The Anti-Greats: Day 2

Name: Ryan Dempster

Position: SP

Played for the Reds: 2002-2003

Why he's here:  The Reds reached the 2002 all-star break with a sense of opportunity: they were five games over .500, and sat just two games back of the St. Louis Cardinals.  As it turned out, the team's success was mostly an illusion, but give the front office credit for identifying just how weak their patchwork starting rotation was.  Then take away all those credits and tack on a few demerits for their pursuit of Ryan Dempster, who to that point had put together one good year, and a handful of bad ones.  The Reds traded Juan Encarnacion, Wilton Guerrero and Ryan Snare for Dempster, who proceeded to post a 6.19 ERA for the Reds over the 2nd half of the year.  He wasn't the reason the Reds finished 2002 six games under .500, staring up at a 19 game chasm between them and the Cards, as the team somehow won 7 of Dempster's 15 starts that year.  The next year, Dempster managed to pitch worse: 3-7, 6.54 ERA (63 ERA+) in 115.2 innings.  Mercifully released by the Reds after 2003, Dempster signed with the Cubs where he found something approaching success as a closer, and then inexplicably morphed into a very good starting pitcher in 2008.

Role on the team:  #2 Starting pitcher

Name: Leo Durocher

Position: SS

Played for the Reds: 1930-1933

Why he's here:  The Reds are such a great franchise, even their all-time worst team is littered with hall of famers!  Leo the Lip was claimed off waivers by the Reds prior to the 1930 season, and made him their starting shortstop for the next three-plus seasons.  Looking back, it's remarkable that the team put up with him that long.  In fact, Durocher's unique combination of playing time and playing quality earns my vote for The Worst Player in Reds History.  Consider: In three full seasons, plus about a month in 1933, Durocher came to the plate over 1300 times.  He failed to drive in 100 runs in that span, and barely scored 100 runs.  His cumulative batting line of .227/.275/.303 equaled a 54 OPS+.  He stole three bases.  His defense, which basically constituted all of his value, was no better than average.  His best moment came on May 7, 1933, when Durocher was one of three players traded to the Cardinals for a three man package that included Paul Derringer (#22 all-time Red).

Role on the team: Starting shortstop, manager

 

Name: Jack Fisher

Position: RP

Played for the Reds: 1969

Why he's here:  Four of the players on this mythical team have just one season of tenure with the Reds, and three of those four are relief pitchers, speaking perhaps to the sheer volatility of the position.  Prior to the 1969 season, the Reds targeted "Fat Jack" Fisher, and traded a couple of spare parts to the White Sox for Fisher, who had been a valuable swing pitcher for the South-Siders in '68.  The Reds used him in a similar role in 1969, although they should not have.  Fisher started 15 games, and made 19 appearances out of the bullpen.  As a reliever, Fisher was bad, but not dreadful: a 4.36 ERA in 43.1 innings, with a WHIP of 1.18.  As a starter, he was off the charts: a 3-4 record with a 6.20 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP.  He averaged fewer than 5 innings pitched per start, and was almost certainly not helped by the lack of consistency in his role: he made at least one start in every month but July, and two of his starts were with more than 5 days rest, while three of his starts came off just 1 or 2 days rest.  In a fitting trade after the 1969 season, neither Fisher nor the two players received from the Angels ever played in the majors again.

Role on the team: Long reliever

 

Name: Rich Gale

Position: RP

Played for the Reds: 1983

Why he's here:  The Reds received Rich Gale from the Giants, in exchange for Mike Vail-who wasn't too far from making this ill-fated team on his own merits.  So in that sense, garbage in/garbage out.  Gale was in the midst of a precipitous career slide: he finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting with the Royals in 1978 as a starting pitcher with a 125 ERA+.  He had a decent season in 1980, but was otherwise sub-par.  The '83 Reds had designs on Gale being in their rotation, but a 9.19 ERA as a started scrapped those plans by Memorial Day.  When he was off, the entire stadium, plus most of the surrounding county knew it: Gale was the losing pitcher of record six times in 1983, five of which came while as a starter.  In those six appearances, Gale logged just 19 innings, and allowed 34 runs (32 of which were earned).  To his credit, Gale settle down quite a bit as a reliever, with a 4.01 ERA in 58.1 innings.  Still, the damage was done, and his 65 ERA+ for the year cemented his place on this team.

Role on the team: Relief pitcher

 

Name: Joey Hamilton

Position: RP, SP

Played for the Reds: 2001-2003

Why he's here:  Hamilton, for his career, was the very definition of an average starting pitcher: he won one more game than he lost, and his career ERA+ was 94.  His career trajectory, were it to be plotted on a graph, would look more or less like a straight line, in a diagonal path from upper left to lower right.  The portion of his career spent with the Reds, as you may have guessed, occupies that lower right section of the graph.  Dumped by the Blue Jays late in the 2001 campaign, the Reds signed Hamilton on the cheap for the remainder of the season, and he wasn't good...but it was just four starts.  For 2002, Hamilton was awarded the honor of Opening Day pitcher, and for a solid month, he justified the team's faith, holding a 2.65 ERA on May 1.  Two months later, his ERA had risen two full runs, and the real painful stretch hadn't even happened yet.  Hamilton started on July 2, pitched 4 innings and gave up 5 runs.  Five days later, five innings, five more runs, and a trip to the disable list.  When he came back on August 7th, he gave up 7 runs, and was pulled in the 5th.  An ERA increase of 0.90 in just three starts.  Relegated to the pen thereafter, Hamilton did little to bring down his numbers over the last couple months.  In 2003, Hamilton surrendered 15 runs in 10.2 innings, and his career was over.

Role on the team: Long reliever, spot starter

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