If you're not an Orioles fan, or if you're an O's fan and you're smart enough to repress bad memories, you probably don't even remember Russ Ortiz's 40-plus hideous innings in Baltimore. Even though Leo Mazzone couldn't strike gold twice with Russ, the righty did win one Major Award during his stay in Birdland. He was the recipient of the Eleventh Annual Kerry's Pinata Award, a glorious booby prize of which I have just been made aware.
The Pinata Award is sponsored by the Birds in the Belfry fan site, and has been awarded each year since 1996 to the worst eligible Oriole pitcher. The award was born when the aforementioned Kerry tried to assess the performance of young Jimmy Haynes for a postseason yearbook. The genius result was a statement that Haynes had done a wonderful imitation of a pinata: "people holding sticks were beating the hell out of him". If you go to the site, you can see the entire cringe-inducing roll call from 1996 to present. I won't spoil the 2008 winner.
So how bad was Mr. Ortiz in 2006? Despite tossing just those forty-point-three innings, he was judged to be more putrid than Bruce Chen (0-7, 6.93 ERA, 1.75 WHIP in 98.7 IP). Indeed, Russ was that much worse. He gave up 38 earned runs in those 40.3 innings, a sparkling 8.48 ERA. He gave up FIFTEEN home runs, one every 12.7 at-bats. He allowed nearly two baserunners per inning, and one batter out of 2.4 reached base. He brought a little bit of terror and pain to every one of the 20 games in which he pitched.
So yeah, that dude is the gold standard for crumminess. Maybe some day the Pinata award will go to someone who is merely below average. In the meantime, I'd settle for a year when there wasn't so much stiff competition for it.