The Real Chase

One of the biggest, most-hyped storylines of the 2006 season is Barry Bonds’ pursuit of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and the all-time home run record. Throughout spring training Bonds made headlines for whatever he did, and sometimes even for what he didn’t do. There were frequent updates on everything Bonds, from his batting practice schedule and whether or not he jogged in the outfield before a game to how far he ran to field a fly ball and how ridiculous he looked impersonating Paul Abdul.

However, while Bonds chasing perhaps the sport’s most prestigious record receives all the attention, another remarkable chase is going completely unnoticed. Despite being in just his 11th season in the majors, Cubs infielder Neifi Perez has a chance to become arguably the single worst hitter in baseball history. Perez, whom I once compared to the worst doctor in the world, currently holds the record for worst career Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) total among active players:

NEIFI PEREZ         -329
Royce Clayton       -288
Rey Sanchez         -247
Mike Matheny        -222
Brad Ausmus         -207

Much like Bonds, Perez has distanced himself from the rest of the field, coming in at an astounding 329 runs below average during his career while the next-worst hitter, Royce Clayton, is at just -288. When it comes to ineptitude at the plate, beating Clayton is no easy task. That Perez is able to blow him out, along with the rest of the horrible hitters around baseball, is something that should not be overlooked. He is truly a boy among men.

Having a level of incompetence that is unmatched among your peers is impressive, but the real test of offensive inferiority comes in a comparison to the elite out-makers in the sport’s history. Like any true great, Perez’s resume stands up to the test, as his career RCAA is among the worst in modern baseball history:

Ski Melillo         -355
Tommy Thevenow      -351
NEIFI PEREZ         -329
Bill Bergen         -312
Tim Foli            -309
Larry Bowa          -307
Alfredo Griffin     -306
Ozzie Guillen       -305
Don Kessinger       -305
Ed Brinkman         -300

Ladies and gentlemen, The Negative 300 Club.

Whereas the spotlight has been on Bonds’ climb up the home run leaderboard for years, Perez has quietly crept past the game’s most impotent hitters. In fact, with his -27 RCAA in 2005, Perez leaped over Don Kessinger, Ozzie Guillen, Alfredo Griffin, Larry Bowa, Tim Foli, and Bill Bergen. It was a season for the ages, much like when Bonds’ 73 homers in 2001 propelled him past all-time greats Eddie Murray, Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, Ernie Banks, Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, and Reggie Jackson.

Bonds being within striking distance of Ruth and less than two healthy, productive seasons away from passing Aaron has been well-documented, but Perez has stealthily put himself in a similar position. His RCAA totals for the past three years are -20, -23, and -27, which means all Perez needs to overtake Tommy Thevenow and the immortal Ski Melillo for the top spot is a typically awful season of -26 RCAA. With manager Dusty Baker’s help, Perez can get there.

Unfortunately, he’s off to a good start. After being benched in favor of Todd Walker early on, Perez found himself in the Cubs’ starting lineup for the first time Friday. He responded by going 3-for-4 with a double against the Reds, and afterward told reporters:

It was a lucky day. Any time I get three hits it’s a lucky game. I’m not a great hitter.

I’ve yet to come across an official list of the biggest understatements in the history of mankind, but I’ve got to think that would crack the top five. Hypothetically, I believe it would rank just slightly ahead of me telling someone, “I think Jessica Alba is kind of cute,” and just slightly behind the person replying, “Your chances of dating her are pretty slim.”

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