Obscure Athletes

Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End

Category Archives: MLB

Obscure Spotlight: Matt Murton

"I was in the Nomar trade, ya know.."

Unless you’re one of our many, many Japanese fans, our next Obscure Spotlight will be a guy whose name you haven’t heard in quite some time. The Nippon league’s single-season hit leader, with 214, is not Ichiro, as you may expect, but instead that record belongs to American Obscure Athlete Matt Murton.

Murton was picked 32nd overall by the Red Sox in 2003. His time in the Boston organization was brief, however, as in 2004 Murton was involved in the trade that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. He made his Major League debut for the Cubs on July 8, 2005, two years to the date after signing his first pro deal with Boston.

Murton spent the ’06 season starting in the Cubs’ outfield. He became a fan favorite and enjoyed a successful campaign, hitting .297 with 13 homers and 62 RBI. Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry, ever the masterful evaluator of baseball talent, however, decided during that ’06 offseason that the team could do better in left field. So he brought in one of the true unsung kings of the Steroid Era, Cliff Floyd. Murton played in only 94 games in 2007 as a result.

Murton was never the same after being platooned with Floyd. In July of ’08 he was moved along with the truly obscure Eric Patterson and Sean Gallagher to the Athletics for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. He would play in just 38 more games in his Major League career, spending time with the A’s and then the Rockies in ’09.

Matt Murton’s greatest source of notoriety instead comes from his time in the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League, where ‘s become one of the premiere hitters in the country. Perhaps one day the 29-year-old pro veteran will make a return to the Majors. For now we’ll have to settle for watching him from the other side of the world, tearing it up with the Hanshin Tigers. Not the Detroit ones.


Obscure Spotlight: The Other Mike Stantons

The Florida Marlins were still eight years away from their first game when our first 'Other' Mike Stanton last appeared in an MLB game.

As many pundits accurately predicted, top prospect Mike Stanton has started the season quite well for the Florida Marlins. He currently holds the #3 spot on Baseball America’s list of its top 100 prospects, and has hit 5 home runs and driven in 13 in 99 at-bats. Stanton is, by all accounts, one of the better young players in the game and a sure bet to be a Major League superstar sooner rather than later. But this culturally relevant Mike Stanton is only one of three Mike Stantons to have appeared in Major League Baseball games in the past 30 years. These two other, more obscure Mike Stantons, deserve nothing less than a spotlight today on Obscure Athletes. Because the rising star of the current Mike Stanton will continue to bury the legacy of these other Stantons with every accomplishment the future MLB great, puts on his resume.

Our first Mike Stanton is one you probably don’t remember much of. That is, of course, unless you don’t fall nicely into what our high-priced marketing department, complete with focus groups and double-blind studies, tells me our “chief demographic” is. The first Mike Stanton was a right-handed pitcher who spent 7 seasons in the majors over the course of ten years, between 1975-1985. He was drafted thrice before finally signing in 1973 with the Astros. He made his Major League debut for the team in 1975, but appeared in just seven games, five out of the bullpen. He pitched his way to a 7.27 ERA and an 0-2 record in just 17.1 IP. His big league

He looks like the lead singer of Toto.

journey looked to be over, but alas five years later, in 1980, Stanton made the Indians’ roster out of camp and appeared in 51 games that season. Mike had his best season in 1983 with the Mariners, when he pitched in 50 games out of the Seattle bullpen, and posted a 3.32 ERA. He last appeared in 1985 for the White Sox. And the award for greatest mustache on a baseball player named Mike Stanton goes to….Mike Stanton, Right-handed pitcher!

The other ‘other’ Mike Stanton is the one you’re probably more familiar with. Drafted by the Braves in 1987, Stanton made his major league debut with the same team two years later in August of 1989. In parts of seven seasons with Atlanta, Stanton pitched 289.2 innings in his 304 appearances, all out of the bullpen.

Stanton made just one start in his career, for the Yankees in 1999. The Yanks were the team with which this Stanton enjoyed his highest level of success. He went 31-14 with a 3.77 cumulative ERA for the Bronx Bombers in parts of seven seasons. Stanton also spent time in Washington, Texas, and several other teams in his 19-year career.  He made his

Is it THE Mike Stanton? No, it's the former all-star Mike Stanton!

lone All-Star appearance in 2001, and to date remains the only Mike Stanton in the history of Major League Baseball to make an All-Star game. That’s the last beacon of notoriety that this Mike Stanton cleaves to as of May, 2011.

Why is Mike Stanton such a baseball name? I have no idea. One day I hope to make an “All-Mike-Stanton” team. We currently have two relievers and an outfielder.

And Then He Went to the Mets: Kris Benson

We make our comeback article on this fine early May morning with a new segment (credit to Jameson Foley and Mike

Benson, after giving up 5 runs in 6 innings, needs a stern talking-to by Mike Piazza.

Boss for a bitchin’ idea) called Until he Went to the Mets, chronicling the careers of once-great Major League Baseball players–players we all thought would continue on to do great things…until they went to the Mets. We start this segment off with one of our favorites, the great (Chris with a K) Benson….You know, the dude with the ridiculously hot wife?

Kris Benson went undrafted out of high school but attended Clemson University where he became the team’s ace. He was named the 1996 college baseball player of the year, and was the consensus ’96 number one overall pick. It was on the back of Benson that the 1996 US Olympic Baseball team was forced to settle for the Bronze metal, after getting shelled by Japan in his only loss of the Olympics.

Benson is known for being one of the most over-hyped pitchers in recent memory, but even so, made his Major League debut in 1999 with the Pirates, where he pitched service-ably, finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting, and followed up that performance with an even better 2000. Benson’s best season in the Majors was that season, in which he finished 10-12  (Behind ZERO run support) with a 3.85 ERA. He missed ’01 after receiving Tommy John surgery, but would eventually be moved to the Mets at the 2004 trade deadline. Players the Mets let go in that deal? Ty Wigginton, and that guy who hit 54 bombs last year–none other than Jose Bautista.

'Nuff said

Benson posted a solid September with the Mets, despite not putting the team over the top and into the playoffs. The team was impressed, and that offseason, gave Benson a three-year, $25 Million deal, thinking Benson’s stock was surging after his good month with the team. Boy, could they not have been more wrong. Instead, Benson pitched JUST like the mediocre pitcher he always was, and in his only full season in New York, went 10-8 with a predictably average 4.13 ERA.

Benson was shipped off to  Baltimore before the ’06 season after playing just one of the three seasons he signed onto the Mets for. Many think the reason Benson turned out to be such a bust was because Kris’ wife, Anna, was just too fucking attractive and kept distracting the team when she’d sit in the front row seats funded by Kris’ obscene contract.

He last pitched in the Majors last season, before announcing his retirement this past January. All said and done, Benson never even began to pitch at the elite level in which his tax bracket ought to have placed him. That  lucky bastard made almost $39 million in his career, 25 of it signed over to him from the Mets. Which gets to the real point here. Kris Benson was a mediocre pitcher, and moderately rich. And then he went to the Mets. He got no better at all, but got PAID. And what other reason would there really be to play for the Mets, anyway?

Obscure Spotlight: Ron Coomer

Oft-forgotten is how smooth the Coom Dawg's swing was.

They called Ron Coomer the “Coom Dawg.” What a lame nickname. Like, the guy played in the majors for nine seasons, and that’s the best they could come up with? Ron Coomer really does sound like the name of an obscure athlete, too. I could never picture Ron Coomer being an all-star, yet his Wikipedia page informed me that indeed, Coomer was the Twins’ lone representative in the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park. And with the all-millenium team in attendance, featuring a Ted Williams lovefest, Coomer is a mere footnote upon the 1999 baseball season. Coomer struck out in his only All-Star Game at-bat.

The Athletics took the infielder in the 14th round of the 1987 draft. Coomer kicked around in the A’s, White Sox’, and Dodgers’ farm systems before being traded to the Twins in 1995, for whom he would make his debut on August 1. Most of his major league success would come in Minnesota, where he would play five full seasons, including his all-star performance in 1999. Coomer hit .278 for the Twins with 77 home runs and a .746 OPS.

During the 2000 season, Coomer was moved from third base to accomodate the emergence of power-hitting third baseman Corey Koskie. The Twins released Coomer after that 2000 season, and he played a season each for the Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers. The Coom Dawg was never the same after he left Minnesota. His last season was in 2003, when he played in just 69 games for Los Angeles.

Just because I was curious, other members of the ’99 AL All-Star Team? John Jaha, BJ Surhoff, Jose Offerman, and Brad Ausmus. Good thing Pedro was pitching.

From the Desk of Mr. Boss

After hearing the news that Cliff Lee was headed to Philadelphia, I was as surprised as anyone. In hindsight, should

And can you blame the Yanks? Why bring in Cliff Lee when Rodrigo Lopez is, no doubt waiting by his phone?!

anyone really be surprised? For the majority of this off-season, who was of higher priority to the Yankees: Derek Jeter or Cliff Lee? I adamantly believe that the distraction Jeter created has played a role in Lee getting away to Philly. I mean, you’ve been targeting this guy for a couple of years now. You reportedly offered him 6 years for $138 MM with a vesting option for 16 MM. How the FUCK do you let him get away? This is the offseason from hell for Brian Cashman and the Yankees. What’s their next step, snagging the human time bomb that is KC’s Zach Greinke? This is going to be hilarious.

PS: Here are some FA’s that the Yankees may now have to settle for now that Lee isn’t walking through that door, fans: Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Duchscherer, Jeff Francis, Freddy Garcia, Rich Harden, Rodrigo Lopez, Kevin Millwood, Brian Moehler, Brandon Webb, Nate Robinson, Jeff Suppan and… Carl Pavano.

Obscure Spotlight: Frank Castillo

I saw a fellow who looked to be in his mid-20’s yesterday who had on a Frank Castillo Red Sox t-shirt. It was a name I hadn’t thought of in years, and all I

Frank Castillo's a man with an intimidating fastball, and an even more intimidating pitching face!

could ever remember about him was how much he would piss me off to watch pitch. His name always comes up when playing a game of “Name everyone who appeared on the ’04 Red Sox World Series team,” usually right after Ellis Burks.

Frank Castillo had three solid seasons in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately for him, he also had ten mediocre ones. The El Paso, Texas-born pitcher was drafted by the Cubs in 1987 and made his debut for Chicago in June of 1991. Castillo spent parts of seven seasons in the Windy City. The wind must have been blowing out most of the time. His best season came in 1995 when he went 11-10 with a 3.21 ERA. During that season Castillo came within one out of throwing a no-hitter at Wrigley Field against the Cardinals. With two outs in the top of the ninth, fellow obscure athlete Bernard Gilkey roped a line drive to left that got by Sammy Sosa and slowly rolled to the fence. The no-hitter, and so too Frank Castillo’s chance at baseball immortality, were over.

From 1997-2000, Castillo played for four different teams. In 2001 the Red Sox brought in Castillo, and in that season he put up a Castillo-like 10-9 record with a 4.21 ERA in 136 2/3 innings. In 2004, Castillo pitched exactly one inning for Boston in time split between Boston and their AAA Affiliate, Pawtucket. That inning earned Castillo a World Series ring as part of the ’04 team.

The Marlins brought in Castillo in 2005, but he was simply unable to recapture the magic that made him a marginally talented Major League pitcher, and started only one game. Castillo ended his Big League career with an 82-104 career record and a 4.56 ERA. Frank Castillo, if you ever read this, I hated watching you pitch, but you’re a friend of Obscure Athletes. And a World Series Champion. And the subject of today’s Obscure Spotlight.

Jamie. That’s enough.

So we took a few days off there, and to our eager readers out there I sincerely

"Jamie, are you coming back next year?"

apologize. And with that I’d like to take a moment to sincerely denigrate and thoroughly hate upon the Major League career of a man who’s been around far longer than I could remember, and who, in a just universe, would never, ever have a job in baseball again. What I’m trying to say is, fuck Jamie Moyer.

When Jamie Moyer was 41 and still pitching—at the time for Seattle, I distinctly remember thinking “What is Jamie Moyer still doing in baseball?” I was fourteen at the time. Year after year, there was Jamie Moyer. And after he was traded to the Phillies mid-2006 and posted another delightfully average showing in Philadelphia, I thought for sure Moyer’s day was finally over. Yet, as though from another Friday the 13th sequel, Jamie Moyer just wouldn’t die.

We’re now in December of 2010, and Moyer recently had Tommy John surgery, and is expected to miss the entire 2011 season. I thought for sure the end was finally upon Moyer, yet he’s said that he plans to attempt a return in 2012, when he’ll be a 49-year old with an 80 MPH fastball. Doctors have called the surgery a tremendous success. Are you serious?

Moyer currently sits atop the active wins list for pitchers, with 267. Whatever needs to be done to prevent him from getting to 300, should be done. To let such a mediocre pitcher get to 300 wins just because he played a thousand seasons, ruins the sanctity of the 300 win club. And if the baseball owners are going to collude to keep Barry Bonds, one of the handful of greatest players ever, out of baseball, then god damnit, let’s force this 4.24 career ERA-sporting  dickhead  the fuck out of our game. Bud Selig, come out from under your desk for once, and just ban this asshole. I’ll take back every awful thing I’ve ever said about you. Well, most of them anyway. Please?

Obscure Spotlight: Otis Nixon

A friend of mine and I were having a discussion the other day about the best baseball players never to make an All-Star game, and a name I haven’t heard in far too long came up: Otis Nixon. The 17-year Major Leaguer may never have made it to the Summer Classic, but stuck around because throughout his career offered two scarce Steroid Era commodities: good outfield defense and base stealing ability.

Otis Nixon is 16th all-time in stolen bases with 620, even despite never leading either

Tony Graffanino thinks he's got Otis Nixon, but nobody gets Otis Nixon out on the basepaths!

league in steals, and his .270/.343/.658 line is wholly unimpressive, even for a leadoff hitter. In 5800 career plate appearances, Otis Nixon hit 11 home runs, and had just over half as many RBI (318) as stolen bases in his career.

A well-documented cocaine addict, Nixon was infamously suspended for the 1991 World Series after he tested positive for the substance. But his flashy defense and flair for the dramatic kept him in the Majors for a good while, highlighted in 1999 while Nixon was playing for Atlanta. Down 8-7 in the eighth inning of game 6 of the NL Championship Series, Nixon pinch ran, and with one out, stole second and advanced to third on a wayward throw into center field. He would go on to score the tying run in the game, and Atlanta eventually won both the game and the series.

Otis Nixon played for nine teams in his Major League career, including two stints in Atlanta from 1991-93 and then back with the Braves in 1999, his final season in the Big Leagues. Nixon’s career high in home runs came in 1985 for Cleveland. He hit three. Base-stealing ability may make you a 17-year major leaguer, but we all know chicks dig the long ball, and that’s why Otis Nixon lives on today only as an obscure athlete.

And I heard he doesn’t blow coke on the reg anymore, so that’s good. Good for Otis.

Obscure Spotlight: John Wasdin

The Tokyo Dome is thundering as Wasdin takes the mound!

A quick look at John Wasdin’s career numbers will tell you why the 38-year old last pitched in the majors in 2007. His 39-39 record to go with a 5.28 career ERA make Wasdin, without a doubt, one of the most marginally talented pitchers ever to dawn a major league uniform. Seven major league uniforms in fact, starting with the A’s, by whom he was drafted in 1993. Wasdin debuted in the majors in August of 1995, and played a full season on the Major League roster in 1996, going 9-8 with an era of 5.96.

In January of that offseason, Wasdin was sent to Boston in exchange for Jose Canseco, where he earned the nickname “Way Back Wasdin” for his propensity to give up home runs, both numerous and untimely. Wasdin spent parts of four seasons in a Red Sox uniform, going 19-16 in 170 appearances, mostly out of the bullpen.

Five days before the trade deadline in 2000, the Red Sox and Rockies pulled off a much ballyhooed blockbuster that ended the Way Back Wasdin era in Boston. The Sox sent Wasdin along with Jeff Frye and Brian Rose to Colorado in the deal that brought Rolando Arrojo and Mike Lansing to Boston. Safe to say everybody was a winner that day. Wasdin was traded again mid-season, this time to Baltimore, where he achieved limited success.

Wasdin spent the ’02 season with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, and the 2003 campaign mostly in the Blue Jays’ organization. I went on John’s Wikipedia page, and found this hilarious bit of Wasdin lore:

On April 7, 2003, Wasdin pitched a perfect game for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds against theAlbuquerque Isotopes at Herschel Greer Stadium in Nashville. Fewer than 750 fans witnessed the perfect game, as it was the same night as the 2003 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game, plus unseasonably cold weather dissuaded some from coming to the ballpark.

I love minor league records and achievements, because they evoke the ‘tallest midget’

Getting it done for the Rangers

line of thinking.  I’ll say this– I would have been in the front row of that game were I in the area– especially if I were of drinking age in 2003.

Wasdin returned once again to the majors in 2004, this time with the Rangers. After a promising June 18 outing for Texas, the bottom fell out on Wasdin’s season, bottoming out on July 25, when he gave up 11 hits and 7 runs, including four homers, in 4 1/3 innings.

Way Back Wasdin would make 40 more appearances for the Rangers after the ’04 season, and Texas elected not to bring him back after 2006. He signed a deal with the Pirates that offseason, and in 2007 made 12 appearances, all out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh. Wasdin was last spotted playing for the Seibu Lions in 2009. This time, the Japanese baseball league couldn’t provide a springboard for John Wasdin to get back to the majors. Wasdin now coaches at Christian University. Hopefully he brought in a pitching coach.

Stay tuned for the début of Josh Wilson and Ben Ricker and their weekly hockey segment, later today on Obscure Athletes!

Obscure Spotlight: Todd Zeile

Todd Zeile's patented war face.

Well, folks. It’s been 50 posts here at Obscure Athletes. We’ve covered a good many athletes, we’ve had more than a few editorials, and we’ve recruited a handful of readers and added a hockey writer. I guess it’s all downhill from here, all that’s left to do now is sit back and wait until we’re the greatest Deadspin/Barstool hybrid ripoff ever and millions in advertising revenue is just pouring in. Leave a comment on the site,  tell your friends about Obscure Athletes, and send any and all site suggestions to obscureathletes@gmail.com. And as always, Subscribe to the RSS feed to the right of your screen, Follow Us on Twitter, and Join our page on Facebook!

Given that this is our 50th post, I wanted to make sure that it was dedicated to someone who really helped shape my socialization into the world of Obscure Athletes. As a kid I remember seeing a marginally talented third baseman named Todd Zeile; A player who was always alright, so he stuck around for a good while, but never with the same team for too long. After Zeile left the Mets in 2001, I thought he was finally gone, only to see him resurface in Colorado the following season.

Zeile’s pro baseball journey began in 1986 when he was picked in the second round by the Cardinals out of UCLA. In August of 1989 he made his Major League début as a 23-year old catcher. The following season Zeile was moved to third base and in his first full season in the Bigs he hit 15 homers and drove in 57, finishing 6th in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Todd Zeile played sixteen seasons in the majors, gathering over 100 RBI just once, in 1993 for St. Louis. He hit 31 home runs for the Dodgers in 1997, his highest total as a Major Leaguer. Zeile never played in an all-star game. He also led the league in errors by a third baseman four times in his lengthy career–one in which he played on 11 teams, and switched between the American and National leagues seven times.

Oft-forgotten about Zeile, however, is what a beast he was for the O’s during the 1996 ALCS.

Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura? Yeah, they'll give the 2000 Yankees a real series for sure...

He was the best hitter Baltimore had to offer, hitting .364 in the series, with three home runs and a 1.189 OPS–a series the Orioles lost in five to the eventual World Series champion Yankees.

Zeile finished his career with a .265 average, .346 on-base percentage, and a final home run count of 253. He played his last game on October 3, 2004, hitting number 253 in his last ever at-bat. Todd Zeile: known for very little, but always around. One of the foremost obscure athletes of the 1990s. We love ya, Todd!

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