There's only a little more than a week left before Opening Day, which means ... well, I don't know what it means, but leave it to me to make the worst of it. Just for kicks, here are the worst players to have appeared in Opening Day games for the Pirates in each of the past five seasons. I could have gone further back, but that would have been too depressing. If even this post strikes you as too much, keep in mind that the Pirates actually won all five of the games described herein, and that however bad things might have gotten for these players, most of them actually ended up helping for at least those single days. If only we could have frozen them in time!
April 2, 2007: Jonah Bayliss. Dishonorable mentions: Ronny Paulino, Chris Duffy. Bayliss faced three batters against the Astros and got two outs. I was mildly excited about Bayliss after the Pirates acquired him from the Royals (for Mark Redman), but his major-league career ended after the extreme flyball pitcher allowed a remarkable eight home runs in 37.2 innings in 2007. The numbers at FanGraphs don't really back this up, but I remember him having a lot of zip on his pitches in 2006, when he was vaguely functional, but not so much in 2007. Oh well. The Pirates eventually shipped him to Toronto for who-knows-what, and Jonah disappeared into the Great White North. Or the belly of a whale. Or whatever.
March 31, 2008: Franquelis Osoria. Dishonorable mentions: Tyler Yates, Ian Snell (the starter!). Dave Littlefield acquired Osoria back when he was operating on Jim Tracy's standing order to acquire all sentient former members of the Dodgers organization, but Osoria stuck with the Pirates well into the 2008 season, despite never striking anyone out, and allowing more hits than a hookah bar in the first week of classes.
Fun fact: Neal Huntington ended up trading eight out of nine members of the starting lineup of this game (everyone except Ryan Doumit), plus four other players who appeared (Nyjer Morgan, John Grabow, Damaso Marte and Matt Capps). Osoria's sinker, goggles and extra finger weren't cool enough to interest a team in trading for him, unfortunately, and the Pirates designated him for assignment when they acquired Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen in the Jason Bay trade. Osoria hasn't played for anyone in the states since leaving the Pirates organization. In the 2008 opener, though, he picked up the win by pitching three innings in a 12-11 shootout against the Braves.
April 6, 2009: Ramon Vazquez. Dishonorable mentions: Brandon Moss, Tyler Yates, Andy LaRoche. I swear I'm not choosing guys for this reason, but no player to win the prize so far has appeared in a major-league game after the year for which he's been selected. If you have a year bad enough for the Pirates to cut you, then forget it, Major League Baseball is done with you. Sayonara.
Okay, that's not entirely true -- LaRoche and Moss made it back to the majors in 2011, for example. But Vazquez's career came to a screeching halt 204 at bats after the Pirates signed him to a two-year deal before the '09 season. He'd had a good, albeit ballpark-fueled, season for the Rangers in 2008, but he couldn't repeat it, and he couldn't hack it defensively, either. This first game went well enough, though -- Vazquez went 1-for-2 in a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals.
April 5, 2010: Akinori Iwamura. Dishonorable mentions: Jeff Clement, Andy LaRoche, Ryan Church, Brendan Donnelly. Lots of stinkers here, but Iwamura was the worst. He showed up out of shape and could barely move in the field, leading to a -8.6 UZR, an amazing total given how little he played. At the plate, he hit a ridiculous number of ground balls, not the best strategy if you can't run anymore. Iwamura went 0-for-4 with a walk in an 11-5 victory over the Dodgers. He also saw 30 pitches in that game, and if I recall correctly, I remember being vaguely impressed with that, simply because most Pirates at the time took so few pitches.
I was hoping, by the way, that Hayden Penn had played, so that I could work up some moustache jokes, but alas, he didn't get into a game until April 8.
April 1, 2011: Lyle Overbay. Dishonorable mentions: Pedro Alvarez, Matt Diaz, Kevin Correia. Most of the Pirates' worst 2011 Opening Day players weren't quite as bad those of other years, which sort of makes sense, because they cost a lot more. Overbay, though, would have been a worthy choice in other years as well, and Pirates fans have yet to recover from his frequent 0-for-4s. If you've got an enormous number of Lyle Overbay at-bats scampering around in the bilge of your Pirate ship, you might develop a frightening condition in which you massively overrate middling Class AAA first basemen. Call it Matt Plague.
Okay, okay -- puns are funny, but that was the only good reason to drag Matt Hague into this, even if I do think the phenomenon I'm describing is real. Hague's not that bad. Overbay, though, was horrific, posting an 80 OPS+ and showing little of the good defense that was supposed to be one of the main excuses for acquiring him. He did, however, go 1-for-4 with a double and a walk in a 6-3 victory over the Cubs in his first game as a Pirate.