Baseball is a sport of personalities. Unlike the NFL, where every single part of the individual has been essentially flagged out of existence, part of the charm of the MLB is that each team is a collection of individuals who all bring something unique to the table. Together, they form a group that wins and loses as a team but how they go about doing their individual jobs is entirely their own. Within each clubhouse you might have a more buttoned down, corporate feel, like the Yankees, or a free-flowing beer chugging bunch of renegades.
Some of the top players can't help but be likable, whether it's for their swagger or backstory. These might be your journeymen who have defied the odds to get to the show or even bigger stars who somehow find a way to astound without becoming bigger than the game itself. On the other hand, there are more than a few players who just need to go away. They peacock too much or have too much hype without any sort of results that lead most fans to roll their eyes.
As we've officially hit the "real" postseason for MLB, now is the perfect time to take stock on what players fall in to either of these two categories. So, what players and personalities do we hope stick around forever? And who are we wishing would just disappear from the game altogether?
15 Tim Tebow - GO AWAY
This one admittedly is sort of a cop-out, as it's unlikely Tebow will ever make it to the Majors. However, the nature of him even playing baseball has already become annoying. The fact that he gets so much coverage for a try-out or that ESPN is beside itself whenever he so much as stretches on the field is more than enough for most fans already. Tebow is a cult of personality wherever he goes and a certain section of the sporting world (mostly Florida Gator fans) will fawn over his every move. It's just not worth the hype though. Him even playing in the minors reeks of a publicity stunt as he has not shown much ability beside a little bit of power. Based on his already infamous throwing ability, what position exactly could he even play for a national league team?
14 Jose Altuve - STAY FOREVER
Who doesn't love to root for the underdog? When a player rises up to the top of his sport after being told time and time again he wasn't strong or fast or big enough, the whole world rises up to cheer. Altuve from his debut has displayed all of the skills to not just stick in the big leagues but to thrive and 2016 was just the cherry on top. If not for an up and down season by his teammates, he would probably be the runaway MVP in the AL because he added unexpected pop and clutch hitting to his already impressive resume. The Astros remain a team on the rise as they are loaded with young talent and Altuve has established himself as leading the charge. Not bad for a player who barely stands taller than some of the bat kids on the field.
13 Jonathan Papelbon - GO AWAY
Few players have seemed to revel in the negativity more than Papelbon. Long hated by fans in New York when he was on the Red Sox, his sour attitude on the mound and in the clubhouse was at least tolerated when he was good. However, at recent stops in Philly and then Washington, his skills diminished somewhat and instead of being humbled, Papelbon seemed to get even more surly. Then of course, there was the fight he had with teammate Bryce Harper (who we'll get to in a few slides) which led to his suspension and eventually drummed him off of the Nationals. The fact that he was released by the Nationals mid-season and no team gave him a shot speaks pretty loudly to how he is viewed around the game.
12 Andrew McCutchen - STAY FOREVER
Any star outfielder who plays in Pittsburgh might eventually find themselves being compared to one of the greatest of all time: Roberto Clemente. It's an extremely long shadow to get out from since Clemente was not just a great player but perhaps an even better humanitarian. Andrew McCutchen has done his best to respond on the field, with several MVP caliber seasons but its his work off the field that has raised the bar. Seen as one of the most charitable and community-driven players in the game, McCutchen routinely gives his time and money to organizations dedicated to making a difference and while his Pirates hit a down year after recent postseason success, that shouldn't change anytime soon. With some whispers that he might be on the trading block, expect all of baseball to be lining up to try and add not just one of the elite players, but one of its best people to their own roster.
11 Bryce Harper - GO AWAY
It's one thing to be confident. To believe in yourself is essential to success, especially in sports. However, when a player arrives in the big leagues already acting like a king, it will rub people the wrong way. Even if you begin to back up your ego with your ability, it will very quickly put a target on your back. Bryce Harper has carried himself in a manner that rubs all sorts of players and fans the wrong way. The fact that his own teammate fought him speaks to that point, even if it was fellow knucklehead Papelbon. Harper had a down season after rising to the top last year, though his team finally seems primed to live up to its own outsized expectations. A long postseason run with Harper in the middle of it will go a long way to quieting some of the critics who think he's been given far too much too soon.
10 Albert Pujols - STAY FOREVER
When day when we're all old and sitting on our porches, we'll regal our children and grandchildren with stories about Albert Pujols. About a player who came out of nowhere and rewrote the record books. About a player who routinely put up numbers not seen since the heyday of Joe DiMaggio, when a player could hit for power and average without striking out 200 times. In recent years, Pujols has proved to be mortal, as injuries and just general age have rendered him as just merely a power hitter, but when you start to look at the numbers he has compiled and think to how much more he might still contribute, it becomes clear: he is one of the all-time greats. Already a prolific winner with St. Louis, the next few years, if he's healthy, will see him assault the record books and (hopefully) will give us a PED-free player to look back to through the confusing, convoluted steroid era.
9 Ryan Braun - GO AWAY
Speaking of PEDs, we have Ryan Braun. While no doubt a talented player, who had a very solid 2016 season, his career will always be tainted by several failed drug tests and even moreso for the methods he went about handling it. After failing a test in 2011, he went on a smear campaign against the sample collector and while he was eventually vindicated on that front, in 2013 would fail further tests which resulted in a longer suspension. The sanctimony of how he presented himself as a victim only for it to be revealed that he was in fact a steroid user has left a bitter taste in the mouth of many fans and while his ability on the field cannot be questioned, the type of person he is most certainly can be.
8 Ichiro - STAY FOREVER
Some players just have an innate ability to do something that never seems to diminish. For Ichiro, that ability is to hit. It's something he's been doing for the better part of 30 years and after resigning with the Marlins following a surprisingly solid 2016, it's something he'll continue to do going forward. Despite not coming to the USA until he was nearly 30, Ichiro still managed to get 3000 hits in the majors and has continued his climb up the all-time charts. His ability to make contact and get on base remains outstanding and along with a sneaky sense of humor, has become a clubhouse and fan favorite after seeming to be more of an aloof player for most of his career. Now in what is certainly the twilight of his career, it will remain a treat to watch him go to work with each at-bat.
7 Yasiel Puig - GO AWAY
When Puig first burst onto the scene, he seemed like the breath of fresh air the Dodgers sorely needed. Playing with a reckless abandon that endured him to the crowds in LA, he was a star on the rise. Then came the loafing on the basepads and field, the reckless driving and rifts in the clubhouse with coaches and teammates. It got so bad that he was demoted to the minors right in the middle of a pennant race as a way of sending a message to him. Instead of taking it, he demanded a trade and only reluctantly went down. Eventually, he was brought back up and played a part in helping the Dodgers reach the playoffs but he remains a ticking time bomb that the Dodgers almost certainly will look to get rid of sooner rather than later.
6 Mookie Betts - STAY FOREVER
Betts is everything Puig was when he started minus any of the baggage. A five tool player who came in to his own this year and has been the linchpin for everything the Red Sox hope to accomplish in the postseason and beyond. Betts looks the favorite to win the AL MVP this year but still approaches the game with a youthful energy and a humbleness that belies his great ability. Still just 23 years old, the sky remains the limit for Betts and with a good core of players around him, including David Ortiz in his swan song, there is little doubt he'll have plenty of opportunity to produce moving forward. Though a freakish athlete growing up, part of what has kept him grounded is that he's had to earn all of his opportunities, including starting out as a water boy in high school since his parents wouldn't let him play football, as opposed to other players who from day one are christened and let it get to their head.
5 Yordano Ventura - GO AWAY
When you can throw 100 miles an hour and have a temper, things are not going to go smoothly for you. Ventura demonstrated over the last few seasons that he has the stuff to be a top pitcher. However, much like in politics, the real question is his temperament. In early 2015 alone, he was ejected from 2 games and involved in 3 benches clearing scuffles, all because he took offense to something on the field. Granted, in competition among athletes, having an edge is part of the game but when a player routinely seems to target the opposition, it can lead to serious injury. Likewise, when Ventura targets opponents, in baseball that means his teammates in turn will be targeted in retaliation. Needless to say, his teammates are hoping he can find a way to keep his cool moving forward or they might end up paying for the brunt of his temper.
4 Madison Bumgarner - STAY FOREVER
MadBum is another player who walks that fine line when it comes to temperament, most recently witnessed in a dust-up against the Dodgers. However, Bumgarner has already done so much on the field that he's allowed a lot more leeway when it comes to his antics. Any player who has already been a part of 3 World Series titles, including essentially pitching the Giants to the victory on hid own in 2014. Then, came his performance for the ages against the Mets in the play-in game this week. The complete game shutout game was just the latest in an utterly dominant postseason career already and he's only 27 years old! Add in the fact that he can actually hit and the legend of MadBum grows day by day. Just imagine if they somehow win yet another even year World Series.
3 Jose Bautista - GO AWAY
Jose Bautista is in many ways the classic case of a player you'd love to have on your team but if he plays against you he's someone you absolutely loathe. More than anything it's the crazy bat flips he does when he hits a big home run that have home fans going nuts and away fans seeing red. For Bautista though, some of his antics might be starting to catch up with him, judging from the absolutely crushing punch to the face he took earlier this year against the Rangers or the game tying home run dance he did in a game a few weeks back only to have the Jays still lose. He certainly brings a degree of energy to the ballpark but with the Rangers and Blue Jays set to square off yet again, hopefully his celebrations will actually result in victories this time and not just GIFs.
2 Bartolo Colon - STAY FOREVER
The legend of Bartolo Colon grows day by day (insert waistline joke here). In a day and age when starting pitchers seem to get injured just warming up, Colon has endured. Though reduced velocity and age have led him to become more of a control artist than a power pitcher of his youth, Colon continues to churn out inning after inning. Now 43, he proved to be just about indispensable to a decimated Mets rotation this year and who can forget the sight of watching him bat? His home run this season was a moment that any fan can smile about and somehow, despite all of the history he has in his career, including a PED suspension, has found a way to be just about universally beloved. Perhaps its because he makes fans think that they too can still compete at a high level, even if they might better resemble a beer league weekend player than an Adonis. Such is the overwhelming power of Bartolo. Long may he reign.
1 AJ Pierzynski - GO AWAY
When you type a player's name into Google and one of the first search options includes the word "Jerk", that player might have a bit of a reputation. When that same player has had numerous run-ins with teammates and opponents alike, that reputation might in fact be warranted. And when a manager says that playing WITH you means you'll hate him "just a little less" as Ozzie Guillen once said while AJ was on the White Sox, well, that reputation is sealed. A player who always has a chip on his shoulder, he seems to enjoy his role as a player that gets under other people's skin and in fact has even parlayed that persona into turns in the wrestling ring. It might be a wise career move when he hangs up his cleats as he already has a career's worth of training to play a heel.
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