The 7 Most Brutal Team-Player Divorces in MLB Offseason History

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

The 7 Most Brutal Team-Player Divorces in MLB Offseason History

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    The offseason is a time of change in the MLB, with players changing teams via trade and free agency, and for the most part things generally go smoothly.

    However, every so often, things can turn messy when a player demands a trade or it comes time to cut ties with a long-tenured star.

    What follows are the seven most brutal team-player divorces in MLB offseason history.

Cardinals Trade Garry Templeton to Padres

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    Garry Templeton spent the first six seasons of his career with the Cardinals, hitting .305 and leading the league in triples three different times, as he was among the top offensive shortstops of the era.

    Despite his solid play, Templeton was far from a fan-favorite, and things came to a head on August 26, 1981 when he made an obscene gesture at some fans who were heckling him for not running out a ground ball.

    Manager Whitey Herzog pulled him off the field on the spot, and he spent the rest of the season in the dog house before being traded to the Padres in the offseason.

    In return for Templeton, the Cardinals got a defensive-minded shortstop by the name of Ozzie Smith, so in the end it worked out.

Cubs Trade Carlos Zambrano to Marlins

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    One of the most productive pitchers of the 2000s, Carlos Zambrano went 105-68 with a 3.51 ERA for the decade, and he made six straight Opening Day starts from 2005-10.

    Always one to wear his emotions on his sleeve, Zambrano often let his emotions boil over on the mound and in the dugout.

    After a fight with Michael Barrett in the dugout back in 2007 led to the catcher being dealt, he again clashed with a teammate in 2010 when he yelled at Derrek Lee after the first baseman failed to field a ground ball that resulted in a double.

    The two were separated, and Zambrano was removed from the game and suspended indefinitely. He returned after undergoing anger management and was relegated to the bullpen.

    He rejoined the rotation at the end of the season, and entered the 2011 season looking to get things back on track. Things boiled over again, though, on August 12 when Zambrano gave up five home runs to the Braves, then got himself ejected from the game and promptly cleaned out his locker and announced his retirement.

    He was suspended for 30 games and eventually the remainder of the season, and the following offseason the new Cubs front office cut team ties with Zambrano when they shipped him to the Marlins for Chris Volstad.

Indians Trade Sam McDowell to Giants

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    One of the most underrated pitchers of his time, Sam McDowell led the league in strikeouts five times during his 11 seasons with the Cleveland Indians.

    The right-hander went 20-12 with a 2.92 ERA and 304 strikeouts in 1970 to earn Sporting News Pitcher of the Year honors.

    The following season things soured, though, as McDowell held out of spring training seeking a six-figure contract and then had the contract he eventually signed voided when it contained illegal incentives (h/t SABR).

    He was also suspended during the season, and when all was said and done, he turned in a less-than-stellar season going, 13-17 with a 3.40 ERA and a league-high 153 walks.

    That offseason he was traded to the Giants at the age of 29 for Frank Duffy and Gaylord Perry, and he would go just 19-25 with a 4.16 ERA over the next four seasons before retiring.

White Sox Don't Re-Sign Frank Thomas

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    For 16 seasons, Frank Thomas was the face of the White Sox franchise, as he put together a .307 BA, 448 HR, 1,465 RBI line and won a pair of MVP awards during his time on the South Side.

    However, in 2004 and 2005 he combined to play just 108 games, and when he was on the field in 2005, he hit just .219, and at the age of 37, it was clear his skills had begun to diminish.

    The team enacted a "diminishing skills" clause that offseason and paid Thomas a $3.5 million buyout, and things quickly turned ugly.

    GM Kenny Williams wound up calling Thomas an "idiot" (h/t ESPN) and Thomas took offense at the team not making their intentions to not re-sign him formally known earlier.

    Thomas got the last laugh, as he signed a one-year, $500,000 deal with the Athletics and had a .270 BA, 39 HR, 114 RBI line to finish fourth in AL MVP voting.

Red Sox Don't Re-Sign Roger Clemens

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    Roger Clemens spent the first 13 seasons of his storied career with the Red Sox, winning three Cy Young awards, an MVP award and going 192-111 with a 3.06 ERA.

    When his contract was up following the 1996 season, the Red Sox were unable to re-sign him, and GM Dan Duquette proceeded to make some underhanded comments regarding Clemens nearing the end of his career (h/t Boston Herald):

    The Red Sox and our fans were fortunate to see Roger Clemens play in his prime and we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career. We just want to let the fans know that we worked extremely hard to sign Roger Clemens...We made him a substantial, competitive offer, by far the most money ever offered to a player in the history of the Red Sox franchise.

    In the end, Clemens signed a four-year, $40 million deal with the Blue Jays, where he went on to win back-to-back Cy Young awards in his first two seasons before being dealt to the rival New York Yankees.

    The "twilight" of his career went on to span 11 years, and while his career ended in controversy, there is no ignoring his level of production. 

Reds Trade Frank Robinson to Orioles

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    Looking to bolster the team's pitching rotation, Reds GM Bill DeWitt made the controversial decision to deal superstar Frank Robinson to the Orioles for Milt Pappas, stating that Robinson was "an old 30" to try to justify the move (h/t history.com).

    It didn't take long for DeWitt to eat his words, though, as Robinson won the AL Triple Crown in his first season with the Orioles, hitting .316 with 49 HR and 122 RBI and leading the team to a World Series title in the process.

    He would play a total of six seasons with the Orioles, hitting .300 with 179 HR and 545 RBI and showing that he was far from washed up.

    Pappas meanwhile was far from an ace during his three seasons with the Reds, and the trade goes down as one of the most lopsided in baseball history.

Cardinals Trade Rogers Hornsby to Giants

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    Arguably the greatest second baseman in the history of baseball, Rogers Hornsby spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Cardinals.

    Over that span he hit .359/.427/.570 and won six straight batting titles, including three seasons in which he hit over .400.

    He had a down season by his standards in 1926 (.317 BA, 11 HR, 93 RBI), and when his contract was up that offseason, he sought a three-year, $150,000 deal.

    The best owner Sam Breadon offered was a one-year, $50,000 deal, though, and when Hornsby declined, he was traded to the Giants. The trade was delayed by the fact that Hornsby held stock in the Cardinals organization, but once he sold them, he was shipped to New York.

    He went on to play 11 more seasons, hitting .357/.450/.593 and proving to more than worth the three-year deal he was seeking with a .376/.468/.633 slash line, 86 home runs and 368 RBI over that span.