The worst All-Stars of all-time

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Even with rosters expanded and more and more players seemingly sitting out the game, there aren’t quite as many bad All-Stars as their used to be, at least not by my research. The list of the worst All-Stars is mostly comprised of old timers, but I’ve squeezed a couple of more recent players in. Here’s an All-Star team of the worst players to make an All-Star team. I’m going by career value here, not necessarily how they performed in their All-Star seasons.

Catcher: Steve Swisher – 1976 – Career WAR: -2.6

Best known now as Nick’s pop, Swisher reached the majors just a year after the White Sox made him a first-round pick and played nine years in the bigs, though he had fewer than 75 at-bats in four of those. He made the All-Star team in his one season of fairly regular play. He went on to hit .236/.275/.326 for the Cubs that year.

First base: Ken Harvey – 2004 – Career WAR: -1.2

Harvey was the Royals’ lone All-Star in his second and final year as a regular. He hit a respectable .287/.338/.421 in 456 at-bats on the season, but since he was a poor defender, he still ended up with a negative WAR. The Royals had him battle big Calvin Pickering for a starting job the following spring. He lost out and ended up getting just 45 more at-bats in the majors.

Second base: Carlos Garcia – 1994 – Career WAR: -0.8

A decent offensive second baseman, Garcia hit .269/.316/.399 as a rookie with the Pirates in 1993. He made the All-Star team in the worst of his four full years with the club, as he hit .277/.309/.367 in 1994. He bounced back to .294/.340/.420 the next year, but his poor glove knocked him out of the league a few years later.

Third base: Ken Reitz – 1980 – Career WAR: -4.2

Reitz was in the lineup for his defense — he won a Gold Glove in 1975 before Mike Schmidt established a stranglehold on the award — but WAR actually says he was below average throughout his career. His All-Star nod came in his last of seven seasons as a regular with the Cardinals, in which he hit .270/.300/.379. That OBP was the highest mark of his career.

Shortstops: Joe DeMastri – 1957 – Career WAR: -4.9

Baseball reference gives DeMastri the worst WAR of any player to make an All-Star team. He did so with the A’s in 1957, when he hit .245/.280/.360 in 461 at-bats. At least DeMastri deserves points for consistency: he had 6-9 homers and 33-40 RBI in all seven of his seasons as a regular.

Left field: Gino Cimoli – 1957 – Career WAR: 0.0

It must have been quite a thrill for Cimoli, in his first full season, to play behind Frank Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the 1957 All-Star Game. He hit .293/.343/.410 with 10 homers and 57 RBI for the Dodgers as a 27-year-old that season. Baseball-reference WAR credits him with 3.1 wins that season and negative -3.1 wins for the other nine years of his career.

Center Field: Cito Gaston – 1970 – Career WAR: -2.5

For the most part, the other players on this list got their All-Star bids by being on bad teams. Gaston, though, was a very deserving All-Star in 1970, hitting .318/.364/.543 with 29 homers and 93 RBI for the Padres. It was just his second full season and expectations were high. Gaston, though, lost 90 points off his average in 1971 and never bounced all of the way back. He did manage to resurrect his career as a pretty good bench player for the Braves later in the decade, but WAR says he was pretty much always a terrible defender.

Right field: Myril Hoag – 1939 – Career WAR: -4.8

The bad news is that Hoag was traded from the Yankees to the woeful Browns after the 1938 season. The good news was that he got an All-Star appearance out of it. It was his best season, as he hit .295/.329/.421 with 10 homers and 75 RBI.

Starting pitcher: Tyler Green – 1995 – Career WAR: -1.1

Not to be confused with fellow Phillies starter Tommy Greene, Tyler Green was the 10th overall pick in the 1991 draft. As a rookie in 1995, he was a cool 8-4 with a 2.75 ERA after three months, getting him the All-Star spot. He then went 0-5 with a 9.63 ERA the rest of the way, missed the following season with a torn labrum and went 10-16 in his final two seasons.

Reliever: Ed Farmer – 1980 – Career WAR: -0.5

The current White Sox radio broadcaster made the All-Star team on his way to getting 30 saves for the 1980 White Sox. He was hardly dominant, though, finishing with a 3.34 ERA and more walks (56) than strikeouts (54) in 99 2/3 innings out of the pen. Overall, he had a 4.30 ERA in 624 innings.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment “egregious case of service time manipulation”

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.