The Worst White Sox Players Of My Lifetime: Position Players Edition
While the entire White Sox fan base sits around waiting for something to happen with Yoenis Cespedes, I figured I'd help us all kill time by continuing what I started last week.
If you don't remember, I ranked the greatest White Sox players of my lifetime (by bWAR) in two separate posts; one for position players and one for pitchers. Well, for every yin there must be a yang, and for every Frank Thomas there must be an Adam Dunn.
So today I'm continuing the Superlative Series by ranking the worst White Sox players of my lifetime (1981-present), and much like I did with the greatest, players, we'll start with position players.
Prepare yourselves for a painful trip down memory lane. We begin with four players who are all tied for seventh place.
t-7. Josh Fields, 3B (2006-2009), -1.4 WAR
Honestly, if this list consisted of nothing but ten failed White Sox third basemen, you wouldn't be surprised, would you? Hell, maybe that's an idea for down the road, but anyway, we start this list with one of many failed White Sox third basemen.
Josh Fields was the first guy to get a shot to replace Joe Crede, and he was a first-round pick, so you knew he would get a chance, and you knew Hawk would tell you how he was going to be a Hall of Famer one day. Well, no matter how high Josh hit his home runs, he didn't hit enough of them (though he did have 23 homers in 2007). What Josh did really well was strike out a lot, while never seeming to draw a walk.
And when you combine all that with the fact he was a bad defensive player at third base -- the Sox would try him in left field and at first too because, again, he was a first round pick -- and that's how he cracks this list.
t-7. Andy Gonzalez, Utility (2007), -1.4 WAR
Andy Gonzalez's value came from the fact that he could play anywhere. In his one season with the White Sox, Gonzalez played first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field and right field. That's every position except catcher and pitcher! I probably should have just said that to begin with!
Anyway, while Gonzalez gave you defensive versatility, the problem was that he wasn't really any good at any of them. He played 25 games at third, the most he played at any one spot, and committed nine errors in that short span. He also couldn't hit his way out of a wet paper bag.
In 215 plate appearances Gonzalez managed to put up a line of .185/.280/.249, with an OPS+ of 39(!). His slugging percentage was .031 points below his on-base percentage. That's not easy to do!
t-7. Jeff Abbott, OF (1997-2000), -1.4 WAR
I can't lie, I basically forgot Jeff Abbott existed until I started working on this post, which speaks to what Jeff Abbott was. He's on this list not because he was terrible, but because he stuck around for parts of four seasons, and he wasn't really remarkable in any of them.
He was just an extra outfielder, and not a particularly good one.
He played in 205 games over four seasons, hitting .264/.306/.422, which wasn't too awful! Hell, in 1998 he even managed to hit 12 home runs in limited time, though his OBP was only .298. So, basically, his offensive peak was Tyler Flowers, but in a limited role.
t-7. Mike Squires, 1B (1981-1985), -1.4 WAR
He mostly played first base and some outfield for the Sox, and he managed to hit six home runs while doing so. In 779 games. He finished his career with a lower slugging percentage (.318) than on-base percentage (.321).
It's entirely possible that our run of Frank Thomas to Paul Konerko to Jose Abreu at first base is just the universe apologizing to White Sox fans for saddling them with Squires for a damn decade.
6. Matt Merullo, C (1989-1993), -1.5 WAR
I really don't remember Merullo, but it seems he was just your classic backup catcher over four seasons with the White Sox. It turns out that a team with Carlton Fisk and Ron Karkovice on the roster don't really need another catcher that's adequate as much as they need a body to throw back there once in a while as Fisk ages, and they try to work Karkovice into being the every day starter.
And that's exactly how Merullo played, hitting .206/.245/.285 in 143 games.
5. Mark Teahen, 3B (2010-2011), -1.6 WAR
So when the White Sox finally decided that they'd had enough of Josh Fields, they traded him to the Kansas City Royals (along with Chris Getz) for their new Third Baseman of the Future: Mark Teahen. Immediately upon trading for Teahen, the Sox worked out a contract extension with him, as if to further convince themselves they'd found their new Third Baseman of the Future.
But they didn't.
In 2010 Teahen's bat wasn't horrible, though it wasn't all that good either. Still, while he offered very little power, he did put up an OBP of .327, which, you know. that's okay. The league average OBP that year was .332.
The problem was his defense. It was terrible. Teahen committed 10 errors in 52 games at third, and it wasn't the number of errors as much as how horrible they all seemed to look. He'd return for a second season in 2011, but he wouldn't finish the year here, as the Sox would trade him to Toronto with Edwin Jackson for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart.
4. Greg Norton, CI (1996-2000), -1.7 WAR
Hawk loved Greg Norton, and honestly, I didn't exactly dislike him either. I mean, in 1999, when Norton played 132 games, mostly at third base, he was actually pretty damn decent. He didn't have the power you'd hope for from a corner infielder, but he did manage 16 homers, and he had an OBP of .358, which was third on the team amongst qualified hitters behind Frank Thomas and Ray Durham, and ahead of Paul Konerko and Magglio Ordonez.
But this was the middle of the Steroid Era, so those numbers didn't really match up with other players at third, and really hurt his WAR, as he was worth -0.9 that year.
So the truth is, Norton was a decent player, and a useful pinch hitter, that paid the price of playing in the wrong era. I feel bad having him on this list, but, well, the numbers say what the numbers say, so here we are.
3. Jeff Keppinger, 3B (2013), -1.9 WAR
So, you know, warning signs!
But Hahn ignored them, signing Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million deal, and Keppinger immediately made him regret it. He hit .253/.283/.317 in his lone season with the Sox, while also proving to be a liability in the field.
I mean, he's third on this list of every player in my lifetime, and he did it all in only one season! He was so damn bad that instead of hoping for a bounce back season, the White Sox just decided to eat the $8.5 million left on his deal and let him go.
That's fucking impressive.
2. Alex Cintron, MI (2006-2007), -2.5 WAR
When the White Sox traded for Alex Cintron before 2006, I was actually happy with the move. I had Cintron in my roto league the year before, and while he wasn't amazing, he hit .273 (the league didn't use OBP yet thankfully) and he rarely struck out. So he was a fine waiver wire pickup when somebody had gone down with injury.
But useful roto players aren't always the same thing as useful baseball players, and I found that out with Cintron over his two seasons with the Sox.
He'd only play 159 games in his two years here, and he hit .268/.299/.366 while playing poor defense at three infield positions. The good news was the Sox had Juan Uribe and Tadahito Iguchi in the middle of the infield, so while Cintron wasn't good, his presence wasn't exactly felt, either.
1. George Bell, OF/DH (1992-1993), -2.7 WAR
I was only 11 at the time, but I remember being excited about the White Sox getting George Bell from the Cubs in a trade (the Sox sent some dude named Sammy Sosa to the Cubs in the deal, who would go on to do some things). This was a guy who had hit a lot of dingers in his time, and he had also won the AL MVP in 1987.
He had been a legitimately good baseball player, as he'd been named an All Star each of the previous two seasons.
But things fell apart really quickly with the White Sox. That first season wasn't terrible, but it provided warning signs. Yes, Bell hit 25 home runs and drove in 112 runs, but he also had an OBP of .294 and an OPS+ of only 99 (he still showed up on at least one MVP ballot, though, cuz dingers and RBI). He also struck out a career high 97 times, and his defense, which was never really good, began to decline even more.
Then 1993 came, and George really fell off the cliff. He hit 13 homers and drove in 64 runs in 102 games, but he also hit .217/.243/.363 while playing exclusively as a designated hitter. A designated hitter that couldn't hit.
He would be worth -2.5 bWAR that year, and the White Sox would release him after the season. He'd never play again, as his career would end at 33 years of age.