While every sport has it’s list of “unwritten rules,” it seems as though baseball’s list goes on for eternity. Every MLB player is expected to follow these internally understood guidelines, all under the guise of “respecting the game.” As baseball is America’s past time entrenched in rich history, the game’s purists expect all players to carry out “tradition,” seemingly unaware of changes in time.
With all MLB players being held to this somewhat unfair standard, baseball often gets pegged as being boring, dry and having minimal to no entertainment value. The baseball diamond isn’t exactly a platform for players to showcase their personalities, as they are often chastised if they do so.
Still, from time to time over the course of baseball history, fans get to see player’s egos on display, which can be done in a number of ways such as bat flips, trash talk and celebration dances. Some players relished in these moments, and never missed an opportunity to let the fans know how good of a player they think they are, adding some flare and charisma to a game that generally lacks it. Here is a list of the top 15 biggest showboats in MLB history.
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15 David Ortiz
In now his final season, “Big Papi” is adding the final touches to a resume that seems to be worthy of a Hall of Fame nod. One of the most clutch hitters the game has ever seen, the slugger was an integral piece of the three Red Sox World Series championships dating back to 2004. At the plate, he is one of the most feared hitters in baseball, as pitchers know he’s liable to leave the yard in the blink of an eye. Time and time again, Ortiz has delivered a big hit when his team has needed one.
His colossal home runs usually come hand in hand with slick bat flips and a painfully slow trot around the bases, which opposing pitchers almost always take offense to. He's hit so many big home runs in his career and usually has a reason to celebrate, but it definitely rubs many the wrong way.
14 Edwin Encarnacion
Encarnacion and his fellow Blue Jay teammate Jose Bautista have become one of the most powerful hitting tandems in baseball. The two have combined for nearly 500 home runs since becoming focal points in the Toronto lineup in 2009.
Considered to be a “late bloomer," he’s not only taken the league by storm via his monster home runs but also his now infamous home run trot, in which he rounds with his arm held up like a chicken wing. The Dominican power hitter is gonna hit the long ball, and he’s gonna let you know about it too. It seems to be par for the course with the Blue Jays, as Encarnacion's partner in crime Bautista caught everybody's attention with his big bat flip last postseason, but Encarnacion does it on a far more consistent basis. That's what lands him on this list.
13 Fernando Rodney
Generally, when one thinks of a “showboat” in baseball, they generally imagine a position player. Someone who takes the field every day and has ample opportunities to demonstrate their tendencies. However, long-time closer Fernando Rodney has made his case has one of the most common showboaters since his inauguration into the league. The two-time All-Star has become known for not only his ability to get the job done in the ninth inning but also celebrating after the final out is made.
His arrow shooting celebration has become wildly popular around the league. However, at almost 40 years old, there may be only a handful of arrows left in his holster.
Perhaps Rodney has more of a reason to celebrate though. After all, when he does his job, the game is over and he's reveling in his victory, rather than celebrating in the middle of a game.
12 Sammy Sosa
Sosa was one of the most fun-loving players baseball has ever seen. He was a key part of baseball reaching such a high level of popularity the late 90s and early 2000s, which may have had something to do with illegal substances. Regardless, Sammy had the ability to hit the ball out of the park like we’ve seen only a handful of times in the game’s history. These home runs were always followed by the Sammy Hop, in which he would bounce to the first-base line before starting his trot, letting everyone know he had just hit one deep.
Fans saw 609 of these hops over his 18-year career, and it left them on their feet every time. Some people may not have liked it, but Sosa wasn't the kind of player that meant for it to be malicious or show up the other team. He was simply having fun, playing the game he loved. Of course, not everybody always sees it that way.
11 Roger Clemens
Clemens didn’t earn the nickname “Rocket” just because of his blazing fastball; it also had to do with the fact that he was as fiery as they came when he took the mound. The hard-throwing Texan has been a part of baseball’s most memorable teams, including the 1986 Red Sox and the late 90s Yankee dynasty. Clemens had the aura of a great pitcher every time he was on the bump, and he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind about it either, as he once famously said, “My only off day is the day I pitch.”
Clemens knew he was better than you and wasn’t going to hesitate informing you of the fact after he got you out. Just ask Mike Piazza.
Clemens eventually became one of baseball's more hated players, but that also could have been part of playing for the evil empire in New York.
10 Babe Ruth
The Great Bambino, The Sultan of Swat, The Caliph of Clout. Whatever you know him as, all baseball, and sports fans in general, know of the legend of Babe Ruth. One of the game’s best hitters of all time, Ruth relished in the fame and glory that came with being a superstar. He loved the bright lights and the big stage, and never shied away from giving the fans a show.
In fact, he produced arguably the most profound showboating moment, in which he called his shot in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. After pointing to the center field fence, Ruth parked it nearly 500 feet to break the tied ball game. Not only could Ruth talk the talk, he could certainly walk the walk.
While Ruth had the numbers to back it up, part of what grew his legend was that he wasn't afraid of pushing the limits in terms of relishing in his work. There's no doubt that New York was the perfect stage for him.
9 Satchel Paige
Satchel Paige broke barriers in the game of baseball. After dominating the Negro Leagues, Paige went on to have equal success in the MLB and became the first Negro League player inducted into the Hall of Fame. Paige was so confident in his stuff that he gave his pitches names, such as “Midnight Rider” and the “Bat Dodger.”
He would also sit in a rocking chair in between innings, letting the opposition know how cool, calm and collected he was. Even more so, he would often intentionally walk batters in order to face the team’s best hitter, unafraid of the competition. As Paige pitched until he was 50 years old, fans got to see not only his breathtaking stuff on the mound but his unmatched bravado as well.
Paige had to deal with a lot of trash in his career and if he was going to be in the big leagues, he was going to march to the beat of his own drum. Paige succeeded on all accounts.
8 Pedro Martinez
There were few pitchers in history that had as much confidence on the mound as Pedro Martinez. The right-hander was notorious for frequently throwing close inside to hitters, a brush-back if you will, in order to set the tone for the at-bat and let them know he wasn’t afraid. This method clearly seemed to work, as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015. Pedro’s boastful and energetic nature wasn’t just limited to the mound either, as he was often seen joking around with his teammates in the dugout and of course, having fun with the media. Pedro was as candid and blunt as they came, and fans across the world couldn’t help but gravitate to it. No matter how old he got in the game, Pedro never seemed to lose the little kid in him that was just living a dream. Even well into his 40s today, Pedro still carries around the spirit of a teenager.
7 Jose Canseco
As steroids and other PEDs ran rampant in the game in the late 80s and 90s, it’s safe to say that one of the poster boys of banned substances was Jose Canseco. The Cuban slugger, who’s been open about his partaking in PEDs, garnered a lot of spotlight during those years as being one of the games best power hitters, and he was certainly a fan of the attention. Canseco never shied away from flaunting his medically enhanced biceps or pimping his upper deck home runs. Canseco is still desperately seeking attention through the likes of social media, making it clear that his undying need to be a showman hasn’t changed.
Canseco is one of the most hated ballplayers of all time. Many showboaters are able to garner the admiration of fans and peers because their antics aren't meant to be malicious, but a lot about Canseco didn't seem sincere.
6 Bryce Harper
Baseball fans can rest easy knowing that the future of the game is in good hands with the likes of Bryce Harper. The Nationals superstar has lived up to all expectations, having already won an MVP award at age 23. Not only is Harper on a mission to become one of the game’s best, he’s also taken it personally to as he says, “Make Baseball Fun Again.” He’s attempted to do this through the likes of bat flipping, in-game selfies with fans, hilarious clothing and joking around with the media. Baseball purists may not be a fan of Harper’s attitude, but his talent is undeniable.
Harper is the future (and present) of the game and many don't like him, but his fans love him because he's out front about who he is. He doesn't pretend to be a saint and just wants to got out there and enjoy himself. That rubs off on his fans.
5 Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig is somewhat of a victim of his own talents. His raw skills are undeniable; being able to hit for power, great speed and an absolute rocket for an arm. However, the Cuban defector hasn’t been able to harness these skills in order to make him a great, consistent player. Puig far too often gets consumed with maintaining his slick and cool persona, which features over exaggerated bat flips and being lackadaisical in the outfield. The Dodgers outfield is still young and certainly has time to get it together, but his internal nature to be a showman on the field often plagues him from being great.
Many of his peers are resistant to Puig's nature. Following a bat flip in Game 3 of the 2013 NLCS, Cardinals player Carlos Beltran had this to say: “As a player, I just think he doesn’t know” how to act," said Beltran. “That’s what I think. He really doesn’t know. He must think that he’s still playing somewhere else.”
4 Barry Bonds
You would be hard pressed to come across a more polarizing baseball player than Barry Bonds. The all-time home run king* put on a hitting clinic over the span of his 19-year career unlike anything fans had ever seen before. Bonds never got tired of blasting home runs out of the ballpark, and certainly didn’t get tired of admiring each and every one. The long-time San Francisco Giant would stand at home plate for quite some time before circling the bases, seemingly in awe of his own work. Bonds never cared what the media, fans or teammates though of him, and that was certainly displayed every time he took the field.
To his credit, Bonds has since come to regret the way he was as a player, not only for showboating, but for the way he treated people: "I’m to blame for the way I was [portrayed], because I was a dumbass. I was straight stupid, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I mean, I was just flat-out dumb."
3 Nyjer Morgan
It’s one thing to be confident in your abilities and bask in your own talents, but it’s a whole other entity to have a self-given, publicized, alter ego. That is what Nyjer Morgan, or should I say “Tony Plush,” brought to the game of baseball. Morgan claimed Plush was his on-field persona and would even celebrate reaching base by putting his hands in the shape a “T.”
Fans were captivated by the speedy outfielder’s on-field antics and uncommon approach to the game. However, this was short-lived, as Morgan’s baseball talents were not on the same level as his creativity, only playing in the big leagues for a handful of seasons. Still though, Morgan left a memorable footprint behind in the game, as he wasn't just any other player. Personality often does a lot to leave a lasting memory with fans.
Morgan, or Plush, last played in MLB with the Cleveland Indians in 2014 and has played in the Korean league with the Hanwha Eagles since.
2 Manny Ramirez
An inexplicable gaffe in the outfield, a ridiculous quote to a reporter or a 500-foot blast followed by a slow and pompous home run trot. These were all common occurrences in the great career of Manny Ramirez, and each were written off as simply “Manny being Manny.” The right-handed power hitter was such a force at the plate that you were forced to take the good with the bad. You could live with his bizarre on-field antics and egotistical nature as he would always back it up with once in a generation bat.
There will never be another Manny Ramirez in baseball. He left fans joyful, infuriated, and confused. There was no point of trying to understand him, he was just Manny.
There is some debate today as to whether Ramirez belongs in the Hall of Fame due to his positive steroid test late in his career.
1 Rickey Henderson
Rickey Henderson brought an excitement to the game of baseball that had never been seen before. Arguably the greatest leadoff hitter in history, Rickey left fans in awe by his dazzling speed, humorous home run trots and frequency of speaking in third person. He never shied away from speaking his mind, both on and off the field, and often let fans know that he was the best at what he did. His flashy and exuberant approach the game turned into a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection in 2009. Rickey could talk himself up with the best of them, but he could sure as hell back it up.
The way Henderson felt could probably be summed up in this quote: “The only thing I wish I could figure out is how I got misunderstood regarding the type of person I really am and what I accomplished … Just because I believed in what I was doing on the field and dedicated myself to playing the game, does that mean I’m cocky? Does that mean I’m arrogant? People who played against me called me cocky, but my teammates didn’t. I brought attention, fear.”
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