Top 20 Players Entering Spring Training with a Chip on Their Shoulder
Every year there are players who go into season-long slumps.
Nobody can explain why, especially the player. It, for some reason, just seems to happen.
Whether it's an injury that derailed an All-Star-type season, a new team where the player underperformed or a season when things went wrong from the first day, there are a lot of MLB players who have a chip on their shoulder entering the 2012 season.
Here's a look at the top-20 players who will be playing with a chip on their shoulder.
20. Barry Zito
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The only reason Barry Zito is on this list is because he enters every year with a chip on his shoulder—he just doesn't produce.
After the San Francisco Giants signed the left-hander to a seven-year, $126 million contract in 2006, Zito has never lived up to expectations.
In his five years with the Giants, Zito has gone 43-61 with a 4.55 ERA and 587 strikeouts. He hasn't pitched in any of the postseason series the Giants have been in, and is really just collecting a check.
The chip will continue to be on Zito's shoulder. If he has another horrible season this year and next year, he'll find himself out of baseball, as no team is going to want him.
19. Dan Uggla
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After a slow start last year for Dan Uggla, this year the Atlanta Braves' second baseman is going to look to improve his numbers.
Even with his poor start Uggla managed to recover, hitting 36 home runs and 87 RBI for the season. His .233 average was the lowest of his career, but that's mainly due to his start.
Uggla is going to want to get out of the gate quickly this year. After last season, there's a chip on his shoulder to start better.
18. Brandon Phillips
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The biggest question mark surrounding Brandon Phillips is how long he will stay in a Cincinnati Reds uniform.
With his impending free agency, Phillips has to prove to the Reds that he's worth the big money he's going to ask for in the offseason, or he's going to have to prove to other teams that he's worth trading for.
Last year, Phillips hit .300 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI. This year, there's going to be a chip on his shoulder to produce those same numbers, or even better.
Regardless, I don't see Phillips staying in Cincinnati beyond this year. We'll just have to see if he's traded this year or walks in free agency next year.
One thing to look at as well is, if any team is looking to trade for Phillips during the season, they're going to want a guarantee that the second baseman will re-sign with them. If not, the team who gets him at the end of the season could be like the Giants when they acquired Carlos Beltran last year, seeing him get injured and their investment fall through.
17. Josh Hamilton
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Josh Hamilton is another player who will be a free agent after this season.
Although I don't think he'll leave the Texas Rangers, I believe his production this year will determine if he's a $15 million-a-year player or a $20 million-plus-a-year player.
That alone will put a chip on Hamilton's shoulder, not to mention that he had a relapse with alcohol during the offseason—which, in my opinion, is a non-story.
The biggest question for him this season is whether he can stay on the field. He's only played more than 135 games in a season once during his career. That clearly has to change if he wants to make $20 million a year.
16. Chipper Jones
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This is likely the last year for Chipper Jones in a baseball uniform. I don't see any reason why Chipper won't retire after this season.
With that, Chipper wants to make the playoffs one more time and make a run at the World Series one more time.
Just like what the Braves did in Bobby Cox's last season, they're going to want to play that same inspired baseball this year.
And maybe Jones can hit .300 with 20-plus home runs and 90-plus RBI just one more time.
15. Kyle Drabek
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Last year, he went 4-5 with a 6.06 ERA and 51 strikeouts. Not exactly what the Jays are looking for out of a pitcher they got in the Roy Halladay deal.
Drabek enters spring training with a major chip on his shoulder. If he doesn't prove himself in spring training, he'll find himself back in Triple-A, where he may stay the entire season.
For his sake, I'm hoping Drabek gets things together and can insert himself into the Toronto rotation.
14. Carl Crawford
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I believe last year was a fluke for Carl Crawford, in his first season with the Boston Red Sox.
Crawford hit a career-low .255 with 11 home runs, 56 RBI and only 18 stolen bases—not exactly worth the seven-year, $142 million contract he signed in the offseason.
The speedy outfielder has to prove he's worth the money the Red Sox are paying him. I think he wants to prove that he is, which is why he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
I look for Crawford to come out of the gates firing on all cylinders, putting all of Red Sox Nation at ease.
13. David Wright
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It's likely that David Wright is in his last year with the New York Mets.
So, it comes down to him auditioning for other teams.
Can he prove that last year and 2009 were fluke years in which he didn't produce?
The Mets will be looking for Wright to get back to 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI, even though it's likely he'll be moving on after the season.
Teams will be hesitant to acquire him during the season, as there is no guarantee that he'll re-sign with them in the offseason—thank you, Carlos Beltran.
12. Cole Hamels
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As the 2008 World Series MVP, Cole Hamels never thought that he would have to take a backseat to two other pitchers as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
But, that's the position he's in, thus making it unlikely that he'll return to the Phillies after this season.
While I believe there's still an opportunity for the Phillies to re-sign him, I think that Hamels is going to want to go somewhere where he can be the ace or No. 2 pitcher.
That's why Hamels is going to be playing with a major chip on his shoulder this year. He wants to prove to the other teams that he has what it takes to be the top dog or No. 2.
11. Grady Sizemore
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Grady Sizemore is in danger of being written off totally as a baseball player, mainly because he's failed to stay healthy with the Cleveland Indians.
In the last three years, Sizemore has played a total of 210 games—not exactly what the Indians are looking for from the centerpiece of the team.
Being a free agent after this season, Sizemore is going to have to prove to any team out there (not just the Indians) that's he's worth more than a few million a year.
If the last three years are any indication, I don't believe he'll be worth much more than that.
However, if he can stay on the field and produce, I don't see any reason why he can't make $10 million or more a year.
10. Buster Posey
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Buster Posey has a major chip on his shoulder this year for the Giants.
After getting injured last year in a home-plate collision, Posey wants to help lead his team back to the playoffs.
This year, manager Bruce Bochy has instructed Posey not to block the plate.
Coming into spring training, I believe Posey has his sights set on pushing his team to the playoffs and helping a pitching staff that didn't receive any run support last year.
9. Prince Fielder
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The Detroit Tigers made headlines this offseason with the signing of Prince Fielder.
The ironic thing is had Victor Martinez not gone down with an injury, Fielder would likely still be in the National League somewhere.
Fielder is going to have to prove that he's worth the nine years and $214 million he signed for.
Most Tigers fans believe that if Fielder doesn't hit close to 40 home runs and have more than 100 RBI, then he is a huge waste of money.
With that, Fielder knows he has to produce—and with Miguel Cabrera either before or after him in the lineup, he'll get a lot of opportunities to do so.
8. Ubaldo Jimenez
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Ubaldo Jimenez is finally out of Colorado and Coors Field.
He now gets a full season in Cleveland and doesn't have to worry about the altitude.
Although he was only 4-4 with 5.10 ERA in 11 starts with Cleveland last year, most will credit that to him trying to get used to a change in scenery.
Jimenez realizes this year he has no excuses and is going to have to produce like he did back in 2010.
Should he slip up, Jimenez will no longer be looked to as an ace, but instead will be a No. 2 or 3 starter at best.
7. Mark Buehrle
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Mark Buehrle signed a four-year, $58 million deal with the Miami Marlins in the offseason.
With the expectations of coming in as the No. 2 starter—maybe No. 1, depending on Josh Johnson's situation—Buehrle is going to have to show the magic this year in Miami.
One thing on Buehrle's side is the fact that he's been consistent throughout his big-league career. However, all of that was in the American League.
Will that success carry over into the National League?
I'm sure Buehrle will have something to prove—not only to himself, but the rest of the league.
6. Ryan Braun
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There is a huge cloud hanging over Ryan Braun this year.
Even though he won his appeal, the 50-game suspension coming from MLB for the Milwaukee Brewers' superstar has caused Braun to have a major chip on his shoulder—not only personally, but for his team as well.
The cloud of doubt will continue to remain over Braun, so he's going to have to prove that he can produce at the same level as when he allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs.
Then there's the fact that Prince Fielder is now gone from Milwaukee. Braun is the only superstar left on the team, and he's going to have to pick up the pace a little once he returns from suspension.
The weight of Milwaukee will be on his shoulders.
5. Jayson Werth
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Jayson Werth is not a superstar, even though the Washington Nationals are paying him like he's one.
After having three outstanding years in Philadelphia, Werth came to Washington and simply hasn't lived up to his billing.
After a year in which he hit .232 with 20 home runs and 58 RBI, Werth knows he has to produce better. He knows he has to be an example on the field and in the locker room to the young roster.
Moving him out of the middle of the order could be the key for Werth this season. Hitting him sixth might just be what it's going to take for him to produce more.
4. All of the Boston Red Sox
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The entire roster for the Red Sox is going to have a chip on their collective shoulder entering the 2012 season.
After the biggest September collapse in major-league history, the Red Sox have to prove that it was all a fluke last year.
With new manager Bobby Valentine, a new general manager and much of the same roster, the Red Sox have to make believers out of their fans again.
I imagine spring training is going to be a little more intense, as well as the regular season.
No more beer drinking in the clubhouse during the games, and a little more team chemistry might be exactly what the Red Sox need to make it back to the playoffs.
3. A.J. Burnett
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Gone are those New York expectations, and now Burnett can focus on getting back to the way he played while he was with Toronto.
In his final year in Toronto, he went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA. If he can get back to those numbers for the Pirates, I'm sure Burnett will be happy.
Still, there is a chip on his shoulder to prove he is a good pitcher and that it was just New York and not the fact that he's a bad pitcher.
2. Hanley Ramirez
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The one player who hated to see the Marlins sign Jose Reyes more than anything was Hanley Ramirez.
With the signing of Reyes, HanRam is forced to move to third base, which isn't something he's thrilled with.
But, being the professional he his (using that loosely), I believe Ramirez will adapt to playing third base.
Still, there's a chip on his shoulder to improve upon last year's dismal numbers and get back to the player who used to be the No. 1 pick in most fantasy-baseball drafts.
1. Adam Dunn
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The Chicago White Sox signed Adam Dunn last year thinking they had their designated hitter/first baseman for the next four years.
However, Dunn didn't produce like many thought he would.
For the first time since 2003, Dunn didn't hit more than 38 home runs. If he hopes to hang around, he's going to have to do better.
If he doesn't, then Dunn will be gone from the South Side fast.