Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Worst Player in the League

Winning isn’t everything—it’s the only thing. First used by UCLA football head coach Henry Russell Sanders in 1950, these words have become among the most quoted in sports. In any job you undertake, your worth correlates directly with how much bacon you bring home, and in sports, it all comes down to the Ws. If you can’t lead your team to victory, how good of a player are you, really?

Baseball is a game full of statistics, and there is one stat that shows a player’s value more so than any other: Wins Above Replacement. Through a series of advanced metrics evaluating offense and defense, players are tracked to see how many wins they add to their team above a replacement level player. And one player in particular stands out if you analyze the numbers closely—Yuniesky Betancourt.

He is the proud owner the lowest WAR in the league at a -1.2 clip, making him the worst statistical player in the league. But even beyond the numbers, his ineptitude and inability to lead his team to victory makes it abundantly clear that Yuniesky Betacourt is the most abominable player in all of Major League Baseball.

It goes without saying that anyone who makes the Major Leagues and stays there for six seasons is clearly talented. Hell, anyone who makes it to the top level of any occupation deserves of a medal and a pat on the back. But someone has to be the worst at his job, and that man is unequivocally Mr. Betancourt.

You might've missed the ball on the tag, Yuni...

You might've missed the ball on the tag, Yuni...

Over the last two seasons, he cost his team 1.2 wins. The average major leaguer would have a WAR of around 3 to 4 over the same period. If you need to sign someone up to lose more than a game for your team, just call up my 102-year old great-grandmother Hermine, and she won’t cost you nearly Yuniesky’s $10 million left on his contract.

Over his six-year career, his total WAR is 2.6. That’s less than a half win added every year. You could trot out Mike Elwood, Special Olympian silver medalist, and add a half win to your team.

Baseball analyst Keith Law has his own breakdown of Yuni’s game: “It’s not just that Yuni is bad. It’s that he plays like he’s conserving calories.” The man doesn’t hit for power. He’s impatient, he can’t field competently, and he doesn’t even care enough to work himself into game shape. With that kind of dedication to his craft, could you even expect marginal returns?

Over the last two years, he barely got a hit once every four trips to the plate—hardly a world-beating rate—and reached base just one thousandth of a percentage point above dead last in the league. If there’s something productive Yuniesky Betancourt can do in the field, I must have mistakenly been watching cricket this whole time.

There’s something to be said for players who just win. In football, it’s nice to have a quarterback like Matt Schaub who puts up gaudy yardage numbers, but it’s even better to have a player like Ben Roethlisberger who will scratch and claw his way to seize victory from the jaws of defeat. Yuni does neither. Somehow, he miraculously finds a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Not surprisingly, Betancourt’s Royals have finished dead last in their division each of the past two seasons with records of 65-97 and 67-95, good for the fourth and fifth worst records in the league for 2009 and 2010.

The top players in any sport can put their team on their back and just will themselves to victory. Look at LeBron James. He was able to lead the Cavaliers to a 61-21 record in 2009, but this season with the superstar having taken his talents to South Beach, the Cavs lost 26 straight games en route to an 11-48 start. No doubt, LeBron is a powerful asset to any team because he turned an abysmal franchise into a championship contender.

Yuniesky, on the other hand, barely adds any talent and doesn’t have the skills or the drive to make his team into a winner. Betancourt is just good enough to con two teams into trading for him, but truly remains bad enough to be the worst player in the majors.

Blaring from the speakers at Auburn football games, you’ll hear DJ Khaled’s platinum single All I Do Is Win—a song that evokes a sense of swagger, pride, and more than anything else, victory. Because winning is a culture in sports, if you can’t win games, you don’t belong among the best. And when you get to the point of costing your team wins, you are condemned to being the single worst player in your sport.

As infamous Raiders’ owner Al Davis put it, “Just win, baby, win.”

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2011 Baseball Preview

Here it is at long last, the 2011 Baseball Preview. This is the fifth annual preview I’ve come out with, and I really hope you enjoy perusing all 75 pages of baseball gold. Don’t hesitate to comment, share the link, get ready for some baseball.

2011BaseballPreview (page 1 of 75)

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Don't Believe 'Em

When they tell you that you’ll never get over, just tell them they’re number one. You’re a champion.

Coming out of high school, everyone has a ton of pressure on their shoulders. Are you ready to live on your own? Is this college really the right fit for you? But what if you’re drafted top-10 in the MLB Draft? There’s always going to be pressure, but in the words of rapper Busta Rhymes, Don’t Believe ‘Em.

The son of a former major leaguer, Delino DeShields Jr. has always been a true athlete. Starting in the fifth grade, he played football, and by the time his junior year rolled around, he was getting recruited to play college football. But that wasn’t his future. Yes, head coaches across the South were drooling over his speed and athleticism, but DeShields’ future was brightest where his father made a living: on the diamond.

Astros fans will be looking forward to seeing this guy playing in Houston pretty soon

Astros fans will be looking forward to seeing this guy playing in Houston pretty soon

It wasn’t actually until about two years ago that Delino started to make baseball a priority. Football was his number one sport, but baseball was always there in the spring. A running back in the fall, his speed translated immediately to baseball–and the scouts noticed. So much so, that the Astros snatched him up in the top 10 of the draft.

Look, even if a (hater) try to pop me
I’m so blessed – do anything that you could do to stop me
Now I’m climbin’ up the ladder and I’m jumpin’ at the top
You might wanna call me Rocky

Don’t let his 5’9″ stature fool you, Delino DeShields is one tough guy. He boasts a 4.2 40 yard dash time and can bench an impressive 300 lbs along with squat 565, but those are just numbers. Delino can flat out play.

DeShields’ biggest asset going forward is clearly his speed. No matter if he plays at second or shifts to center field, it will allow him to be a fantastic defender, even if he doesn’t have the greatest arm strength. His speed will come even more to his advantage at the plate, where he’s able to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

Months before the June 2010 draft, there was plenty of speculation as to where he would fall in the draft; most experts had DeShields as a mid- to late-first rounder. But the closer and closer June came, the higher and higher his stock rose. Speed and athleticism aren’t necessarily essential for a major leaguer, but any time a club can find both skills at an elite level in an 17-year old, it’s hard to pass up.

Any situation where you might get fed up
Gotta stay focused, homie keep your head up
It don’t really matter what the next one is doin
Homie gotta handle your business and then you better step up

Growing up around a baseball culture with his dad, a 13-year veteran, athletics was always prevalent in Lino’s life from a young age. Delino Sr. always had advice for his son, but one piece of advice stuck with Delino Jr:

“Even though I never really started taking baseball seriously until two years ago,” recounts DeShields, “he always just told me to focus and not let outside distractions affect my performance on the field. Always keep your head up.”

Athleticism translates well between sports, but baseball can be a game of details more than any other sport. It takes time to learn the proper mechanics and gameplay of fielding, and there’s no feat more difficult in sports than hitting a 90+ mph fastball. Since he is still relatively new to being a full-time ballplayer, focus will be absolutely key for Lino’s success. It’s more than clear that he has elite talents, but the more he can focus on his craft to become a complete player, the sooner he can work his way up through the Astros’ system to Houston.

Live to the fullest for the dream you’re pursuin’
Ain’t nothin’ in the work gon’ really stop what you’re doin’
Go hard no matter what they be sayin’
(Brother) don’t quit cause you know we gotta keep it movin’

After being selected eighth overall, the inevitable question rose about DeShields’ future: sign with the ‘Stros or play at LSU? Obviously, the choice was a difficult one, but LSU wouldn’t let Delino play both baseball and football. Additionally, LSU only offered him an 85% scholarship since they were wary of his strong interest in playing professional baseball. In the end, the promise of a future at Houston’s Minute Maid Field and $2.15 million beckoned.

“(The decision) was hard, but who can turn down that kind of money coming out of high school?” says DeShields. “The way I look at it, I’ve been blessed with this talent and my dream is to play professional baseball–not college baseball. Even though it would be fun, why turn down the opportunity and spend three years of my life playing college sports when I probably won’t graduate because I would enter the draft my junior. And why not start early and be ahead of the game?”

Take a look and see yourself in me
Cause it’s all about we
Me and you securin’ a win together
So we could be the best that we could ever be

Delino Sr. and Delino Jr.

Delino Sr. and Delino Jr.

One likely reason DeShields went so high in the draft was his pedigree–his dad was the 12th pick in the 1987 MLB draft and stole 463 bases for five teams. The similarities don’t end there though, so its easy to see why the two draw such good comparisons. They both play second base and some outfield, but the bulk of their games revolve around elite speed.

Delino Jr. is a good four inches shorter than his dad, but he’s a lot stronger than his dad ever was. From what most scouts have seen, the younger DeShields will likely have a similar power ceiling to his dad, but he should be a much more potent base stealer. Delino, though, is just 18 years old and has much room to grow and much more to learn.

DeShields will undoubtedly get plenty more advice over the years from his father as he gets closer and closer to making the show. But even more valuable than that, Delino will always have a mentor and a supporter, someone who he can look up to.

Stay up on your grind, be the first one to set it
People try to shut me down, I won’t let it
I’m so stubborn for the success
You know my motto – don’t stop, get it, get it!

There’s a reason Delino DeShields Jr. has made it this far in his young baseball career. Through skill and determination, he rose to the top of many draft boards as a prep player, and now look where he is. In the future, there’s sure to be people who will doubt Delino because of his size, lack of power, or some other nit-picky detail, but this kid is going somewhere special.

Whether his career is as fruitful as his father’s or as exciting as another close comp in Eric Young Jr., you’ll be sure to hear his name again soon. Hey, maybe he’ll fulfill the promise Baseball America bestowed upon him when they dubbed him Top 12 Year Old back in 2005 over the great Bryce Harper.

But in the end, Delino DeShields Jr. is an extraordinarily talented player with a bright future ahead.

When they tell you that you’ll never get over, just tell them they’re number one. You’re a champion.

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