. Not only did Young have a WAR of +2.1 last season, he posted a positive WAR total in each of his first 11 seasons.

Both players have been terrible and unlike most of the other guys with negative WAR totals Francoeur and Young have played basically every day for the entire season. In fact, among the 30 players with the lowest WAR totals this season only Francoeur and Young have logged more than 480 plate appearances.

If you’re looking for the worst player in baseball this season Francoeur and Young are the most obvious candidates and right now at least my vote would go to Frenchy. Also: Francoeur is signed for $6.75 million next year and Young is under contract for $16 million.

Ichiro was happy to see Pete Rose get defensive about his hits record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Miami Marlins warms-up during batting practice before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.

There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.

The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.

There will be no criminal charges arising out of Curt Schilling’s video game debacle

Curt Schilling
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In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.

The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.

As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:

An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.

Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.