Ranking the 50 Most Famous Baseball Players
Professional baseball players need motivation to compete throughout the ceaseless season.
While wealth and winning are powerful incentives, don't underestimate their craving for fame.
Men want to be recognized for being elite athletes. These 50 active players definitely are.
Of course, becoming famous can be achieved in various ways: individual excellence, affiliation with successful teams, high-profile relationships, commercial exposure, etc. My rankings analyze each guy's unique social situation and order them by current popularity.
Anybody who earned a professional salary in 2012 was considered for this list of the sport's most well-known figures.
50. Billy Hamilton (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
The top prospect garnered our attention during his pursuit of the all-time single-season stolen base record. He finished with 155 in only 132 games!
Billy Hamilton was dominant in 2012, but even pressure from fans and media couldn't make the Cincinnati Reds recall him from the minor leagues. After all, he had never played a game above the Double-A level.
Unless someone can literally slow Hamilton down, his popularity will continue to rise.
49. Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies)
When healthy, Troy Tulowitzki might be the best shortstop in the world.
Unfortunately, that is never a guarantee. The fragile face of the Colorado Rockies has eclipsed 150 games just once in the past five seasons.
His contributions are very much appreciated by members of the fantasy baseball community.
48. Kevin Youkilis (Chicago White Sox)
Players who adopt unconventional mechanics and techniques aren't always noticed.
But Kevin Youkilis has thrived with a wacky batting stance for many years. He's not sneaking under anybody's radar at this point in his career.
47. Manny Ramirez (Unsigned)
Manny Ramirez had a meager .349 slugging percentage for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats this past summer.
Though his playing career seems to be quickly deteriorating, his name remains very prominent.
Ramirez famously brought "Mannywood" to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. It was a craze that propelled the team into the playoffs and had analysts debating where he ranked among history's greatest right-handed hitters.
Unfortunately, we also know him as a selfish teammate who twice violated Major League Baseball's policy on performance-enhancing drug use. Mike Fish of ESPN.com writes that he was caught with a female fertility drug in 2009.
46. Jose Canseco (Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings)
From one PED user to another.
The fact that Jose Canseco is still attempting an MLB comeback is pretty pathetic.
However, the slugger's claim to fame since originally retiring in 2001 is the tell-all book Juiced. Canseco blended true accounts with irresponsible accusations in a way that did more harm than good.
He's just a hotheaded snitch.
45. A.J. Burnett (Pittsburgh Pirates)
It sounds cruel, but A.J. Burnett would've been a lot more tolerable in New York if he wasn't so darn healthy. He was among the American League leaders in walks, hit batsmen and wild pitches during his three-year tenure...and he earned $16.5 million per season.
Burnett immediately made headlines following a trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He bunted a ball off his face in spring training and missed several April starts while recovering from a fractured orbital bone.
In all seriousness, though, a bounce-back year (16-8, 3.53 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) has made him newsworthy again.
44. Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies)
In 2011, Roy Halladay had one of the five best-selling MLB jerseys, according to Majestic—and for good reason.
Over the previous decade, he's pitched with impeccable control. Doc has perennially ranked among the league leaders in wins, earned run average, strikeout-to-walk ratio and complete games.
The right-hander has won AL and NL Cy Young awards and thrown the only postseason no-hitter of the past half-century.
One lousy year (10-8, 4.40 ERA in 24 GS) was not nearly enough to drop him from the company of the game's most famous.
43. Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds)
Brandon Phillips is an entertainer.
He makes the flashiest defensive plays of any active middle infielder. We've seen him go between the legs, behind the back and over the shoulder to record an out.
Phillips is also active on Twitter. Though most of his posts are playful and clever, he caused quite the uproar earlier this season when he accused an opponent of racist remarks.
42. Robinson Cano (New York Yankees)
On a New York Yankees team loaded with future Hall of Famers, second baseman Robinson Cano has quietly distinguished himself as the club's best player.
Since 2010, he has annually been worth at least five Wins Above Replacement (via Baseball-Reference.com).
Cano surprised most viewers by winning the 2011 Home Run Derby in Arizona.
41. Jose Reyes (Miami Marlins)
Jose Reyes was unstoppable in his contract year with the New York Mets. His debut season with the Miami Marlins was rather impressive too, and he still ought to be considered one of the game's most dynamic individuals.
40. Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees)
It's hard to fathom how he hits for such power with a modest physical build.
The skeptics insisted that Curtis Granderson's 2011 campaign was a fluke. But though the batting average has dropped and the strikeout rate has risen, the center fielder crossed the 40-home run threshold for a second straight season.
Granderson is known worldwide as an ambassador for Major League Baseball International. He has made promotional visits to Italy, China and New Zealand.
39. Adrian Gonzalez (Los Angeles Dodgers)
When the Boston Red Sox seemed close to imploding at midseason, we learned that players spoke with ownership via text message and demanded that manager Bobby Valentine be fired. The request was apparently sent from Adrian Gonzalez's phone.
However, the first baseman is primarily known as an exceptional, middle-of-the-order hitter. Gonzalez has driven in 100-plus runs in five of the past six seasons.
38. Chris Carpenter (St. Louis Cardinals)
Chris Carpenter went undefeated (3-0) last September as the St. Louis Cardinals improbably qualified for the postseason. He continued to amaze in October and pitched well enough to win the pivotal seventh game of the World Series.
This fall, he's being extolled as the force that will stabilize the team's rotation as it attempts to repeat.
37. Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati Reds)
The Cuban Missile has thrown the fastest recorded pitch in MLB history (105.1 mph).
Aroldis Chapman was touted as a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate for much of the 2012 season.
He has yet to allow a hit since returning from shoulder fatigue. Cincinnati Reds fans should feel confident in putting him on the mound this postseason.
36. Hanley Ramirez (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Hanley Ramirez is famously apathetic. He simply hasn't given the same effort since signing a $70 million contract extension a couple years ago.
I could spend all day replaying his fluid follow-through in my mind, over and over again.
35. Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies)
Cole Hamels' rationale for plunking Bryce Harper still isn't clear.
At least we're guaranteed to see them duel frequently in the coming years. Prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, the Philadelphia Phillies made a long-term commitment to their dominant southpaw.
34. Tim Lincecum (San Francisco Giants)
It's been an enigmatic season of struggles for Tim Lincecum (10-15, 5.15 ERA, 1.48 WHIP).
Things have gradually improved for The Freak, but he'll continue to lose relevance in the Bay Area if he underachieves this postseason.
33. David Price (Tampa Bay Rays)
The Tampa Bay Rays used their No. 1 draft pick wisely in 2007 by selecting David Price. He's a legitimate ace with all the right intangibles.
Great sense of humor too (via MLB.com).
32. Pablo Sandoval (San Francisco Giants)
This year, Pablo Sandoval—aka "Kung Fu Panda"—has been associated with poor eating habits and alleged sexual assault (via the Los Angeles Times).
Much of that is overlooked, however. We're all captivated by his sneaky athleticism and pure hitting ability.
31. Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)
The Seattle Mariners might have disappeared into oblivion without Felix Hernandez.
Over the past few years, he has single-handedly kept them in the news with masterful pitching. He reached the pinnacle on August 15 by hurling a perfect game.
30. Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Andrew McCutchen is the East Coast version of King Felix.
He literally carried the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup through the season's first half and kept hope alive that they could finish at .500 for the first time in two decades. Though that doesn't seem realistic at this point, the 2012 NL MVP candidate has firmly established himself as a superstar.
29. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
The city of Los Angeles held its breath for a few days in September when it was feared that Clayton Kershaw would need season-ending hip surgery.
False alarm—he missed just one start.
Kershaw is the best pitcher on a team that has spent lavishly to return to national prominence.
28. Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants)
Matt Cain's perfecto might be "one of the most dominant nine-inning performances in major league history," explains SI.com's Cliff Corcoran.
His days of being the unheralded ace of the San Francisco Giants have certainly passed.
27. Jered Weaver (Los Angeles Angels)
At 6'7" and 210 pounds, lanky Jered Weaver sticks out in any crowd.
He's also unusual from a baseball perspective. You rarely see a finesse pitcher with stats comparable to the league's elite fire-ballers.
26. Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds)
Several top National League first basemen have fled to the other circuit in recent years, but Joey Votto wasn't patient enough to test the free-agent market.
He had 225 million reasons to remain in Cincinnati.
25. Prince Fielder (Detroit Tigers)
He's a big man with a big personality, signed to a big contract and enjoying a big season. Prince Fielder isn't hiding from anyone.
24. Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals)
Stephen Strasburg was hyped as much as any amateur in big league history coming out of San Diego State in 2009. I can still remember ESPN broadcasting his final collegiate start live and obsessively covering his contract negotiations with the Washington Nationals.
Now we understand what all the hubbub was about! Strasburg performed admirably before his controversial innings limit kicked in this season.
23. R.A. Dickey (New York Mets)
Plenty of notoriety comes with being the lone active major league knuckleballer. R.A. Dickey is helped further by playing in the New York City area, contending for the 2012 NL Cy Young Award and writing a bestselling biography.
Dickey's humility is yet another refreshing deviation from the norm.
22. Brian Wilson (San Francisco Giants)
21. Nick Swisher (New York Yankees)
Nick Swisher paces Major League Baseball in one all-important stat: Twitter followers (nearly 1.6 million).
The right fielder is dead weight every postseason and is a defensive liability, but his infectious enthusiasm draws our attention. New York Yankees fans adore him, while most others doubt that his act is genuine.
Off the field, Swisher is known for appearing on How I Met Your Mother, releasing his own children's album and being married to actress Joanna Garcia (Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Reba).
20. Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
Miguel Cabrera is vying for the American League Triple Crown with just days remaining in the 2012 regular season. We're on the edge of our seats as he aims to become the first MLB player since 1967 to accomplish the feat.
Cabrera has been a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter for many years. He's finally getting well-deserved recognition for his offensive prowess.
19. Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals)
How could a teenager crack the top 20?
"That's a clown question, bro."
Bryce Harper's comment during an early-season road trip went viral. Under Armour and several other clothing manufacturers profited from his prominence by pasting the quote on t-shirts.
He has surpassed aforementioned superstars on this all-famous list with a terrific rookie campaign.
18. Chipper Jones (Atlanta Braves)
Chipper Jones plans to end his career following the 2012 postseason.
Ironically, his impending retirement has come as a huge popularity boost.
Consider the National League Final Vote, which was held prior to the 2012 All-Star break. Jones led David Freese (the reigning World Series MVP), Bryce Harper and other reputable candidates before being selected as an injury replacement.
The past few injury-riddled campaigns have done nothing to diminish his public perception.
17. Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels)
The only thing more impressive than Albert Pujols' .325/.415/.609 triple-slash line during the regular season is his .330/.439/.607 dominance in the playoffs.
He'll forever be remembered for derailing Brad Lidge's career with a ninth-inning blast in 2005. He further bolstered a sparkling October resume with a three-homer night during the 2011 World Series.
Pujols was seen as a difference-maker on past successful teams, and that has led to widespread recognition.
16. Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins)
Joe Mauer was quick to admit that he's "really boring" in an interview with ESPN The Magazine's Tim Keown.
Without being the least bit controversial or looking for work outside of small-market Minneapolis, the catcher has become immensely popular.
Gracing the cover of MLB 10: The Show and MLB 11: The Show, both best-selling video games, allowed him to reach a new demographic.
15. Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays)
Despite representing an even tinier MLB organization, Evan Longoria influences many members of the population.
Over the past few years, I doubt anybody has delivered as frequently in the clutch.
14. Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Fantasy sports have grown into a huge industry, so excelling in traditional statistical categories is a common route to notoriety.
Matt Kemp nearly achieved a 40-40 season in 2011, and that changed the course of his baseball career.
There's no doubt that playing in the metropolis of Los Angeles and dating pop artist Rihanna also helped get his name out there.
13. Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers)
Being named National League MVP and allegedly testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs both drew a lot of eyes to Ryan Braun (for very different reasons, of course). Ultimately, his "incriminating" drug test results from last October's playoffs proved to be invalid.
After duplicating his gaudy offensive numbers in 2012 without any suspicion of elevated testosterone, you could say he escaped the situation relatively unscathed.
12. Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox)
Vertically challenged Dustin Pedroia is scrappy yet successful in baseball's most intense media market.
He's held the Boston Red Sox clubhouse together during a turbulent season that included the movement of many high-profile players and speculation that ownership could sell the franchise (via Charlie Gasparino, Fox Business).
11. David Wright (New York Mets)
The New York Mets' all-time hits leader is known around the globe. He is the face of his position, having logged more innings at third base than anyone since breaking into the big leagues in 2004.
10. Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers)
This guy is about to rise even higher.
Josh Hamilton's Texas Rangers are on the cusp of clinching a third consecutive postseason berth and getting another opportunity to seize that elusive World Series victory.
Wherever his playoff run ends, Hamilton will enter free agency as the most sought-after individual on the market. He'll be the subject of constant conversations while teams court him with multi-year offers.
Then, further down the road, we'll see him—or at least an actor's portrayal of him—on the big screen. Casey Affleck has agreed to produce a movie based on his life, according to Micah J Gordon of Movie Fanatic.
9. Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers)
Let's not forget about the huge audience that follows baseball overseas.
Japan is obsessed with America's pastime, especially its countrymen who head west for a greater challenge.
Yu Darvish spent five seasons as the beast of the Pacific League in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball. Aside from being an outstanding player, he modeled for various magazine covers and dated at least one prominent actress.
Darvish is gradually meeting lofty expectations in the United States too. Since mid-August, he's arguably been the No. 1 pitcher in the major leagues.
8. Mariano Rivera (New York Yankees)
All-time saves leader Mariano Rivera has revolutionized the cut fastball and the closer's role. Missing most of the summer with a torn ACL hasn't changed that.
His pitching is distinct, and his accomplishments are unrivaled.
7. Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)
6. David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)
David Ortiz is the last remaining link between modern-day Beantown baseball and the unforgettable 2004 Boston Red Sox.
He's among the coolest personalities in the sport and consistently crushes the competition into his late 30s.
5. Ichiro Suzuki (New York Yankees)
Ichiro Suzuki is Yu Darvish, but with longer runs of greatness on both sides of the pond.
He's a one-of-a-kind player in every facet of the game.
4. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
"Wonderboy" Mike Trout has permanently changed the way we perceive rookies.
He'll be a runaway winner in the American League MVP race in his age-20 season!
With otherworldly athleticism and hand-eye coordination, there's no telling where Trout's popularity will peak.
3. Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees)
Alex Rodriguez continues to decline as a player, though it's hard to find anybody more recognizable in professional sports.
He's still constantly involved in romances with the biggest names in the entertainment industry (currently with former WWE Diva Torrie Wilson).
2. Roger Clemens (Unsigned)
Roger Clemens is past the half-century mark and has no desire to call it quits. He definitely doesn't lack confidence after making two scoreless starts for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
But what's his motivation to return to Major League Baseball? Does the Rocket genuinely believe he can compete with a high-80s fastball, or is this about restarting his Hall of Fame clock?
1. Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
It would be easiest to count the people who haven't heard of Derek Jeter.
Everywhere on Earth, he's famous and beloved.
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