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  • All-Overpaid Team

    Three Angels make All-Overpaid Team

    When you talk about players who are overpaid, there are some who want to turn the discussion into a matter of values. As if players could do better if only they had the integrity to try harder. And sure, that's very occasionally true. But nearly every player wants to play well, and if players aren't playing well, it's because they can't.

    Nevertheless, it's fair to point out the players whose numbers don't come close to matching their salaries because the disparity has a significant impact on their teams' fortunes. It's a double whammy: High-paid players with lousy stats waste both money (that could be spent elsewhere) and playing time (that could be given to better, probably cheaper players). So here, then, as we enter the last month of the season, are the players who have hurt their teams the most:


    C: Jason Kendall (9/9, $10.6M)

    The third of those numbers is Kendall's salary this season, and the first set of numbers describes where Kendall ranks among the catchers with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.
    Anyway, on the plus side, Kendall's certainly durable; he leads all major-league catchers with 483 at-bats. On the minus side, 1) his .643 OPS is 103 points lower than that of Paul Lo Duca, the next-lowest man on the list; 2) he hasn't hit a home run all season; and 3) his .337 OBP is 50 points lower than his career mark entering the season. The A's are very good; just think how good they'd be with 1) an extra $10 million to spend, and 2) just a decent catcher in the lineup.

    Honorable Mention: Mike Piazza (5/10, $16.1M)


    1B: Jim Thome (22/23, $13.2M)

    My inclination is to cut some slack to players who are injured, but Thome's salary is particularly problematic this season. He was fantastic in 2003 and '04, the first two seasons of his long-term deal with the Phillies, but they weren't good enough to compete for a postseason berth. This year, they are competitive, but they might as well have flushed Thome's $13.2 million salary down the nearest ballpark urinal.
    (Oh, and Thome doesn't actually have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. If he did, he would rank 22nd among the 23 qualifying MLB first basemen. There are a few other cases like this below.)

    Honorable Mention: Darin Erstad (22/22, $8.3M)

    Erstad's OPS is just slightly worse than Scott Hatteberg's, and Hatteberg is making $2.45 million and is also overpaid. Now, I'm not going to argue that Hatteberg's anything like the player Erstad is. But is Erstad's superior defense and baserunning really worth $6 million? The Angels are the only team in the majors with no infielder that has hit at least 10 home runs (Erstad has four). Addressing this salient fact last night, Angels broadcaster Rex Hudler said, "What they don't do in home run production, they try to make up with timely hits."


    2B: Bret Boone (18/18, $9.0M)

    An utter disaster, first for the Mariners (who are paying that salary) and then the Twins (who aren't, but wasted 53 at-bats while trying to discover whether all Boone needed was the proverbial "change of scenery"). After Boone's huge 2001 season, the Mariners threw $33 million at him: three guaranteed years, plus a fourth (2005) if he piled up 500 plate appearances in 2004 (he cleared 500 by more than 150). And for their $33 million, the Mariners got one excellent season (2003), one good one (2002), one poor one (2004) and one disaster.

    SS: Cristian Guzman (24/24, $4.2M)

    No, by MLB standards, $4.2 million isn't really all that much money. But Guzman's .235 on-base percentage is so incredibly, sublimely awful that he might belong on this page even if he were making half what he's making. If the Nationals had just a replacement-level shortstop -- Maicer Izturis, for instance -- they'd be sitting atop the wild-card standings right now.

    3B: Mike Lowell (18/19, $7.5M)

    If Lowell was on your team at the All-Star break, you probably figured his awful first half was just one of those fluky half-seasons that happen sometimes and that he'd be his normal self in the second half. Well, this month, Lowell's batting .213 with four extra-base hits in 89 at-bats.
    Honorable Mention: Adrian Beltre (14/19, $11.4M)
    Beltre's obviously not earning his keep, but Safeco Field is a pitcher's park and it's still early in the life of the contract


    LF: Garret Anderson (50/61, $9.75M)

    Anderson used to be overrated (1996-2001), then he was correctly rated (2002-2003), and now nobody really bothers to rate him at all -- probably because folks have Vladimir Guerrero to rate correctly (and of course Darin Erstad and Chone Figgins are always available for overrating). But if you look at Anderson's performance objectively, you'll see that he, like a few other Halos (see below), earns a significantly higher salary than his performance can possibly justify.

    CF: Steve Finley (62/62, $6.0M)

    I know it must seem that I'm picking on the Angels, but really I don't mean to. But considering Finley's salary, his .267 on-base percentage might be even more offensive than Guzman's .235. The Angels finally have acknowledged that Finley really shouldn't, can't be in the lineup every day, but a lot of the damage already has been done. If this team doesn't reach the playoffs, to a large degree it'll be because they wasted so many dollars and so many plate appearances on somebody who can't play, at all.
    Oh, and here's the punch line: Finley's under contract next year, too.

    Honorable Mentions: Carlos Beltran (45/61, $11.6M) and Juan Pierre (61/61, $3.7M)


    RF: Sammy Sosa (59/61, $17.9M)

    After writing about the waste of such massive amounts of money on hitters who haven't hit, it's hard to know what to say about Sosa. Seven years and some months ago, I wrote a column arguing that Sosa's contract was silly. I called him Sammy So-So, so of course he went out and 66 home runs that season -- and a whole bunch more home runs over the next seven seasons. Now, though, Sosa's not even so-so. He's just plain awful, and he's killing the Orioles.

    Pitcher: Russ Ortiz (6.82 ERA, $7.4M)

    When the Diamondbacks somehow persuaded Ortiz to sign his name to a four-year contract worth $33 million, they probably expected a little more than this. We should have expected more, too, though a cursory glance at Ortiz's previous statistics -- wins and losses aside -- somehow should have convinced the Diamondbacks that Ortiz wasn't worth anywhere near that much money. They'll be regretting this deal for quite some time.

    Senior writer Rob Neyer writes for Insider two or three times per week during the season. To offer criticism, praise or anything in between, send an e-mail to [email protected].
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