The Ron Villone List: Making a career of being mediocre

260px-7TH_Ron_Villone

You know the type of player I’m talking about.  The player who seems have been around forever but never be in the leaderboards, never make the All-Star team nor win the elusive awards.

The mediocre ballplayer.

Yet, for some reason, they have enough value in the majors to keep coming back year in and year out.

So I present to you, a top ten list (in no real particular order) of players who made a career of being mediocre.

Call it the Ron Villone List

Gabe Kapler

Years in the majors

11

Crowning achievement

in 2000, hit .302 in 444 at-bats

More representative statistic

has not had more than 310 at-bats since 2002

Hard nosed Kapler (aka the “Hebrew Hammer”) was picked in the 57th round by the Detroit Tigers and subsequently became the latest picked player to make the Tiger roster.  Kapler turned some heads early in his career especially with the Rangers when he hit .344 in the second half of 2000.

Since then, it’s been up and down and all around for Kapler.  He had a brief stint with Colorado then it was back to Boston.  He never got the playing time he did early in his career.  In 2007, he even took a job a manager with Class A Greenville Drive before returning to the majors.

Sid Ponson

Years in the majors

12

Crowning achievement

went 17-12 in 2003 with a 3.75 ERA

More representative statistic

5.03 career ERA, 15 wins in last four years.

Sidney Ponson has put his time in with the Baltimore Orioles and wins were far and far between. Ironically, his best year statwise was the year he split between the Orioles and the San Francisco Giants.  He went 17-12 with a pretty tasty 3.75 ERA.

Ponson has had his junky years though.  Between 2005-2007, his season ERAs were all above 6.20.

Doug Mientkiewicz

Years in the majors

12

Crowning achievement

hit .306 and won Gold Glove in 2001

More representative statistic

28 homeruns in last five 1/2 years in typical power position

I wasn’t going to put Doug M in this list at all but in my straw poll, his name came up a couple times so I felt I had to put him in.  No doubt, his recent performance has influenced his inclusion.

Firstbaseman Mientkiewicz’ value baseball value is most definitely with the glove.  With the Twins early in his career, that and his control with the bat was good enough to play him every day.  In 2001, he not only won a Gold Glove but placed in the top 15 for MVP for that year.

Since 2005 though, he’s been a journeyman, playing for a different team each year and barely playing half-time.

Ron Villone

Years in the majors

15

Crowning achievement

10 wins as split starter in 2000 with the Reds

More representative statistic

Six seasons of 5.00 plus ERA

If any player defines the word “journeyman”, it would be Ron Villone.  In his 15 year career, reliever Villone has never played for a team for more than two years.

Russ Springer

Years in the majors

17

Crowning achievement

Two seasons with St Louis with sub-2.50 ERA (2007-2008)

More representative statistic

Seven seasons of 5.00 plus ERA (including his first four)

Most notable for his ejection for hitting Barry Bonds during his quest for homerun #713 than anything, Russ Springer, like Villone is a journeyman reliever.

In 17 seasons, he was on again, off again (mostly off) and never made the headlines nor was good enough to be a closer.  Interestingly, at age 38 and 39 with St Louis, Springer had two of his best years with ERAs of 2.18 and 2.32.

Casey Fossum

Years in the majors

8

Crowning achievement

(it’s hard to find one but…)  he managed a winning record (5-4) in 2002 with a 3.46 ERA

More representative statistic

Season ERAs of 6.65 (2004) and 7.70 (2007) were more the norm

Ok, Fossum has only been around for eight years but I’m still including him.  It wasn’t hard.

Fossum actually started ok in his first two seasons with Boston going 8-6 with ERAs of 4.87 and then improving to 3.46 in 2002.

Then within the six years, things went downhill.  In 27 starts, he lost 15 for Arizona in 2004 with a sky-high 6.65 ERA.

The sad thing is that wasn’t his highest ERA.  Three years later, as a spot starter with Tampa, he managed a 7.70 mark.

Gregg Zaun

Years in the majors

15

Crowning achievement

hit 11 HR with 61 rbis in 2005 with Toronto

More representative statistic

in 15 years, 2005 was his only full-time season

I hate to pick on any catcher especially one with a kick-ass web site (BRING YOUR Z-GAME!).  Catchers, even ones in a backup role, have an important role to play.

Gregg Zaun has been in the majors for 15 years, though, and has only managed to put in one full season.

Miguel Cairo

Years in the majors

14

Crowning achievement

between 1998-2000, stole 69 bases for Tampa Bay

More representative statistic

for his career, Cairo has a .314 OBP and a .356 slugging percentage

Cairo’s value to his team is certainly not his hitting (career .265/.314/.356).

What’s kept him in the majors for 14 years is his versatility.  Throughout his career, Cairo has played every position save catcher and pitcher.  In 2008 alone, he did that for Seattle.

Jason LaRue

Years in the majors

11

Crowning achievement

hit double figures in HR between 2001-2005

More representative statistic

in 2006-2008, average dipped to .194, .148 and .213

Sigh, another catcher but look at his numbers.  The difference is that LaRue has gotten his fair shot in the majors with 5 straight seasons of  400+ plate appearances.

Though he showed signs of power midway through his career (68 homers in five years), his .career 232 batting average and three straight BA of .194, .148 and .213. show patience on part of the GMs.

Russ Branyan

Years in the majors

12

Crowning achievement

this year without a doubt.

More representative statistic

pick any year in the early 2000’s.  High strikeout %.

Branyan comes with a obvious big asterisk because of the phenomenal season he’s having right now.  Finally!

For years, Russell Oles Branyan spent time in the majors getting part time work as a thirdbaseman, outfielder or DH, whatever was needed.

I should know, I drafted him in my APBA league… in the first round.

When Branyan came to bat you could expect one of three three things:  a strikeout, a walk or a homerun.  A single?  Forget about it!  With the Brewers in 2004, Big Russ had 23 extra base hits and 14 singles.

I was actually a fan of Branyan even in his lean, minus 200 at-bats days.  I always wondered what would happen if a team would take a chance on Russ and play him every day.

I guess we’re finding out now. The sad thing is, I’ve traded him from my APBA team.

Honorable Mention: Matt Stairs, David Weathers, Darren Oliver, Frank Catalanotto, Julio Lugo, others??

Thanks to the members of the Illowa APBA League for their help with this!

2 Responses to “The Ron Villone List: Making a career of being mediocre”

  1. Interesting to note, not one African American on this list. Is it harder for an African American to be a marginal baseball player, even today?

  2. I cant tell if you were being funny or not…

    considering that Af-Am make up less than 10% of MLB players, that’s not too weird.

    buuuut, if youre bound and determined… the ones that made my grade b list… latroy hawkins, Gary Mathews Jr, Tony Clark (tho Clark’s a reach).

    btw, Did Latroy Hawkins realy get shingles??

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