Breaking Balls: The absolute best of the worst in 2012


Jim Tracy knows best: Indefinitely means one year. (Getty Images)

Last night, I had a really bad dream. I was working at a corporate office in the downtown area – those two aspects are pretty awful by themselves, but then it got worse. I was walking down the street and I ran into Edwin Jackson who was now working for the post office because he thought he was done with baseball. I gave him a pep talk, and he was going to give it another shot.

When I say it was a “bad” dream, I don’t mean it was scary or disturbing. What I mean is it just wasn’t very good at all. There wasn’t anything about it that was really even worth mentioning – except for the fact there was nothing worth mentioning.

This is pretty much how I think of this year’s Red Sox season. It was bad. It was certainly the worst I can remember, but there are a lot of ways it could have been even worse. Just ask Houston Astros fans.

And don’t laugh too hard at Boston’s misfortunes, Yankees fans. You might break another ankle.

This Red Sox season has fueled me with healthy supply of apathy and vitriol – which would be dangerous in the hands of an amateur, but in the skilled hands of a master, it can provide the masses with insight and humor the likes of which they had not yet conceived possible.

Or it can result in a hastily assembled list complaining about the worst performances of the baseball season. Enjoy!

Worst manager: Jim Tracy
The Colorado Rockies manager has been one of the worst for some time. Very surprisingly, Jim was told by ownership that he had an “indefinite” contract to stay on as manager. Well, it turned out to be quite definite. After the season, he “resigned” as the team’s manager – a classic “you can’t fire me because I quit!” move. Without him around it will be much harder to pick the worst manager next year (heads up, Ron Washington), but the Rockies are already the league’s most improved team.

Worst pitcher: Tim Lincecum
Yes, two-time Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum had the worst season for a starting pitcher this year – so much so that now he’s been made into a relief pitcher for the playoffs. At the beginning of the season, there were rumors he had adjusted his arm action because of a “minor” arm injury. There is no such thing as a “minor” arm injury for pitchers because that is the part of the body that is used for pitching. If a stripper has a “minor” injury to her moneymaker, just what is it that she is then supposed to shake?

Worst batter: Michael Young
More like Michael “Not-So” Young! Get it? Whatever. Michael Young is widely regarded as a “class act” – even though he’s done his fair share of unclassy acts. This year was his worst as a hitter. And as a fielder. And as a baserunner. So, we have our first-ever “Worst Player” Triple Crown of Awfulness Award winner as well. When other teams see they have a terrible player, they usually know to bench himm or limit him to special situations. Not the Rangers! Ron Washington showed us his managerial skillz this season by letting the worst player in the league play as many games as he possibly could. And then the Rangers came up one game short for the division title.

Worst fielder: Derek Jeter
You might think I’m putting Derek Jeter here out of spite because I like the Red Sox. Obviously there is some truth to that. However, he’s not very good and last year he was spared this award by the terrible Mark Reynolds. However, the Orioles moved Reynolds to first base and DH to minimize his awfulness. And now Jeter has a broken ankle to deal with and his range is going to go from “limited” to “statuesque.”

Worst stadium: Tropicana Field
As I mentioned before, “The Trop” will always win this award until the day when it is blown to pieces by an angel of mercy. Media and bloggers go on and on about how Rays fans don’t come out to support their team, even when they are winning. Have any of these people been to this ballpark? It is a nightmare. The lighting, dimensions, sight-lines, catwalks and food vendors all combine for one of the worst days out you can imagine. I’m with you Rays’ fans – watch the games at home.

Ump whatshisame’s “human element” goes haywire: “Yer out!!!”

Worst umpire: Unsure
This was close one. It came down to the guy who blew the call on the infield fly for the Braves and the guy who Dewayne Wise tricked into thinking he caught a foul ball and that guy who let Todd Helton be a yard away from the base to make an out. Notice how I call them all “that guy.” Sorry, umpires, nobody cares what your names are no matter how cool you think your touchdown dances are.

Worst beard: Sergio Romo
I guess I’m going to be the one to ask what all of us are thinking: “Are beards contagious?” There seems to be an awful lot of them going around these days and I don’t see their numbers decreasing. Sergio Romo replaced Brian Wilson as the Giants’ closer and he has the pitching “stuff” and the beard “stuff” to do the job. Brian Wilson won worst and best beard last year. Sergio wasn’t able to duplicate that feat as Jayson Werth’s delicious facial hair won in a landslide.

Worst mustache: John Axford
I was going to give the award to Derek Holland again, but I’m concerned I might bring him to the attention of the To Catch a Predator TV show. So, Axford gets the award, and even though he’s technically sporting a van dyke, the mustache portion is exquisite. Also, I’d like to take a moment of silence here for Keith Hernandez’s mustache which was recently destroyed for charity. You served your country well, my brother.

Worst tattoo: Prince Fielder
Prince has a tattoo on his neck of Korean characters that mean “Prince.” Yes, he actually has his own name tattooed on his neck. In the world outside of baseball, a neck tattoo is a good way of telling people, “There’s a slight chance I will murder you.” The guy with the actual worst tattoo(s) is Justin Miller who has almost 75 percent of his body covered in some of the dumbest artwork around. It’s like he went to a tattoo school and let all the new guys practice on him. But please don’t tell him I said so, because there is a very good chance he will murder me.

Worst injury: Mariano Rivera
All this time I have been 100 percent certain pitcher Mariano Rivera was a cybernetic organism sent from the future to destroy the hopes of men. And then he blew out his knee … shagging fly balls in the outfield. Each year, fans of his opponents prayed he would retire or lose his great stuff and each year he just kept going. He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead … But even cyborgs need replacement parts every now and then.

Worst team: Houston Astros
What can you say about the Houston Astros? They knew it was coming, because their talent level throughout the organization had reached rock-bottom and they dumped whatever little talent they had to build for the future. What resulted was an historically awful season that was so bad it actually created a competitive disadvantage for teams not in their division who didn’t get to feast on their rotting corpse. Next season the Astros will move to the American League where they will add the Designated Hitter to their lineup. My guess is that they’ll continue to be the Designated Doormat.

Worst offense: Chicago Cubs
When you’re the worst team, you’re probably going to have the worst offense. And such was the case for the Astros. It’s almost not even fair to compare them to the rest of the league. They did what they had to do. So, if we’re only looking at the teams with “Major League” players, the worst offense belongs to the Cubs. They’re rebuilding, too. But they play in a hitters’ park and the least they could do is score some runs for the home fans. (P.S. – Shout out to the Seattle Mariners for finally not winning this award.)

Worst defense: Colorado Rockies
What do you get when your team starts off with a manager who is already on the M.U.P. list (Mentally Unable to Perform) and then you add lots of physical injuries for players? You get lots of rookies and lots of guys playing out of position and lots of bad defense. That’s a huge ballpark and with the wrong guys out there, the other teams’ offenses are given an extra hit or extra bases here and there and everywhere. I guess you could say the Rockies had a rocky season. Ugh. Don’t worry. You can’t possibly hate me more for that one than I do.

Worst pitching: Cleveland Indians
Huh?! The Cleveland Indians?! I know! Shocking! But, yeah, they were awful. They just kept giving up hits and walks and runs and almost refused to strike guys out. If you combine their underperforming pitching with their underperforming offense, it’s amazing they didn’t end up with an Astros-ian season. And now they’ve brought in Terry Francona to manage the team. Smart move by the team and genius move by Tito. The offfense and pitching can’t do any worse and they’re in a weak division. I say this with zero sarcasm: Cleveland will be right in it next year.

“Hey, A-Rod. This is Ned. Wanna play in L.A. next season?” (Kirby Lee/US Presswire)

Worst GM: Ned Colletti
When Frank McCourt was finally exorcised from the Dodgers, I thought for sure his henchman Ned Colletti would be the next to go. Year after year he made terrible free-agent signings and unbalanced trades that only served to exacerbate the team’s financial woes. But then the new owners gave him a contract extension. Maybe all those previous mistakes were all Frank’s fault and Ned was just following the owner’s orders. But couldn’t that be said of every general manager and no one credits the owners when a GM does a good move? Maybe the Dodgers just wanted to keep Ned around to fully witness the atrocity of the mega-trade he did with the Red Sox. Of course, maybe he just knows where the bodies are buried.

Worst owner: Frank McCourt
Yes, he’s gone now. But technically he did own the team for part of this season and technically he is still a giant a-hole. Major League Baseball broke a ton of rules trying to get him out of the league, but since everyone hated him so much, no one cared one bit. You know that thing that fans do when they’re angry at their favorite team where they say “We should boycott games! Yeah, that’ll show them!” – but no one ever does it? Dodgers’ fans actually did it without anyone having to say a word, just because they hated Frank so much.

Worst announcer: Joe Buck
I’ve always said this award will be his for as long as he keeps showing up on my TV. But his partner Tim McCarver is closing in on the award. He’s one of the most confounding humans around. It’s hard to understand why a network would let a guy like Tim on the air when he sounds like that uncle that everyone’s got who spent too much time around lead-based paint. (P.S. – Shout out to TBS’ baseball broadcast. You are closing the gap on the unwatchability scale with your odd choice of not-so-bright former athletes and your constant stream of incorrect statistics.)

If you feel like I left something out, let me know. Don’t keep it bottled up inside you. It’s okay to let it out. You’ll feel better. I know I do.

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