It’s that time of year again, the reckoning for those baseball people whose transgressions against the game and others in the game have warranted them a place on the Daily News Top Ten Turkeys List. Like always, there will be no pardoning these turkeys, just a synopsis of what earned them their rightful place on this list.
Here they are:
10. MATT MOORE
What can you say about a guy who can achieve the dubious distinction of being the worst, most hit-able starting pitcher in baseball for two straight years, with two different clubs in two different leagues? That’s Matt Moore, who last year made this list with the highest ERA (5.52) and most losses (15) in baseball for the Giants and this year, after being dumped on the Rangers, who picked up the remaining $9.75M on his contract for a couple of fringe prospects, again had the highest ERA in the majors (6.75), the second-highest baserunners per nine innings ratio (15.35) and third-highest opponents’ batting average (.305). He’s a free agent but undoubtedly again about to remind us about “mamas being sure to bring your boys up to be lefthanders.”
9. DAVID ROBERTSON
We won’t know for sure the extent of financial pain inflicted on the Yankee support people until the postseason shares are officially announced in two weeks, but Robertson, who chaired the shares meeting as the Yankee player rep, was the front man for what appears to be a shameful greed on behalf of the other players. It was reported that assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere was voted only a half share and the analytics liaison with the coaching staff, who traveled with the team all season, got nothing. According to sources, Robertson and his co-conspirators cut a wide swath through the entire Yankee support staff, stiffing trainers, clubhouse attendants, BP pitchers and the like. In addition, they also attempted to have the media’s pre-game clubhouse access in Boston cut off in a September game because of the cramped conditions in Fenway Park. We don’t know what happened to Robertson in his second go-around with the Yankees. With his High Socks for Hope charity that helped hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and the Carolinas, he used to be one of the good guys.
8. MICKEY CALLAWAY
It was indeed a rough first go-around for the Mets manager, who was billed as a “great communicator,” out-of-the-box choice by upper management given his lack of managerial experience. There were all sorts of embarrassments for Callaway, starting with the batting-out-of-order lineup screw-up on May 9 against Cincinnati, and his stunning admission in July that he knew nothing about Yoenis Cespedes needing surgery on both his heels. As the promising 11-1 start to the Mets’ season quickly dissipated, Callaway began to come under heavy criticism, especially with his handling of the bullpen and not having a grip on things. Likewise, his relationship with the New York media could best be described as frosty – never a good thing for a first-time manager. A “low” point to the season was when Callaway blamed his team’s struggles on the players putting too much pressure on themselves because it was New York. “This isn’t Cleveland,” he said in reference to his previous gig as pitching coach of the Indians. He wasn’t wrong about that. With a new GM in town asserting he expects the Mets to be in the postseason, Callaway is going to need to get off to another fast start in ’19 or else he’ll go from this list to “first manager fired”.
6. THEO EPSTEIN
As the man who broke baseball’s two longest world championship droughts, with the Red Sox in 2004 and the Cubs in 2016, Epstein is probably still going to the Hall of Fame, but his plaque will say nothing about the job he did in 2017 when he invested $164 million in two failed pitchers, Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, who won a grand total of five games for him. Going all the way back to the regrettable eight years/$184 million he gave Jason Heyward in 2015, the bloom has been gradually wearing off Theo’s genius (though Heyward made good on that money with his rain-delay pep talk that preceded the Cubbies rallying to win Game 7 of that 2016 World Series). When other clubs like the Yankees backed off on Darvish’s agent’s excessive demands, Epstein paid no heed to the 31-year-old’s (two starts, nine hits, nine runs in four innings) red flag implosion against the Astros in the ’17 World Series, and instead caved with a six-year/$126 million contract. That was on top of the three years/$38 million deal he gave Chatwood, who’d led the National League in losses (8-15 with a 4.69 ERA for Colorado) in ’17. Darvish missed most of the season with elbow and triceps issues while Chatwood was 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA and lost his spot in the Cubs rotation in mid-August.
5. DAVE ROBERTS
We know a lot of Dodger fans who maintain the Dodgers would have won the last two World Series were it not for the managing of Dave Roberts. We won’t go that far — after all, you’ve got to give the Astros and Red Sox credit for being the best teams in baseball the last two seasons, respectively. But, that said, Roberts (or is it really the analytics department upstairs, which most people believe?) sure mis-managed this last one. Where do we start? Keeping his top four home run hitters, Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal out of the starting lineup the first two games? Pulling Rich Hill after 91 pitches and a one-hit shutout for 6 1/3 innings in Game 4 (a repeat of his removing Hill after four innings in Game 2 of the ’17 WS when he’d struck out seven and given up only one run). Yanking Pedro Baez — who came into the seventh inning of Game 1 with a runner on second and was on the verge of pitching out of it with strikeouts of Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts — and replacing him with Alex Wood, who gave up a three-run homer to pinch hitter Eduardo Nunez? The continued misguided faith in ineffective reliever Ryan Madson, who allowed all seven of his inherited runners to score? No surprise the Dodgers have declined to give Roberts an extension, and if he wants to get one, he might want to consider managing more from his gut than from the analytics.
4. PETER ANGELOS
Even though, at 89, he’s said to be largely incapacitated and no longer running the day-to-day operations of the team, someone has to take the blame for the Baltimore Orioles’ worst season (47-115, 61 games behind) in franchise history (including the St. Louis Browns), and Angelos is responsible for creating what is a hopeless situation that will take years (not to mention a change of ownership) to rectify. The worst owner in baseball constantly hamstrung his general managers, routinely ran off or fired veteran, accomplished scouts, would not allow investment in Latin America and, for the longest time, alienated Oriole legend Brooks Robinson.
3. ANGEL HERNANDEZ
Someday, maybe, Major League Baseball will explain why having umpires’ grading ratings are necessary when umps seldom, if ever, get fired, demoted or even kept out of postseason play. Angel Hernandez is consistently and universally considered the worst (or near worst) umpire in baseball. In 2017, Hernandez sued MLB, and Joe Torre in particular, for racial discrimination, claiming they have hindered his career advancement — even though he’s been on the job 25 years and engendered constant complaints and criticism from players, managers, executives and broadcasters for his work. Still, there he was, umpiring the Yankees-Red Sox American League Division Series, blowing call after call. In all, Hernandez was reversed in three of four reviews of his calls at first base in Game 3, surely a postseason record for umpire incompetence. “Angel was horrible,” said Pedro Martinez, who was a commentator on ESPN’s post-game show. “Major League Baseball needs to do something about Angel. It doesn’t matter how many times he sues Major League Baseball. He’s as bad as there is.”
2. DEREK JETER
Bet you’d never see the day the Yankee deity would appear on this list with a beak and turkey feathers, but there’s just no getting around the disgraceful plundering Jeter and his partner, Bruce Sherman, have inflicted on the Miami Marlins after grossly overpaying $1.2 billion for the franchise in 2017. Upon taking control, Jeter set upon a process for paying down the $400 million in debt he and Sherman incurred, starting with the gutting of all the highest-paid Marlins players including 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich — some $40 million all told. We can understand Jeter wanting to get out from under what is eventually going to be an onerous 13-year/$325 million Stanton contract when he had the chance, and even the remaining three years of 29-year-old Dee Gordon’s five-year/$50 million deal. But why did he feel compelled to also trade Yelich, who at 26, has an extremely reasonable seven-year/$49.57 million contract that keeps him under club control through 2022, instead of building around both him and franchise catcher J.T. Realmuto (who he’s now also going to trade). So far, the return from all these players has been minimal other than shedding payroll, with the Yelich trade to Milwaukee looking particularly ill-conceived as the principal return player, outfielder Lewis Brinson, hit .199 with 177 strikeouts and only 24 walks for the Marlins in ’18. With an investment in some pitching, the Marlins could have been a contender in the NL East. Instead, Jeter set them back another five years – at least.
1. MANNY MACHADO