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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Underachievers: MLB busts of 2011

Published: September 23, 2011
Section: Sports

At this point in the season, there are definitely some fans who are disappointed that their beloved team won’t be making it to the playoffs. Some fans should be disappointed, but others would’ve been wiser to take the season off because their team never had a chance in the first place. It’s easy to spot the players who were the biggest disappointments—just look at their salaries and compare them to their production (or lack thereof in this case). If you spent $80 for seats where you couldn’t tell the shortstop from the third-base coach, then think of these players the next time you’re going to buy tickets. These are my biggest busts of the 2011 season:

5. Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees:

Rafael Soriano went from being the American League leader in saves in 2010 to the guy who pitched the seventh inning for the Yankees—and not especially well. Soriano signed a generous three-year, $35 million deal this past off-season and it made him the highest paid set-up man in baseball. In 2010 Soriano had a sparkling 1.73 ERA; this year his ERA more than doubled to 3.7293, and his walk total is higher than last year even though he has pitched about half as many innings as last year. To make matters worse, Soriano was sidelined for two months with an arm injury this summer. Maybe next time Yankee ownership will listen to GM Brian Cashman when he says, “Don’t pay the set-up man closer money.”

4. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins:

The only player on the list who wasn’t a free agent this past off-season was Hanley, who is currently in the middle of a six-year, $60 million contract, making him by far the highest paid player on the Marlins. In his last four seasons, Hanley had hit at least 20 home runs and batted .300. This season, Hanley is batting .243 with just 10 home runs and 45 RBI. This is far from his career averages and Rookie of the Year season that got him famously nicknamed “El Niño.” Two weeks ago Ramirez underwent season-ending shoulder surgery but the Marlins hope to have him back by the start of the 2012 season. This year El Niño didn’t bring devastating hurricanes, just a few showers.

3. Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals:

How’s this for a scary thought: You just signed an outfielder to a seven-year, $126 million contract and in his first season he hits .230 with 56 RBI. You might find the worst part of that thought is being part of the Washington Nationals organization but, in all seriousness, Jayson Werth was a huge disappointment for the Nats. Jayson was coming off a year with the Phillies where he batted .296 and led the league in doubles, but on the Phillies he was just a good player on a great team. The Nationals asked him to be the superstar player on a rebuilding team, but Jayson didn’t play up to his Werth.

2. Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox:

I doubt there was a single critic of the seven-year, $142 million deal between the Sox and Crawford when it was signed. He was coming off a season in which he batted .307, stole 47 bases and had 90 RBI. Crawford also led the league in triples but now he probably just leads the league in times pushed down the lineup. This season he is only batting .255 with 53 RBI and has shockingly stolen only 18 bases. Crawford’s OBP of .292 is his worst since his rookie season and, if that weren’t bad enough, he plays for a team that probably had the highest expectations in baseball this year. Now Crawford isn’t known as the fastest man in the American League anymore, he’s just the most scrutinized player in Major League Baseball.

1. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox:

What in the whole wide world of sports happened to Adam Dunn? From 2004 to 2010 he averaged 40 home runs per year, 101 RBI and had a solid average of around .250. This year, after signing a four-year, $56 million contract, Dunn is batting a horrendous .167 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI. These are the worst numbers Adam Dunn has had in his entire career, and it is so shocking because he’s only 31 years old and gave no indication of decline last year with the Nationals. It’s been painful for everyone to watch Dunn struggle because he’s such a friendly guy and true professional, but I’m sure baseball fans will be pulling for him in 2012.

Every baseball player falls from grace eventually but, at least for these underachievers, they landed in a big pile of money.