50 Most Self-Centered Baseball Players of All Time
For all the great memories that baseball has given us during its great history, there have also been a number of players, teams and incidents that haven't resembled everything this game stands for.
I use the term "self-centered" loosely in some regards, as a list like this could include people found guilty of corking bats, doctoring pitches, fighting with teammates and obviously using steroids—basically, any way a player could put himself in a position to negatively impact the organization that writes his paychecks.
A simple negative moment won't always permanently tarnish a player's legacy, but some players are clearly far more severe offenders that likely won't ever see their reputations return to respectability.
As one of the most outspoken players to appear before Congress during the hearings surrounding steroids, Rafael Palmeiro very adamantly denied using any steroids.
Just a few months later, Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, receiving a 10-game ban.
It seems like all of south Florida jumped for joy when Jose Reyes signed a multi-year contract to play shortstop for the resurgent Miami Marlins.
One person who wasn't jumping, however, was Hanley Ramirez. It's no secret that he wasn't happy about being forced to move to third base, no matter how much the move could help the team.
He seems to be working his way into it, but I don't think anyone would be surprised if he grew tired of it during the season and demanded a trade.
Gary "Kid" Carter was one of the greatest catchers to play the game, and his recent passing has the game of baseball missing one of the more memorable figures to take the field.
His demeanor made him appear to be one of the great fan favorites, although believe it or not, teammates didn't always see it that way. Some took it as far as nicknaming him "Camera" Carter, saying that his fun-loving nature was just an act.
There may have actually been something to it, as Sports Illustrated once named him one of the most disliked players in the game.
Darryl Strawberry was a very talented player who made a number of teams better when he was in the lineup.
Unfortunately for Strawberry, he had a number of personal issues, namely his constant battles with drug addiction, that kept him from displaying the full extent of his abilities. In the end, he hurt both himself and the teams he played for.
Of all the people Billy Hatcher could have blamed for using a corked bat, he opted to throw his own pitchers under the bus.
The incident was precipitated after Hatcher's broken bat made its way out to the Chicago infield in a game versus the Cubs in 1987.
One of the game's first true stars, Cap Anson gave all he had for 27 major league seasons.
His most notorious impact on the game may be how he used his influence to make sure racial segregation was a part of baseball. There were a number of instances during exhibition games in which he refused to take the field when the opposing team had African-American players on it.
Just one at-bat after hitting a home run against the Detroit Tigers in September of 1974, Graig Nettles broke his bat on a single, leaving seven balls on the field—one coming from the pitcher, the other six from inside his bat.
He played dumb and said that bat was given to him by a fan, but his single was ultimately disallowed.
It may just be one self-centered incident in an entire career, but you can't throw the fans that pay to come and see you under the bus in an effort to get ahead; that'll catch up with you.
In a clubhouse with superstars like the New York Yankees had, you could see where Reggie Jackson and his elite status may have issues sharing the attention.
His thoughts about himself are summed up best by a quote (up for debate) that was noted in a May 1977 issue of Sport:
This team, it all flows from me. I'm the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and (Thurman) Munson, but he can only stir it bad.
Frank Thomas is one of the most well-recognized players in Chicago White Sox history, and while he's still a fan favorite, he didn't always appear that way to teammates.
He was known as one of the most self-centered players in the clubhouse and was at times eager to put his personal accomplishments in front of those of his team.
As one of the most notable names on the Mitchell Report that alleges a number of steroid users, Roger Clemens was indicted on felony counts for perjury and obstruction of Congress based on the statements he made under oath.
His trial began last summer; however, it was quickly declared a mistrial based on misconduct by the prosecution.
Jose Guillen's temper may have gotten the best of him in what was a career that probably could've taken him further than it did.
His inability to get along with teammates and coaches certainly didn't help him find a consistent home, as he put in time with a third of the league.
One of the most successful knuckleballers of all time, Joe Niekro won 221 games during his 22-year career in baseball, four times pitching over 250 innings in a season.
Perhaps his most notable act, however, came during the Minnesota Twins' 1987 season, when Niekro was suspended for 10 games after an umpire discovered he had a nail file in his pocket.
His argument was that he was filing his nails in the dugout and simply forgot it was in his pocket, but the league didn't listen, as he had to serve out his suspension.
Nyjer Morgan certainly has his moments on the field, but it seems like he's just as well known for the sideshow that he brings to any team he's on.
Whether he's Tony Plush, Tony Gumbo or anyone else he conjures up, he could wear out any welcome if he lets it get in the way of his play on the field.
Dick Allen is one of those players who is occasionally considered among the best former ballplayers who doesn't have a home in the Hall of Fame.
He seemingly has good enough numbers, but the negative interactions he had on a regular basis with the media and teammates didn't help him win over any voters.
Led by John McGraw, known as one of the biggest cheaters in baseball's early history, the Giants won three World Series thanks in no small part to grabbing opposing baserunners when in the field and skipping over bases themselves when running the bases.
These sort of things would be difficult to accomplish today, but with a single umpire calling games at the time, I wouldn't doubt that a number of teams regularly used such tactics to gain an advantage.
After testing positive for a banned women's fertility drug in 2009, Manny Ramirez was handed a 50-game suspension, but he wasn't done there.
Last year he tested positive once again, this time receiving a 100-game ban, after which he retired. He has since come out of retirement to sign a minor-league deal with the A's.
Just Manny being Manny, I guess.
Carl Everett is remembered by many for the flashes of brilliance that he showed, if even for a single at-bat.
But what the majority of us likely remember him for are the numerous altercations he had with umpires, some resulting in extended suspensions.
There's also the fact that he's a blatant homophobe, made public in an interview with Maxim when he said that "Gays being gay is wrong" and "Two women can't produce a baby, two men can't produce a baby, so it's not how it's supposed to be. … I don't believe in gay marriages. I don't believe in being gay."
He also noted that if he had a gay teammate, he'd either consider retiring or "set them straight."
Carlos Zambrano has surfaced in south Florida with the Miami Marlins, where he'll be working alongside the also fiery Ozzie Guillen.
His explosive personality has been a detriment to clubhouses, and while it's no doubt a distraction, walking away from his team may have been the best thing for them.
Jeff Kent's passion for the game while playing can't be denied.
But his outspoken nature and sometimes hot-headed temper alienated him in every clubhouse, as his fighting with teammates became a distraction to organizations aiming to win championships.
The Black Sox Culprits
Widely regarded as the biggest scandal in the longstanding history of baseball, the 1919 Black Sox scandal involved eight members of the Chicago White Sox that conspired to intentionally throw the World Series, giving the Cincinnati Reds the title.
Chick Gandil, Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and Lefty Williams were among the eight players banned for life from baseball after their conspiracy was brought to light.
It'll be interesting to see how much Alex Rodriguez's admission of steroid usage tarnishes his legacy as the milestones begin to approach.
After an initial denial of usage, Rodriguez later admitted that he used steroids for a few years in the early 2000s, citing an "enormous amount of pressure" to produce results worthy of his large contract.
I guess with the amount of money he has, we shouldn't be surprised he loves himself as much as he does.
Milton Bradley's time in the league was seemingly always mired in controversy.
In 2007, as a member of the San Diego Padres, he actually managed to tear his ACL while being restrained by manager Bud Black.
With the Chicago Cubs in 2009, Bradley was sent home during a game by manager Lou Piniella after throwing a tantrum in the dugout.
When you have the amount of immense talent that allows you to play multiple sports at a professional level, it may be hard not to be a little bit full of yourself.
For football fans out there, we still have plenty of opportunities to see Prime Time in front of the camera, somewhere he clearly loves being.
On the surface, Johnny Damon actually seems like a great teammate, as he's played an important part on a number of postseason rosters and has been effective wherever he's been.
He might even still be playing right now if general managers didn't believe that his personal goal of reaching 3,000 hits would be detrimental to their teams.
Before there was the Black Sox scandal of 1919, there was Hal Chase, who was actually regarded as the best first baseman of his time by such peers as Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth.
Chase was known widely for the corruption he brought to the game, gambling frequently on matchups and at times throwing games.
Testifying before Congress along with a number of baseball's sluggers in 2005, Mark McGwire left more questions than answers, as he failed to directly address any usage of performance-enhancing drugs.
He would eventually come clean, however, saying that he used them on and off for more than a decade, including during his historic 1998 season.
Sammy Sosa certainly experienced a stronger than anticipated power surge during the peak of his career, and it was that very fact that gave him something in common with players like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire as he testified before Congress during a 2005 hearing.
Despite adamantly denying that he took any illegal drugs, a 2009 report released by The New York Times indicated he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.
Though he was never actually caught or suspended for such an action, Kenny Rogers was widely accused by members of the St. Louis Cardinals, including hitting coach Hal McRae, of using pine tar to doctor the ball during Game 2 of the 2006 World Series.
When asked, McRae wasn't shy about calling Rogers to task on his actions:
He wasn't just cheating by using pine tar; he was scuffing balls, too. We collected about five or six balls that are scuffed. He had to be using his fingernails or something.
His run-in with a cameraman during pregame warmups didn't help his image any either.
Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder will form their own version of the bash brothers in 2012 as the Detroit Tigers look to get back into the postseason and hopefully the World Series.
Cabrera is no doubt one of the game's elite offensive players, but his struggles with alcohol abuse have been hindrances on multiple occasions, and he once needed to be picked up from the police station by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.
Bret Boone's bulky stature in 2001 was fairly surprising given the small frame he had previously boasted in the league, but it wasn't really until he was directly mentioned in Jose Canseco's book that the speculation took on a new level of hype.
Canseco noted that he was surprised by Boone's physique and that they spoke about what they were taking. While Boone denied any claims from Canseco, he still didn't gain any fans as the speculation about whether or not he was juicing gained steam.
No matter what the answer ends up being, Pete Rose's eventual admission (after years of denials) of gambling on games both as a player and manager for the Cincinnati Reds has sparked a debate that every baseball fan has at least some opinion on.
The issue regarding whether Rose will or should be allowed back into baseball will remain a hotly debated talking point until a new commissioner (since it won't be Bud Selig) decides to take on the topic.
One of many names on this list to appear on the Mitchell Report, star closer Eric Gagne was implicated for his usage of HGH in 2004.
His non-admission left more questions than answers, as he was remorseful for actions but wouldn't get into any further specifics than that:
I'm not denying it. I'm not saying I did it. I just can't talk about it. It's a touchy subject. It doesn't just involve me. I've been straightforward about everything. It [stinks] that I can't be about this. I'm not looking for sympathy anyway. I have to live with this the rest of my life. I'm going to have to explain this to my kids. It's going to be on my resume the rest of my life.
Ranked fourth all-time in stolen bases, Ty Cobb swiped his fair share of bags in his day thanks in no small part to the fact that he regularly sharpened his spikes.
This may not have been an illegal act in terms of the game during the time, but it's impossible to say that it didn't provide an unfair mental advantage as he came barreling into a bag.
Some would say it's better late than never to come clean, but it took a 2004 San Francisco Chronicle report indicating Jason Giambi's steroid usage from 2001 to 2003 for the slugger to publicly apologize to fans for his actions and detriment they may have caused.
It wasn't until 2007, however, that he publicly addressed specifically using steroids, including his self-injections of HGH during the 2003 season.
Derek Jeter is one of those players who has a way of rubbing fanbases of any other team the wrong way.
Whether it's his bachelor-to-the-max style or the public way his most recent contract negotiations developed, Jeter has been an easy target for anyone outside the Bronx.
Playing for six different teams during his 12-year career, Gabe Kapler never hit the 20-home run mark in a season.
When you look at his physique, it's hard to believe he wasn't able to send more balls into the stands. I guess he never realized that spending all his time in the gym wouldn't translate into anything valuable for his teammates.
Dave Kingman was one of baseball's most feared hitters during the peak of his career, but he was also one of its least approachable figures on the field and lost favor quickly in the public spectrum.
He once took his antics so far as to send a rat to a female reporter, with a sign noting her name attached to it, an incident for which he was fined $3,500.
Former teammate Omar Vizquel noted that "all" of Albert Belle's bats were corked, likely leading to the power he produced while in Cleveland, but it was a particular incident that stuck out among others.
After Belle's bat was confiscated before a game due to suspicion of corking, Indians pitcher Jason Grimsley actually made an attempt during the game to swap the bat.
The ploy didn't work, and Belle was suspended for a week.
Rickey Henderson is the best base stealer of all time, and we may very well never see his record fall, forever etching his place in baseball history.
For every bit as good as he was, he wasn't ashamed to let the league, fans and of course the media know it.
I have a general problem with people referring to themselves in the third person, so Rickey finds his way onto the list.
Gary Sheffield's most infamous remarks came in a 2007 issue of GQ when he called out the league as a whole for the treatment of African-American players, by virtue of noting the league's ability to "control" Latino and Hispanic players:
What I said is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out. ... (It’s about) being able to tell (Latin players) what to do—being able to control them. Where I’m from, you can’t control us. They have more to lose than we do. You can send them back across the island. You can’t send us back. We’re already here.
He also played a part in the league's widespread PED scandal, as his testimony in front of a grand jury first brought to light his steroid usage. But he didn't stop with a simple admission, further noting that he received the steroids from none other than baseball's home run champion, Barry Bonds.
A.J. Pierzynski has been considered one of the most hated players in the game.
While many in the league were probably happy when he was drilled by Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, his staged altercation in the wrestling ring was one of the more memorable self-serving memories he's provided us over the years.
Barry Bonds may be baseball's all-time home run champion, but he'll never be confused with baseball's most likable player. His unapproachable demeanor alienated teammate after teammate, and the PED scandal hasn't in any way helped his image.
Indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007, Bonds has spent just as much time in the limelight for the controversy as he has for his home-run-hitting tendencies.
Testifying that he used a cream provided by a strength trainer would ultimately be his demise, as that would lead to his conviction on the obstruction of justice charge.
Todd Jones did have a few effective years as a pitcher in the league, but his work didn't stop on the mound, as he made it a point to become an outspoken opponent of homosexuality.
In an interview with the Denver Post (h/t Baseball Prospectus), he brought to life his true feelings:
I wouldn't want a gay guy being around me. It's got nothing to do with me being scared. That's the problem: all these people say he's got all these rights. Yeah, he's got rights or whatever, but he shouldn't walk around proud.
As if exposing his racial bias in Sports Illustrated wasn't enough, John Rocker was also quick to admit the steroid usage that he was implicated of in the spring of 2007.
When asked about his usage by New York Baseball Digest, his response was, “Yeah, of course I was [using steroids]. I mean who wasn’t? Let’s be honest here, who wasn’t?”
There's no doubt that Vince Coleman had a great deal of talent, but unfortunately it wasn't in any way enough to outweigh all the distractions that he brought to a clubhouse.
Whether it was the numerous arguments he got into with managers and teammates, his ignoring of base coaches' signs on the basepaths or the incident in which he actually threw a lit firecracker into a group of fans, Coleman was a mess much of the time.
After Chuck Knoblauch helped lead the Minnesota Twins to a World Series championship in 1991, fans in Minnesota thought they had their middle infielder of the future.
That wouldn't last, as he eventually demanded a trade out of Minnesota and burned every bridge in the Twin Cities on his way out.
Knoblauch fell out of favor in more than one city, however, so his appearance on the Mitchell Report likely didn't come as a surprise to some.
According to the report, he purchased HGH multiple times and was injected by trainer Brian McNamee on a number of occasions.
Elijah Dukes was one of those players who clearly wasn't in the game for the right reasons and only had his personal interests in mind.
His temper was so bad that the Washington Nationals actually had to hire a special assistant who followed Dukes around to make sure he didn't get into trouble.
Apparently the assistant wasn't around when he was arrested for possession of narcotics and destroying evidence after he tried to eat a bag of marijuana.
Although Lenny Dykstra never met with the Mitchell investigative group that sought answers regarding their report of widespread steroid use, he was still implicated as a user of anabolic steroids during his career.
Since his playing career ended, Dykstra has also been arrested on charges of grand theft, embezzlement, obstruction of justice and bankruptcy fraud, as he destroyed, hid and sold personal possessions and highly valued sports memorabilia without consent.
Bo Jackson's exploits on the football field were impressive enough, as the former Heisman Trophy winner still has the fastest 40-second time ever recorded at the NFL combine (4.12 seconds).
On the baseball field, Jackson was a one-time All-Star and hit at least 22 home runs in four of his eight career seasons. He wasn't afraid to capitalize on his successes, as he loved being in front of the camera.
But hey, "Bo knows baseball."
Jose Canseco's massive stature alone may have tied him to speculation surrounding the usage of steroids during his career, but Canseco confirmed it in 2005 with the release of his book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.
Canseco took his admission even further in his book, stating that around 85 percent of the league was on steroids.
He also used his time in the spotlight to out former teammates Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and others on their usage and hasn't turned down any opportunity to give himself attention whenever possible.