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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Categories: MLB | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “The Worst Player in the League

  1. Dave

    Nick Punto objects to this.

  2. Zach

    Not to mention Betancourt also cost the Mariners Stephen Strasburg. On the last game of the 2008 season, Betancourt hit a grand slam to lift the Mariners to victory, placing them one game better than the Washington Nationals, and giving them the #1 overall pick in the 2009 draft. Bad luck follows this guy around, eh?

  3. I do not disagree that Y. Betancourt is not a valued assest to any team that wants to win. I do think that if you look at his past you will see he escaped from Cuba by boat in 2002 and has become a long-time major league player who has overcome his past difficulties in Cuba.

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