In appreciation of the Los Angeles Dodgers losing Game 4 of the 2020 World Series in spectacular fashion, reminding us all that defense — bad defense — can decide baseball games, we thought we’d take a look back at the worst fielders we’ve ever seen.
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Back before we all criticized catchers for not being able to frame, there was Michael Barrett. He didn’t just not frame pitches, he actually moved around so much behind the plate that he moved strikes OUT of the zone. He also had a unique ability to aggravate both opposing players (AJ Pierzynski) and his own pitchers (Carlos Zambrano) that he got punched in the face quite a bit. And even then, no one hated him more than the fans of his own team. – Julie DiCaro
Few catchers played as long as Piazza while being so easy to run on. He finished his career throwing out just 23 percent of base stealers.
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When Adam Dunn signed with the Washington Nationals in 2009, it was hoped he would lift the 59-win team out of the basement. A bad left fielder most of his career, Dunn was focused on learning to play first base. How did it go? Well Baseball-Reference.com lists him as an unsightly -43 fielding runs that season, and the Nationals won just 59 games again despite Dunn’s solid year with the bat. – Chris Baud
They didn’t call him The Big Glove.
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Tommy Lasorda once gave Sax a “pep talk” (or was it a standup routine): “How many guys can hit .300?” “Not many.” “How many can steal 40 bases?” “Not many.” “How many can throw the ball to first base? Millions!” Sax developed a case of the yips, becoming unable to throw the ball to first base in 1983, making 24 errors by the All-Star break. He recovered, but was never a defensive stalwart even after that. – C.B.
Originally a third baseman in the minors, Murphy played outfield and first base before settling in as a second baseman. As a second baseman, he was a pretty good hitter.
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Sheffield could win the anti-Zobrist award. Infamous for admitting that he intentionally made errors at shortstop as a rookie for Milwaukee, also proved to be a butcher at third base and right field. On a team of bad fielders who are mostly one-dimensional, it helps to have some versatility, and Sheffield is up to the task! – C.B.
Arguably the worst defensive player in baseball during his four seasons manning third for Detroit.
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In 1993, Jose Offerman committed 37 errors while playing shortstop for the L.A. Dodgers. And if you think that’s horrendous, what if I told you it was an improvement! One year earlier he butchered 42 baseballs. In six seasons as the Dodgers’ shortstop, Offerman committed a whopping 139 errors, or 23 per season, and three of those seasons he played fewer than 68 games, and only 13 in 1990. And in those 13 games, he committed 4 errors, which would amount to 50 errors over a 162-game season, if he stayed healthy. – Eric Barrow
Jeter wasn’t the worst defensive player to play shortstop, but few get to play 2,600 games there while being decidedly mediocre, and force a better shortstop in Alex Rodriguez to third base.
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The iconic defensive play in Manny Ramirez’s career wasn’t even a ball hit to him. It was a drive by David Newhan of the Orioles to center field at Fenway Park that Johnny Damon couldn’t catch at the wall, then chased down as Newhan sped around the bases. When Damon threw the ball back to the infield, Ramirez made a diving stab to cut it off, then delivered his own 80-foot throw, off his knees, to Mark Bellhorn. All of that nonsense allowed Newhan to score for an inside-the-park home run. It was par for the course for Manny being Manny, as he was capable of amazing feats in the field, but just as often would leave everyone watching wondering what the heck it was they’d just seen. –
Greg Luzinski was a man out of time, a terrific hitter who was born to play in the bandboxes and station-to-station style that dominated the 1950s or the sillyball era of the 1990s. Instead, he was undoubtedly the most immobile outfielder to ever play on Astroturf. In the 1977 NLCS, Phillies manager Danny Ozark inexplicably failed to replace Luzinski with defensive replacement Jerry Martin, and Manny Mota lined a hit to left that Luzinski couldn’t handle, sparking the Dodgers to a four-run rally and a 6-5 win. Baseball-Reference.com has him at -90 runs in a little over 1,200 games in left field. – C.B.
Canseco once misplayed a fly ball out into a home run, and I’m not talking about an inside-the-park Little League home run, I’m talking an over-the-fence dinger. How many players in baseball history have done that? Other than Detroit’s Mickey Hart at Yankee Stadium.... AND THAT WAS A MOVIE! Let me set the scene for you. Cleveland’s Jose Martinez hit a long flyball to right field. Canseco went back, got under it at the base of the wall, raised his glove, and missed the ball completely as it bounced off his head and over the wall for a home run. Now I can get into the defensive metrics, but do I have to after seeing that? – E.B.
Probably no one alive saw him play, but when you’re a lifetime .325 hitter yet can’t hold a starting job (just one season with more than 500 at-bats) and your nickname is “Fats,” you’re probably a bad fielder. – C.B.
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