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Question of the Day: Which baseball players have been the biggest disappointment and biggest surprise this season? [Updated]

May 11, 2011 |  9:46 am

Question_275 Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss the first several weeks of the MLB season. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to weigh in with a comment of your own.

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times

The season isn’t even a quarter of the way finished yet, meaning there’s still time for goats to become heroes and for those who started fast to burn out.

But there are some trends developing.

The AngelsVernon Wells hasn’t done much to earn his franchise-record $23-million salary, hitting .183 and playing spotty defense before going on the disabled list Monday. Not much better than the White Sox’s Adam Dunn, who’s batting .184 with 39 strikeouts. But at least he stuck around. Manny Ramirez did not, “retiring” after six games with a .059 batting average.

As for the surprises -– let’s call them revelations -– how about the Cleveland Indians, who lost 190 games the last two seasons but now have the best record in baseball? Or 22-year-old Seattle rookie Michael Pineda, who went 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA in April, better in both departments than Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez?

Neither figures to maintain that pace -– indeed, Pineda is winless in May. So we’ll take St. Louis outfielder Lance Berkman who, after a career-worst season in 2010, is batting .367 and leading the majors with 32 RBIs.

[Updated at 2:45 p.m.:

Nick Fierro, The Morning Call

The Yankees break even with one of each here: starting pitchers Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia. Once a rising star in the Yankees' system, Hughes is 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA and a dead arm that could land him on the 60-day disabled list. He's only 24, so he still has time, but not if his arm is really shot.

Garcia, on the other hand, is 35, overweight and was washed up four years ago, when he won just one of 11 starts before the Phillies mercifully shut him down for the season. Then he became the only player in the history of the majors to take a parting shot at manager Charlie Manuel, who only bent over backward so much for the guy that he ended up bent over forward.

Anyway, Garcia this year is 2-2 with a 2.61 ERA, lowest among the Yankee starters. Unreal.

Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune

Under most circumstances, injured players are due breaks. That would include Joe Mauer. But the Twins’ great-hitting catcher isn’t sidelined with an injury that came out of nowhere. He had knee surgery last winter and coasted through spring training, with the idea being to be ready to turn it up in April. That’s how he won his MVP in 2009, when he missed most of the spring with an issue related to his sacro-iliac joint.

The Twins counted on Mauer, but it turns out the man’s a complete physical wreck. His absence is hardly the only reason that a Minnesota team built to win won’t win, but it’s biggest. And I think he must have made some miscalculations that could leave him having played only nine games through the end of May.

Make Tampa Bay’s Sam Fuld the biggest surprise. He got a chance when Manny Ramirez packed up in the middle of the night, and he is making the most of it. The Cubs certainly didn’t see this coming when they essentially gave him away as a supposedly insignificant piece in the Matt Garza trade.

Steve Gould, Baltimore Sun

Allow me to be the next to pile onto Carl Crawford in calling him the most disappointing player in baseball so far this season.

Five months after signing a seven-year, $142-million contract, the Red Sox left fielder still isn’t hitting his weight (.210 average), is reaching base in less than one-fourth of his plate appearances (.248 on-base percentage) and isn’t making up for it with power production (.297 slugging percentage). On top of that, he’s less valuable in the outfield in Boston than he was in Tampa Bay. A marquee free-agent acquisition who was supposed to make an already fearsome lineup downright terrifying, Crawford isn’t scaring anyone.

Meanwhile, Lance Berkman is enjoying an eye-opening resurgence in St. Louis. The right fielder has 10 homers this season — he hit 14 in a disappointing 2010 — and is batting .367 with a 1.179 OPS. He’s the most pleasant surprise of the season.]


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Photo: Vernon Wells reacts after striking out. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire