The Esteban Loaiza news prompted a discussion on this blog about our all-time least-favorite A's players. I laid out a few players in that discussion, but I thought I'd formalize the list, rank them in order of how much I disliked them, and explain why I disliked each of them.
The only rule is this: I have to have honestly disliked them while they played for the A's. I can't include players from whom I developed a dislike after they left. So no Giambi brothers, no Jose Canseco, no Troy Neel. And I don't think Scott Sauerbeck is eligible yet, since I have yet to see him play.
25. Jim Spencer.
Spencer was one of the first A's players I remember disliking. I think I learned to dislike him from my best friend, who would always complain that "Spencer can't see." He may have been right: Spencer's two seasons in Oakland in 1981-82 produced lines of .205/.246/.275 and .168/.190/.277. Still, I think I disliked him mostly because my friend disliked him.
24. Jason Kendall.
Kendall causes more mixed emotions in me than any other A's player ever. His steady stream of weak grounders and lazy flyouts infuriates me, but I gotta admit his OBP isn't bad. His weak two-hop throws to second base all last year were pathetic, but I do like the way he works with the pitchers. He's certifiably insane, which is good when it helps light a fire under the team, but bad when it intimidates Ken Macha into putting him into the lineup when he's slumping. He is extremely overpaid, but his acquisition did rid the team of two players that are higher on this list, and their salaries.
23. Ernie Young.
Ernie Young is a good story. These days, I like and admire him. Like Rickey Henderson, he endears himself by continuing to play minor league baseball for years after the major leagues decided they didn't want him anymore, just because of his love of the game.
Still, when he was with the A's, I kept wishing, please, find someone better than Ernie Young. He was a prototypical AAAA player, a homer-in-the-blowouts but strikeout-in-the-clutch type of guy. He had some holes in his swing (I recall many a pitcher going up-the-ladder on him) that good pitchers would exploit whenever the situation got tight.
22. Scott Sanderson.
Sanderson only played one year in Oakland, and he actually performed quite well, by the numbers. But I disliked watching him. His main weapon was a big, slow, looping curveball. He had a limited arsenal of slop, and on days where he had all his slop working, he was OK, but when the slop was off, and the game got tense, there was nothing for him to do but keep throwing the same old slop. The lack of creative options left the artist in me deeply dissatisfied.
21. Luis Polonia.
Luis Polonia irritated me. I can't remember why. I just know he did. When the A's replaced him with Rickey Henderson back in '89, I was the happiest man on the face of the earth.
20. Herb Washington.
Back in 1974, I was too young to realize that Washington's existence on the A's roster was a farce, but I wasn't too young to hate him for getting picked off in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the World Series, when the A's were down by just one run. You always remember your first hate.
19. Ken Phelps.
Washington got on this list for one bad play that hurt the A's. Phelps, on the other hand, gets on this list for one good play that helped the A's.
On April 20, 1990, I was among 44,911 at the Oakland Coliseum who watched Brian Holman get one out from a perfect game. Ken Phelps came up to pinch-hit for Mike Gallego, and smacked the first pitch he saw over the fence in right-center field for a home run. I don't think I've ever felt more shocked at a ballgame than by that home run. I was that close to witnessing a perfect game, and Phelps ruined it in the blink of an eye. I couldn't forgive him, and since it was the only home run Phelps ever hit for the A's, he never gave me any reason to.
18. Keith Ginter.
The A's traded a couple of decent prospects, Justin Lehr and Nelson Cruz, for Ginter. Seemed like a decent idea at the time. Ginter had some good stats. Unfortunately, Ginter left Milwaukee and went all Jeff Cirillo on us. He just plain forgot how to hit. Now the A's are paying him $1 million to rot away in Sacramento.
17. Charles Thomas.
Thomas gets on this list for being traded for one of my all-time favorite A's players, Tim Hudson, and then flopping. I think he went 0-for-two months before the A's realized they had made a huge mistake and sent him down to the River Cats.
If either of his other trademates (Dan Meyer and Juan Cruz) had succeeded, I'd probably forgive Thomas. But my mind needs a scapegoat for that trade, and my brain hung the horns on Thomas. Sorry, Charlie.
16. Kevin Seitzer.
In 1993, Seitzer was brought in to replace Carney Lansford, who had retired. It seemed like a good idea--Seitzer had been an average-to-above-average third baseman for most of his career. But in Oakland, he struggled. He put up a OPS+ of 87, whined how hard it was to hit in the Coliseum, and got cut in July. 1993 was the A's first losing season in six years, and Seitzer received a good share of my scorn.
15. Mark Redman.
Redman is another player who gets on the list for whining. Once, when an A's player made an error behind him, he got visibly upset at the player right on the field, in front of everyone else. Everything that went wrong always seemed to be someone else's fault. Just not a likeable dude.
14. Ben Grieve.
Oh, I had such high hopes for Ben Grieve. I was at his major league debut against the Giants, where he hit three doubles: one to left, one to center, and one to right. This kid can hit!
Yes, he could hit--hit into double plays, that is. In 2000, he hit into 31 double plays, 6th most ever. A pitcher could get him to roll over and hit a grounder to second pretty much any time he wanted to. He was also a painfully slow runner, so he'd never beat out any of those 4-6-3s.
He had no range in the outfield, and even when he got to a ball, he had the worst throwing arm I've ever seen. Just a total wet noodle. Finally, sadly, nobody, not even Billy Beane, could stand watching it anymore. He had to be traded, and he was.
13. Ozzie Canseco.
Nobody likes nepotism. Surely, there was someone more deserving of a roster spot than Ozzie Canseco.
12. Don Baylor.
Reggie Jackson was my favorite player as a kid. Don Baylor is the guy who replaced him. Just for that, he gets on this list. Then, in his second stint in Oakland, just before the 1988 World Series, Baylor made some bulletin-board speech about how the A's were going to win it all. I already didn't like him, so it made it easy for the scapegoat-seeker in my mind to blame the series loss entirely on Baylor, for jinxing everything.
11. Randy Ready.
My dislike for Ready comes from the year before he joined the A's, when he played for the Phillies. In this game, with two runners on and no one out, the runners took off, and Tony Gwynn hit a line drive to Ready. Ready caught the ball for one out, stepped on second for another. The third runner was running straight at him, and all Ready had to do was stop and tag him, and he would have had the ninth unassisted triple play in major league history, and the first since 1968.
But instead, Ready stepped aside, avoided the runner, and threw the ball to first. He got a triple play, sure, but he could have easily had a historical triple play.
Randy Ready had an easy chance for history, and he blew it. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't forgive him. So the next year, when the A's acquired him, I just couldn't find a way to like him. In my eyes, he could do nothing right.
I know, it's irrational, and unfair, but irrationality is the foundation of love and hate.
10. Mike Holtz.
If Michael Lewis had written a fair and balanced version of Moneyball, there would have been a whole chapter on Mike Holtz. Mike Holtz was acquired in the Moneyball year of 2002. If you looked at his stats, he seemed like one of those undervalued commodities: his K/9 rate was outstanding.
However, if you talked to anyone who actually watched any Angels games, it was clear the Mike Holtz just plain sucked. The Angels fans I knew couldn't believe that the A's, or anyone, would want him, let alone sign him to a $1.8 million, 2-year contract. He lasted only two months.
Stats and scouts, please!
9. Johnny Damon.
Johnny Damon came to Oakland in 2001 with all kinds of hype about how great a player he is. Speed! Power! OBP!
He hit .256/.324/.363. First he whined about how he wasn't hitting because he wasn't playing centerfield, as if that had anything to do with it. Then after he and Terrence Long flip-flopped positions so that Damon could stop whining about not playing center, he started whining about how the foul territory in Oakland messed him up, because he couldn't foul off pitches the way he was used to. *Sniff*.
8. Mike Moore.
Mike Moore was a darn good pitcher for the A's. He was a key piece of the 1989 World Champs. They might not have won the series without him. I thank him for all he did to help the team win.
That said, I just couldn't stand to watch him. For it seemed that anytime a runner got on base when Mike Moore was pitching, it opened up a rift in the space-time continuum. Baseball's rules state that a pitcher has 20 seconds to deliver a pitch, but I could swear that when Mike Moore was pitching with a runner on base, those 20 seconds seemed like 20 minutes. The effect of this rift on the human anatomy was horrific. A tired nausea would engulf you, and you'd be overcome with an awful combination of jet lag and seasickness. Then, when Moore would finally leave the game, Tony LaRussa would pour salt on your wounds by making seven different pitching changes over the last 1 2/3 innings. When the game finally, finally ended, you went home and straight to bed, only to discover the next morning that even a teetotaler like me could not escape a bad hangover from the sins of yesterday.
7. Ariel Prieto.
The A's just escaped Colorado last night, lucky to win one game, as Todd Helton and his mates gave Oakland a hurtin'. And every time Todd Helton does something good, my mind casts an evil eye at Ariel Prieto. Back in 1995, the A's pitching was just awful. And just before the draft, Prieto defected from Cuba to the US, and was suddenly eligible for the draft. The A's, who were all set to draft Helton, made a last minute decision, out of desperation for some pitching, to pick Prieto instead.
Prieto had a slider that dipped out of the strike zone that everyone in the Cuban leagues used to swing at. In the majors, the hitters all spit at it. Prieto never found a way to adjust to the fact that his "out pitch" was ineffective at the major league level, and Mr. Not-Todd-Helton settled into a career that was, at best, mediocre.
6. Jimmy Haynes.
The one personality trait that makes you most likely to land near the end of this list is cluelessness: the utter inability to realize that you stink, and acting like you're entitled to the benefits of stardom. Jimmy Haynes was so clueless about how bad he was that Bill King and Ray Fosse would actually make jokes about his cluelessness on the air. I think if Bill King were to make this list, Haynes might be #1.
Start after start, Haynes would go out and just stink. He had good stuff, but he couldn't set up a hitter to save his life. His pitch selection was horrible. And yet, after every start, Haynes would act like he didn't really do anything wrong, it wasn't his fault, he just happened to have bad luck that day. Ok, sure, Jimmy, whatever.
5. Arthur Rhodes.
I don't think the A's ever do any psychological profiling, or at least, I've never heard that they do. Arthur Rhodes is the perfect example of why they should. I think Rhodes had the most fragile ego of any athlete I've ever followed.
Rhodes was signed as a free agent to be the A's closer, under the theory, "closers are made, not born." Rhodes quickly disproved that theory. He just fell apart with the burden, ended up getting hurt, and sulking his way through the rest of the season when he was replaced by Octavio Dotel. In the interviews I heard with him, he just seemed so--docile? passive? overwhelmed? what's the word I'm looking for?--that I almost felt sorry for him getting placed into that role, but then I think of the $11 million he was getting, and I stopped.
4. Buddy Groom.
Fans of more recent A's teams probably felt about Jim Mecir the way I felt about Buddy Groom--any time he came into the game, something bad was about to happen. (I don't know why I didn't feel that way about Mecir--maybe because when Mecir stunk he was obviously hurt and when he was clearly healthy he was good, and the A's manager should have known the difference.)
Groom, to me, was the very symbol of the A's futility in the second half of the nineties. Every time he came into a game, I cringed. I distinctly recall once saying to a friend, "the A's will never compete for a title until Buddy Groom is no longer good enough to make this team." The year after he left, the A's won the AL West for the first time in eight years.
3. Esteban Loaiza. I wasn't all that impressed with Loaiza when I first saw him at FanFest this winter. His answers seemed rather surly, unintelligent, and cliched. He started the season and stunk. The A's had to pry from him the fact that he had an injury.
Then: Driving 120mph while drunk. Total cluelessness. Next.
2. Terrence Long.
Terrence Long was a terrible fielder. Misjudged balls all the time. He was also a terrible hitter. The guy had no business starting as many games as he did in the major leagues. He should have had a career as a fifth outfielder who was lucky to play once a week.
In his last season in Oakland, he hit .245/.293/.385. Eric Byrnes started stealing some of his playing time, and then the A's traded for Jose Guillen, which cut into it even more, at which point, the A's started winning. And at which point, Terrence Long started whining. He deserved more playing time.
He was totally oblivious to how bad a player he was. Let me spell it out for you, T: you deserved *less* playing time. Far, far, far less.
The A's went from glory to suckitude the instant Ruben Sierra joined the team. Part of that was not his fault--the pitching got old and bad in a hurry. But Sierra was also a big part of the problem, as well.
He was brought in to provide similar power to Jose Canseco with half the headaches. But Sierra was a head case of his own, and his performance was awful. In his two full seasons in Oakland, he put up lines of .233/.288/.390 and .268/.298/.484. That was nothing near the numbers he had put up in Texas, where he was a three-time all-star.
Even worse was his total cluelessness as to how bad he was playing. As he was getting bulkier and bulkier and slower and slower and his fielding deteriorated into total unwatchableness (it seemed like he never failed to throw to the wrong base), Sierra continued to be convinced that he was headed for the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame for Cluelessness, maybe. The guy had a lower OBP than Mike Bordick and a lower SLG than Brent Gates, the team's pair of diminuitive middle infielders. And he kept on talking about going to the Hall. And when things got so bad that his own manager, Tony LaRussa, couldn't refrain from insulting him, calling him the "Village Idiot", Ruben Sierra clinched the #1 spot on this list.