July 12, 2010

Worst Pirates All-Stars

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / July 12, 2010

People's definitions of an All-Star vary, but basically the fans' selections are always the most popular guys. The managers then fill out the rosters with the remaining players who had the best years up to the All-Star Break. Here are five Pittsburgh Pirates All-Stars who fit into neither of these categories.

Frankie Zak
Shortstop, 1944

Zak's All-Star season in 1944 is one of the strangest ever. Yeah, the AL had Jason Varitek as an All-Star in '08 when he couldn't hit or throw anymore, but at least he was a starting MLB player. Zak was a rookie who got into 87 games and had 160 at bats that season, hitting .300 with no home runs and 11 RBI. He was a starter for three weeks before the All-Star game which was apparently enough. Zak told newspapers he was surprised at the selection. Apparently so was his manager, as he was routinely pinch hit for in key spots in games. Without doing any research I am going to B.S. that he's the only position player All-Star to come to bat less than 300 times in his career.

Strangely enough, in this era the All-Star managers tried to use their best players and generally make moves that were designed to win the game. Thus, Zak didn't play in the game.

Murry Dickson
Pitcher, 1953

Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Dickson was a pretty solid player for a long time. He was deserving of an All-Star spot in several different seasons. Yet his 1953 season wasn't one of them, and in fact was probably the worst of his career other than his final year when he was 43.

A short righthanded junkballer, in 1953 Dickson had a stellar 10-19 record with a 4.53 ERA. At the All-Star break he was 7-11 with a 4.76 ERA. Yet who was it coming out of the bullpen to save the game for Warren Spahn? Murry Dickson, of course. He pitched the final two innings allowing one run.

Carlos Garcia
Second Baseman, 1994

Carlos Garcia, really? In one of the greatest seasons for offense ever, Garcia hit .277 with six home runs and 16 walks on the season. It was a strike shortened season, so let's say he would have gotten to nine home runs and 24 walks. His on base percentage was still .309. At the break he was hitting .267/.307/.332. He didn't deserve to be an All-Star in any year but of his four full seasons with the Pirates, 1994 was actually Carlos's worst year.

Garcia had two All-Star at-bats and singled off Randy Johnson. He was immediately picked off.

Tony Womack
Second Baseman, 1997

Tony Womack was hitting .272/.318/.357 at the break and ended up at .277/.330/.389 for the year. Without any walks or extra base hits, he was only a marginal offensive player despite his 60 steals. According to Fielding Runs, he gave back all that value and more by being the third worst defensive player in the National League in '97. Jose Guillen was the second worst.

With the NL making a strong attempt to come back from a 3-0 deficit, Womack replaced Craig Biggio - who was in the midst of his career year in which he scored 146 runs - and went 0-for-1.

Mike Williams
Pitcher, 2003

Mike Williams, a deserving All-Star in 2002, was 1-3 with an outstanding 6.44 ERA at the '03 midseason break when he was inexplicably on the All-Star team again. He also had walked 22 while striking out 19 in 36.1 innings. Somehow he had 25 saves by the break which is why he made the team, yet he was clearly the worst closer in baseball. The NL managed to blow a 5-1 lead even though Williams didn't pitch in the All-Star game. The winning pitcher, of course, was Brendan Donnelly.

Traded to the Phillies later that month, Williams and Jose Mesa (5-7, 6.52) formed a one-two punch out of the Philadelphia bullpen that was worse than actually getting punched twice. For the season Williams finished 1-7 with a 6.14 ERA. He got a non-roster invitation to the Devil Rays camp the following spring and couldn't make a team that was coming off a 99 loss season. He never pitched again.

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