Petulant. Pompous. Egotistical. Self-entitled. Spoiled. Easily irritable. Those are all unattractive traits shared by current and former MLB stars. Positive role models? You’ve got to be kidding. Curiously, there is a long history of players who appeared to go out of their way to sully the game – and their reputations.
Take, for example, Cap Anson, Dave Kingman, and Milton Bradley. Three former bad boys who didn’t make the cut for this list. Tough cuts, for sure.
Anson was the first in MLB history to collect 3,000 hits and finished his career with 2,075 RBI. But he also was a racist and declined to play when an opposing team fielded a black player. A man of his times? No excuse.
Kingman acted as if he disrespected all those around him, including, at times, the game. Moody? Disrespectful? Kingman had a swing that sent baseballs screaming away from his presence. His attitude often had the same effect on those attempting to socialize.
Bradley displayed such an ugly and volatile disposition toward teammates, opponents, fans, and media, it diminished his on-field accomplishments. Bradley once suffered a serious knee injury after being held back from an over-the-top argument with an umpire.
Repeat: all three were tough cuts.
Major leaguers possess unique abilities. Through their talents, they are admired and attract endearing audiences who often place certain players on lofty pedestals. Too bad some of those “stars” whiff in terms of personal character. Ballplayers are in a position to positively influence youngsters and entertain the masses by simply staying true to themselves and the game – and respecting those around them.
But too often …
Here are the Top 15 most hated players in MLB history:
15 Billy Martin
Billy Martin was a fighter. No, he was more than that. The long-time New York Yankees manager and infielder was a loud-talking drunken brawler.
As a player from 1950 to 1961, Martin was known for starting confrontations, both on the field and around drinking establishments across the country.
A fiery personally who, as a player, sparked the Yankees to four World Series titles, Martin irritated opponents and fans with his constantly argumentative attitude.
A manager for 16 seasons, Martin guided the embattled Yankees to the 1977 World Series championship. Martin’s relationship with former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was so toxic, he was fired four times.
Martin died during a one-car crash on Christmas Day 1989 near Binghamton, N.Y.
14 Bryce Harper
Quickly developing a reputation for being the Washington Nationals’ rising hot-headed superstar, Bryce Harper often - too often - fails to control his temper. Umpires are now looking for a quick hook and the 2015 NL MVP will continue to be tossed for the way he disassociates with the on-field ruling body.
When teammates, like Jonathan Papelbon, pick a fight with stars, like Harper, there are far-reaching implications. How can the team, much less the league, market Harper?
The first overall pick of the 2010 draft, Harper does not act as if respects the game. He recently offhandedly called the game “boring.” As much as he has helped the Nationals to NLDS appearances in 2014 and 2012, Harper is crippling his club with his over-the-top antics.
Fans pay to see him play – not get ejected.
13 Manny Ramirez
That’s “Manny being Manny.” How many times was that phrase uttered around Cleveland and Boston during the 1990s and 2000s?
One of the era’s best pure sluggers, the eccentric player earned disrespect from certain teammates and fans for a series of questionable acts and statements.
It wasn’t so much the way he handled outside criticism for his insufficient left-field defense, but the lack of hustle he often displayed attracted concerns he quit on teammates.
During his noted 19-year career, Manny Ramirez averaged 39 home runs and 129 RBIs per season. The stats make one wonder how much his slugging improved from testing positive for a women’s fertility drug?
That’s “Manny being Manny.”
12 Dick Allen
Dick Allen’s career should have been celebrated with many of the game’s greats. Throughout his 15-year career, he became the first black star player in Philadelphia.
Allen collected a 351 career home runs and 1,119 RBI.
And yet he will never be issued a ticket to Cooperstown.
Allen had a history of drunkenness, before and after games. Some games he just skipped. He also fought with teammates, disagreed with management, and failed to grasp the team concept.
To this day, Allen's name garners continuous mention in Hall of Fame discussions. Unfortunately for the controversial player, they remain just that - discussions.
Allen should be remembered as a power-hitter who crumbled racial barriers in a tough town. Too bad.
11 Rogers Hornsby
Possibly the best second baseman in history, Rogers Hornsby, the individual, was aloof and distant from teammates, terse to fans, and displayed a downright dark personality.
Ty Cobb had nothing on Hornsby.
Rude, abrasive, and offensively straight-forward, Hornsby had a career batting average of .358, with 301 home runs and 1,584 RBI. Twice, he was named MVP.
While baseball players often display a fun side to their personality, Hornsby was the complete opposite, maintaining a serious mood throughout the entirety of his career.
After 12 standout seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, there is only one reason a player of Hornsby’s stature would play for five teams over his final 11 seasons and was eventually pushed aside as a manager: attitude.
10 Pete Rose
If only Pete Rose had accepted responsibly for his actions before 2004 …
If only Pete Rose had been apologetic toward the game and its ruling body earlier in the process …
If only Pete Rose had not bet on baseball while serving as manager, in the first place …
But he did and Rose remains banned for life from the game he should symbolize.
“Charlie Hustle” is MLB’s all-time hits leader (4,256). He was a player who captivated a generation of fans with his head-first slides and all-out intensity. Rose was a symbol of baseball during his playing career - loved, hated, and controversial in his right. There are many fans who stand behind Rose and feel his induction into Cooperstown should have already taken place. However, year after year, Rose must sit and watch his peers take their spots ahead of him thanks to his actions as a manager.
If only Rose was known for only playing baseball and not betting on baseball …
9 A.J. Pierzynski
There are numerous stories disclosing how dislikable the long-time catcher was as a player. One of the more popular stories centers on A.J. Pierzynski getting struck in the groin during a spring training game with the San Francisco Giants. When the trainer asked how he felt, Pierzynski reportedly said, “like this,” and kneed the trainer in the groin.
Intense and arrogant, Pierzynski instigated opponents, and teammates, for that matter, with his constant needling and chirping.
It’s little wonder why Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett famously punched his peer Pierzynski in the jaw after a collision at home plate.
If more MLB insiders respected Pierzynski as a person, perhaps his AL-record 962 consecutive errorless chances would be more widely celebrated.
8 Carl Everett
During his playing days, the outspoken homophobe claimed the Moon landing was a scripted event in a Hollywood studio and dinosaurs and their 200-plus million years of fossil history are merely hoaxes perpetuated by government agencies.
Early in his 14-year career, Carl Everett looked like he could develop into an MVP-type talent. He made two All-Star Game appearances and had 202 career home runs and 792 RBI. But as an emotional lighting-rod, he easily became infused with teammates, opponents, and media.
After his playing career, he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and had his daughter taken from his custody for charges “of excessive corporal punishment.”
7 Gary Sheffield
Gary Sheffield accused his employers, MLB executives, for favoruing Hispanic players over black players because they were more “controllable.” He even insinuated that black players were being pushed out of the league.
Oh, then he said Derek Jeter wasn't “all the way black” and levied racism charges against a former manager.
Hey, let’s invite Sheffield over for dinner! That could prove to be an interesting evening of conversation.
A clutch slugger with a violent batting stance - his bat contorting in waves of constant motion while he waited for a pitch to be delivered – Sheffield finished his eight-team, 22-year career with 509 home runs.
But Sheffield often dogged it on the field when he was not content with a situation and was a main suspect in the PED scandal that plagued baseball during his era.
6 Jose Canseco
The stories he recanted mostly have proved to be true – but it’s the fact that he told the stories that make Jose Canseco a hypocritical rat. Here was a slugger with Hall-of-Fame power, but his swing shriveled during his later years. He burned so many bridges, that the once-promising Oakland A’s slugger will remain a baseball outcast.
Canseco symbolizes all that was wrong with MLB’s “Steroid Era.”
Highlighting his 17-year career were 462 career home runs, six appearances in the All-Star Game, AL MVP, and AL Rookie of the Year honours. Lowlighting his career, Canseco penned a tell-all book, “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.” In it, he admitted to using steroids and named others who allegedly did, too.
Nobody likes a rat.
5 Albert Belle
In the locker room, he became known as “Snapper.”
Yes. Albert Belle was ill-tempered and crazy.
During the 1990s, Belle put up Hall of Fame numbers and scared opposing pitchers and unsuspecting baserunners as much as heckling fans.
A five-time All-Star, Belle blasted 381 career homers and drove in 1,239 RBIs. That’s where the personal accolades cease. Among his on-field indiscretions, Belle attempted to quiet a heckling fan by throwing a ball into the stands, he ravaged a locker-room bathroom while still a minor leaguer, and endured being benched for a lack of hustle and using a corked bat. Off the field, he faced charges for stalking a woman and chased children in his automobile for throwing eggs at his home during a Halloween prank.
Belle had one of the game’s worst tempers and often displayed it to team officials, teammates, and media.
4 Ty Cobb
What else can be written about a “Georgia Peach” who stormed the stands in a rage to engage a heckling fan. This fan, however, had recently lost fingers on both hands in a manufacturing accident. Didn’t seem to matter to Ty Cobb.
One of the dirtiest players in the history of the game, Cobb finished his career with a MLB-best .366 career average. He captured 11 batting titles and compiled 4,189 hits.
An outspoken racist, Cobb was known for sharpening his cleats to he could take out opposing infielders with hard slides and sparking on-field fisticuffs.
Cobb once fought an umpire under the grandstands following a game and once slapped a black elevator operator. When a black security guard rushed to the scene, Cobb pulled out a knife and stabbed him. The watchman did not suffer life-threating injuries and the case was eventually settled out of court.
3 John Rocker
In the span of one Sports Illustrated article in 1999, John Rocker went from an obscure personality to one of the most deeply despised athletes in modern-day history.
A power lefty, Rocker burst onto the closer scene with 38 saves, averaging nearly 13 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. The future was bright for Rocker, and then he provided the world with his personal opinions.
His mouth soon tattooed him to be an unapologetic bigot, homophobic, and racist. His middle finger directed at paying customers wore management’s patience even thinner. Rocker was thought to be the next great closing pitcher but his actions and attitude would soon derail his career.
Four years after the SI article, Rocker was out of baseball.
2 Barry Bonds
MLB’s all-time home run records were once among the most cherished in all of sports. Now, because Barry Bonds was the poster player for baseball’s PED era, the milestones have become afterthoughts.
Babe Ruth! Hank Aaron! And Bonds?
The closer the ever-moody Bonds came to Aaron’s record of 755 career home runs, the more cries went out by the masses to prevent the cheater from taking the record away from the game – and keep the home run mark a hallowed record.
Fans were tired of the endless steroid allegations and of Bonds’ disrespect toward the media and the sport.
But Bonds played on, his arrogance and ego growing as wide as the cavernous divide between his on-field successes and the game’s integrity.
1 Alex Rodriguez
One of the game’s top all-time talents, Alex Rodriguez has twice been suspended for PEDs. Entrapped in the Biogenesis Scandal, A-Rod was not only a user, but a provider to other players.
During his younger days, A-Rod often showed up his teammates with on-field antics. He signed record-shattering contracts and then complained publicly about the players surrounding him.
Sure, he was a two-time AL MVP and through 60 appearances this season, he clubbed 696 career home runs. Despite all his on-field success, A-Rod certainly will not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Or on a second ballot. Or a third …
It will take several years after 2021 (year of eligibility) for A-Rod to be enshrined in Cooperstown. A great talent, yes. A greater cheater, most definitely.
A-Rod's career has come to a close and the slugger will go down as one of the most controversial and hated ball players in MLB history.