by Kent Sterling
Have you ever had a job where an inept oaf continued to receive promotion after promotion without justification, other than an inability for management to see him for who he is? On the Chicago Cubs, that employee is second baseman Darwin Barney
There was a time that I was bullish on Darwin Barney. At least he could field his position at a very high level
Last year cured me of my appreciation of Barney’s skill set. In 2013, he hit .208 with a .266 on base percentage. .266! Hard to imagine a worse starting offensive second baseman. Even harder to find one. By several measurements, Barney had the greatest negative impact on his team than any other player in baseball, and was historically inept in run creation.
Among those with more than 500 plate appearances, Barney’s only competition for maladroit work at the plate were Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, shortstop for the Kansas City Royals.
I could cite a litany of statistics found at Baseball Prospectus and Fan Graphs that show Barney’s historic offensive bungling, but that would only be cruel. I’ll indulge in just one, which is my favorite for comparing players offensive contributions: weighted runs created plus (adjusted for the ballpark and league). Barney ranks second worst in baseball in wRC+ at 51. For the curious, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro ranks fourth worst.
In the long history of the Chicago Cubs, there are two players who approached Barney’s offensive depths. In 2006, shortstop Ronnie Cedeno posted at sub-putrid 49 in wRC+. Prior to that, 1894 2b/3b Jiggs Parrott was the only player to drop below Barney’s 51.
Oddly, during Cedeno and Barney’s awful years, the Cubs won exactly 66 games.
Former Cubs Eddie Miksis, Footsie Blair, and Jimmy Cooney also wasted good lumber at the plate, but none ever had a year as bad as Barney’s in 2013.
Mario Mendoza is the benchmark for inert bat wielding. No manager was ever deranged enough to allow him to pile up 500 plate appearances, so he doesn’t qualify for a valid comparison
So the Cubs signed him for $2.3 million. The St. Louis Cardinals earned a berth in the 2103 World Series with 17 players earning less than $2 million.
That’s $2.3 million for the player who put together the worst offensive season for a second baseman since 1894. If you did something worse than anyone at your business all the way back to the 19th Century, would you have any chance to keep your job? Playing for the Cubs, you get a raise!
One piece of solid advice for Barney – open a 401K immediately, be aggressive with contributions, and save the rest. The Cubs can’t be stone cold idiots forever.