Ranking the 25 Most Hated Baseball Players of All Time
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Not all baseball players are nice guys. Many, in fact, don’t have a nice bone in their body.
And teams, other players and fans take note of these people. Playing the game incorrectly, mistreating the fans or the media, cheating and breaking the law are just a few ways to become one of the most hated players in baseball. Of course, there are several other ways to land on that dreaded list.
Does being a meanie imply that these aren’t successful people, though? Absolutely not. Some of the best players ever to take the field have had bad attitudes. Being that guy doesn’t seem to affect their numbers—just look at the all-time home run leader, who we’ll look at later in this slideshow.
Baseball is a funny sport and examining some of the crazy things that players have done to be deemed “hated” is rather comical. Let’s take a look at some of these hated players, ranking the top 25 of all time.
25. Kevin Youkilis
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Kevin Youkilis is an interesting choice to go first on this list. Some people don’t like his awkward batting stance, while others just don’t care for his attitude.
The former Boston Red Sox first and third baseman is a fierce competitor and doesn’t like to lose at anything. He was easily the most-disliked Boston player before getting traded to the Chicago White Sox during the middle of last season.
What’s intriguing about his situation is that he was a major part of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, but over the winter, he signed with the Bronx Bombers. He has a history with reliever Joba Chamberlain, so it will be fascinating to see how the Fenway Faithful treat him when he returns this season.
The Red Sox didn’t care for Johnny Damon changing sides, but Youkilis was in a different spot when he signed with the Evil Empire. Regardless, I’m sure that even some Yankees fans will have a tough time rooting for him in 2013.
24. Derek Jeter
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On the flip side of the Boston-New York rivalry, there’s Derek Jeter. Jeter hasn’t fueled the rivalry by fighting or calling anyone out, but fans tend to hate greatness.
And even as a Red Sox fan, I acknowledge that Jeter is one of the best and classiest players in the game. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1996, has been an All-Star 13 times—every year he’s been a full-time player—has won five Gold Glove and four Silver Slugger awards.
Jeter also has the most hits in Yankees' history, which should speak for itself since they’re arguably the best franchise in sports. He’s absolutely going to have his number retired and is definitely a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He could also challenge Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan for the highest percentage of Hall of Fame votes.
Many don’t care for the fact that the media tends to embellish some of Jeter’s numbers. There’s no doubt he’s declined over the years, but he’s toward the end of his career and that’s what you’d expect. Like I said, people hate greatness.
23. Rickey Henderson
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Rickey Henderson is one of the strangest players in MLB history. He’ll forever be known as the fast guy who also referred to himself in the third person.
Honestly, what sane person speaks in the third person? I can’t think of one. Henderson clearly wasn’t all there during his storied career in which he stole more bases, 1,406, than anyone ever—468 more than Lou Brock, who is second on the all-time list with 938.
The way Henderson referred to himself is enough for people to dislike him. Frankly, I don’t care for it. It comes off as someone speaking very highly of themselves. When, in fact, it really just sound weird since no one does that. Maybe hundreds of years ago people did, but not now or when Henderson was still playing.
But it is true that Henderson was all about himself. He was so proud about a big signing bonus that he framed it instead of cashing it. There’s no doubt he was quite the character. Some probably thought his act was cute, while others couldn’t stand it.
22. Jose Guillen
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A player doesn’t usually play for 10 teams over the course of a 14-year career unless they’re good enough to stay in the big leagues but such a misfit that teams can’t afford to keep them. Enter Jose Guillen.
His poor attitude was the main reason he went from team to team so often.
For someone who, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, reportedly purchased thousands of dollars worth of steroids and human growth hormone, Guillen didn’t have that impressive of a career (h/t ESPN). He only hit an average of 15 home runs per year and was virtually powerless toward the end of his career.
Here's an interesting nugget from Guillen’s career: he was hit by a pitch at least 10 times in six of his 14 big league seasons. Do you think that’s just erratic pitching or that some pitchers had it out for him?
I’m going with the latter.
21. Carl Everett
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If Carl Everett could have kept his mouth shut, he might have been a little more well-liked. But he couldn’t do that as nonsense continually came out of his mouth throughout his 14-year career across seven teams.
Here’s what Everett had to say about dinosaurs back in 2000, according to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci:
God created the sun, the stars, the heavens and the earth, and then made Adam and Eve. The Bible never says anything about dinosaurs. You can’t say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Someone actually saw Adam and Eve. No one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
And don’t forget about the time when Everett talked to ESPN about his gay teammates:
Gays being gay is wrong. 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.
Carl, please stop talking. He has to be one of the most outspoken, yet idiotic players off all time. I think it’s safe to say that people who are homosexual don’t care for him.
20. Bill Buckner
When the team you play for hasn’t won a World Series since 1918 and it’s 1986, you don’t want to be the guy who blows an important game. Bill Buckner, the former first baseman for the Boston Red Sox, was that guy.
Buckner booted a ball during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that cost his Red Sox the game and Boston would go on to lose the series in Game 7. The grounder by Mookie Wilson of the New York Mets just fooled the Boston first baseman, and for a while, no one would let him forget it.
He was the goat of the town. ESPN’s Bill Simmons describes the toll the play has taken on Buckner, writing that "Buckner has suffered more since that moment than everyone else involved combined. Red Sox fans won’t let him forget; no one does. His is a scarlet E.”
The hatred toward Buckner is gone now, though, as the Red Sox won World Series in 2004 and 2007. He’s been back to Fenway Park a few times over the last couple of years and has received standing ovations.
19. Kenny Rogers
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Kenny Rogers and the media just didn’t get along. But one day, Rogers took the relationship to an entirely new level when he let his emotions get the best of him and caused a scene.
As the Associated Press (h/t ESPN) tells the story, Rogers shoved a pair of cameramen before a Texas Rangers-Los Angeles Angels game in late June of 2005. The cameramen were filming Rogers’ pregame stretches, although he wasn’t scheduled to pitch that day, and he didn’t care for that one bit.
One of the cameramen ended up going to the hospital with a grocery list of injuries. To say that Rogers got bad PR from the incident would be an understatement. Aside from being suspended and fined by Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, he faced assault charges as well.
“Kenny is having anger issues right now,” former Rangers GM John Hart told the AP at the time. “I don’t know what’s going on inside. We’re responding to something that’s very unusual.”
Oh, no kidding.
18. Nyjer Morgan
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Nyjer Morgan is one troubled baseball player for a number of reasons. Let’s start with the fact that he refers to himself not as Nyjer, but as Tony Plush. What kind of nickname is that, Nyjer? And that’s just the start of it. Hang onto your seats if you’re going to read the rest.
He’s sworn on live television a handful of times, fought on the field with players, thrown things at fans and had temper tantrums on the field while the ball is in play. Need an example?
Back in 2010, Morgan was suspended for seven games for “deliberately throwing a baseball into the stands and hitting a fan,” according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). Morgan would appeal the suspension and eventually win, but still, what was he thinking? Oh yeah, he probably wasn’t.
Want another? Earlier that year, Morgan dropped a fly ball hit by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles. Instead of picking the ball up and making the play, he threw his glove on the ground and had a fit. Jones ended up rounding the bases for an inside-the-park home run while Morgan pouted about not making the play.
17. Jason Giambi
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In today’s day and age, cheaters are not well-liked. Just ask Jason Giambi. He admitted to taking steroids over the course of his career after an investigation revealed his secret.
The problem was that Giambi admitted it later rather than right when his name popped up. As he told the New York Daily News:
We should have apologized back then and made sure we have a rule in place and gone forward…Steroids and all that was a part of history. But it was a topic that everybody wanted to avoid. Nobody wanted to talk about it.
The weird part about Giambi is that he didn’t think that performance-enhancing drugs helped him hit home runs. Um, I’m sorry? Yes, it absolutely does. You do need a lot of skill to hit home runs, but if you’re stronger, you’re likely to hit more of them. Why Giambi didn’t know that I’m still pondering.
Giambi was quite the slugger back in his heyday, but once he got caught, his power numbers went down. Age probably had to do with it, too. But when you go from hitting 32 one season to just 13 the next, something’s up.
16. Jeff Kent
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Jeff Kent had a successful career that saw him win the National League Most Valuable Player Award while with the San Francisco Giants in 2000. But he was known almost as much for having a surly attitude.
Henry Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle explains, however, that many criticized him for the wrong reasons. Schulman explains how not many gave Kent credit for continually working to improve his game and jumped to conclusions when things didn't go well for him.
Later in the year, however, Schulman had to write about a confrontation between Kent and teammate Barry Bonds in the dugout after a loss. Schulman explains that that two aren’t friends and aren’t friendly whatsoever. I never saw Bonds as a difficult player to get along with, so it seems that Kent was probably the problem here.
Kent may have had issues off the field with some people, but he was still effective on it. He finished his 17-year career with nearly 2,500 hits, 377 home runs and just more than 1,500 RBI.
15. Rafael Palmeiro
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As I’ve already stated, cheating is unacceptable. And what’s worse about cheating is when players fail to admit their wrongdoing. I’m talking to you, Rafael Palmeiro.
Palmeiro played 20 seasons and hit 569 home runs in a career that included stops with the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. But something will forever be fishy about those home runs.
When appearing at a congressional hearing about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, Palmeiro said, “Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”
Well, Palmeiro was suspended later that year after testing positive for steroids. What happened to never using steroids, Rafael?
It’s a little disturbing that he wasn’t charged with perjury because he definitely deserved it. Had he never tested positive, he’d be a Hall of Famer. But now, he’s just one guy on a long list of cheaters.
14. Carlos Zambrano
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Carlos Zambrano is too emotional for his own good. Too many times he’s allowed his emotions to get the best of him, and he’s paid the price for his irate actions. Whether an argument with a teammate or an umpire, he’s gets extremely angered when things don’t go his way.
In 2007, Zambrano fought catcher Michael Barrett in the Chicago Cubs’ dugout. A few years later, he fought first baseman Derrek Lee in the dugout and was suspended indefinitely right afterward. How about Zambrano take out his anger by throwing strikes instead of punches?
Do you want to hear a crazy story? Zambrano claimed he was retiring after he was ejected from a 2011 game for throwing two inside pitches to Chipper Jones. He was suspended 30 games by the Cubs for his antics, but later tried to go back on his word. He was traded the next offseason.
It’s apparent that no teams are interested in taking their chances on a starting pitcher who is more of a reliever these days. I know this because the offseason has come and gone and Zambrano remains without a team for 2013.
Maybe he’ll enroll in anger management courses this year instead.
13. Albert Belle
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If you don’t want to get hurt, you should probably stay away from guys like Albert Belle. He didn’t get along with fans, the media, other players or umpires. That doesn’t leave many people that Belle did get along with, which is why he’s on this list.
Bill Madden of the New York Daily News sums up Belle’s career with the media relatively easily (h/t NBC Sports):
Sorry, there’ll be no words of sympathy here for Albert Belle. He was a surly jerk before he got hurt and now he’s a hurt surly jerk…He was no credit to the game. Belle’s boorish behavior should be remembered by every member of the Baseball Writers’ Association when it comes time to consider him for the Hall of Fame.
Strong words from Madden, but he’s absolutely correct. Let’s not forget about all of the stupid things Belle did over the course of his career, like when he purposely hit a fan in the stands with a baseball, or when he ran over someone who threw an egg at his house on Halloween, or used a corked bat and tried to get it back after getting caught.
12. Milton Bradley
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Milton Bradley is one of the biggest loose cannons you’ll ever see on a baseball field. He has difficulty controlling his temper and has taken it out on whoever stands in his path. It could be an umpire, a bat, a player or an organization. No one can stop him.
Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times wrote the following, talking about the end of Bradley’s career:
Bradley doesn’t have a stable pro career now, which means he’ll be an adult existing in a world that won’t coddle him. I hope he can survive. He rarely acted like a grown-up as a big leaguer. In the real world, the punishment for his tantrums will be much tougher than being banished to another losing team willing to pay him millions.
I don’t have a final count on how many times Bradley was ejected from a game, but it has to be up there as one of most of all time. You just never knew what he was going to do next, a scary thing to think about. Had he been able to control himself, maybe he’d still be playing.
11. Cap Anson
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Cap Anson, like so many players during his time, was a racist. He never liked people of a different race and made that clearly known through his actions toward them.
On several occasions, Anson was set to play against a club that employed African-American players and time and time again, he refused to, according to David Fleitz of the Society for American Baseball Research. Sometimes, he’d be forced to play, but he’d make his opinions known that he was clearly against it, either through causing a scene or boycotting the game.
Some writers have downplayed Anson’s racism, but I’m not one of those people. He may have been a great player, but I’m not going to stand here and say that it wasn’t his fault. Not everyone during that time period was a racist.
Anson played a role in excluding African-American players from getting contracts at one point during his career because he refused to play against them. Clearly, he had an influence on the way baseball was conducted more than 100 years ago.
10. John McGraw
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Baseball was created to be a fair game that many could play. It wasn’t created so that players could find loopholes and exploit those loopholes to obtain success. John McGraw was known to be one of those players.
Since there used to be just one umpire on the field, McGraw frequently took advantage of things that the umpire couldn’t see. He was one to take cheap shots at players in the field so that they would commit an error, couldn’t make a play, etc. That’s really sad to say, but it is true.
In today’s game, can you imagine if someone did this? Obviously, there is more than one umpire employed at each game and millions of people are watching your every move. If you shoved someone on the basepaths, you’d be suspended for it and you’d be the talk of the town.
Since McGraw played during an era where there wasn’t television and it took a considerable amount of time for news to travel, this wasn’t a big deal. I would love to know if any opposing players took cheap shots on him during his career. He probably would’ve deserved it if they did.
9. Pedro Martinez
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If you toss an old man to the ground during a bench-clearing brawl, you’re going to hear it from a bunch of people. Pedro Martinez got into a bit of a scuffle with the New York Yankees during the 2003 ALCS when he hit Karim Garcia with a pitch high up in the zone.
Yankees catcher Jorge Posada took offense to it and a fight ensued. Everyone was on the field and Don Zimmer, an assistant coach at the time for the Yankees, came running toward Martinez. Not sure of what Zimmer was going to do, Martinez tossed Zimmer to the ground. Not the best moment for Pedro.
It may have been that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry fueled the fire that night, but Martinez and the Yankees have never really gotten along too well. There has been constant bickering between the two sides, and it’s been obvious that they don’t get along.
Late in the 2004 season, for example. Martinez made some comments about how the Yankees were his daddy, since he'd had trouble taking down the Evil Empire previously. Yankee fans seized on that comment, and it produced one of the loudest and clearest Yankee Stadium chants you’ll ever hear directed at Martinez.
“Who’s your daddy?”
8. Manny Ramirez
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“Manny Being Manny” isn’t considered one of the best parts of baseball. Manny Ramirez is a bit of a goofball and many would deem his frequent actions as ridiculous and insulting to the game’s image. He’s a bit unorthodox in more ways than one.
Ramirez used to head inside the Green Monster during pitching changes when with the Boston Red Sox. Ramirez also frequently failed to hustle on ground balls and plays in the outfield.
Ramirez also was suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but decided to retire instead. However, Ramirez tried to return, but MLB rejected his attempt to play in the Dominican League. He did attempt another comeback last season with the Oakland A’s, but that didn’t go well either.
The former slugger was also arrested for domestic battery when he allegedly hit his wife. Manny can’t seem to catch a break. But it’s probably just “Manny Being Manny.”
7. A.J. Pierzynski
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I’ve never played with nor met A.J. Pierzynski, but I’ve yet to have read many good things about the long-time catcher. If he was a nice guy, there wouldn’t be that much bad press about him.
Last season, Men’s Journal asked 100 current baseball players who was the most hated player in the game, and Pierzynski won in a landslide (h/t NBC Sports). Of the players polled, 34 said that Pierzynski was the worst. One National League pitcher told Men's Journal:
“He likes to talk a lot of sh**, and I’ve heard he’s a bad teammate. He’s been a prick to guys on his own pitching staff. Basically, if you haven’t got five years in the big leagues, he treats you like you’re a peasant. He’s that kind of guy.
A peasant? What is wrong with this guy? It’s definitely not an easy thing to make it into the big leagues and how does criticizing your own teammates make any sense? Harassing your pitching staff isn’t going to make them pitch much better, A.J. That’s common sense right there.
6. Jose Canseco
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Jose Canseco is one of a kind. You’ll never find another baseball player quite like him. That’s probably because he’s pretty much insane. He’s been out of Major League Baseball for a long time, yet is still attempting to come back and play again.
But let’s not forget that Canseco has been very open about his steroid use. He’s made that well-known through his book that came out a couple of years back. Not that a large number home runs means you cheated, but having 462 of them makes you think.
Everything about Canseco’s personality is disagreeable. His Twitter account couldn’t be any more horrible. He shouldn’t be allowed on Twitter with all of the ridiculous and unbelievable things that he talks about on there. A public place for his thoughts is one of the worst things about the social media site.
Just perusing through his recent tweets is getting me angry. Baseball-wise, though, Canseco doesn’t deserve another chance. Let him play for all of the weird independent leagues he wants, but MLB can never have Canseco a part of it again.
5. Roger Clemens
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Roger Clemens has an interesting approach to the game. He’s going to throw at you if you’re hovering over home plate and he’s not afraid to start a brawl if you feel he’s throwing at your head. Well, because he is. Clemens is just that type of pitcher.
What do you think Mike Piazza thinks of Clemens? The two got into a bit of a scuffle during the 2000 World Series when Clemens tossed a part of a broken bat toward Piazza. That certainly didn’t help his image as a nice guy. And take into consideration we didn’t even know about his alleged performance-enhancing drug use at that point.
Oh yes, Clemens has been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. The situation is a little complicated, though, because many people have accused him of juicing but he’s never gotten in trouble for it. He was found not guilty of lying to Congress when he said he didn’t take steroids.
But the allegations are what’s hurting his chances of ever being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
4. Barry Bonds
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When you break the all-time home run record and later get accused of using steroids, people aren’t going to like you very much. Barry Bonds was an icon in the sport during his career, but it all came crashing down in front of him in the blink of an eye.
After Bonds said in court that he never took steroids, he started facing perjury charges. There's a a good amount of evidence against him, and he was convicted of obstruction of justice, but he wasn’t sentenced to any sort of jail time.
Bonds is the poster child for steroids and will forever have an asterisk next to his name in the record books. The Baseball Hall of Fame doesn’t even recognize him as the all-time home run leader. It still credits Hank Aaron.
And for his poor judgment over the years, Bonds probably won't ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was on the ballot for the first time this past year. Although I think he deserves to be in Cooperstown, many disagree.
3. Alex Rodriguez
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There’s a short list of people who actually like Alex Rodriguez. To find one of those people, I’d imagine is nearly impossible. It’s not that A-Rod tries to be the bad guy; that’s just who he is and who he’ll always be.
Rodriguez, who used to be one of the top players in baseball, has been continually linked to steroids and he has even admitted the use of performance-enhancing drugs. When it finally seemed like A-Rod was off the juice, injuries started to take a toll on him and his lucrative contract began to look embarrassingly stupid.
Over the last two seasons, A-Rod has played in 221 games, hitting 34 home runs with an OPS of .801. Over the course of his career, A-Rod has hit at least 34 home runs in a season 12 times. Yes, 12 times! But the fact that he’ll likely miss majority of the 2013 season, if not all of it, because of a second hip operation speaks to how overpaid and overvalued he truly is. He’s set to make $28 million this year.
In a 2012 Men’s Journal poll of 100 players, Rodriguez was voted the second-most hated player in baseball. So it’s not only fans who dislike the third baseman, but those who play alongside of and against him as well.
2. Pete Rose
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If there’s absolutely one thing that a baseball player shouldn’t ever go, it’s cheat. Performance-enhancing drugs are a terrible part of the game, but gambling is an even bigger issue, in my opinion at least. You cannot bet on baseball.
Pete Rose learned that the hard way. He was banned from baseball for life after he was caught gambling on the game. It’s sad that the all-time hits leader won’t ever be enshrined in Cooperstown, unless Commissioner Bud Selig decides to pardon Rose, but that’s the price he has to pay.
As the rule reads, “Any umpire, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”
1. Ty Cobb
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By most accounts, Ty Cobb is hands down the worst human being to ever play in Major League Baseball, and it’s not even that close. Cobb was frequently involved in fights and was also a well-known racist, obviously playing during a time where this was still common in the country.
For example, Cobb had a confrontation with a groundskeeper back in 1907 during spring training, according to Gilbert King of Smithsonian.com:
In August, Georgia, a black groundskeeper named Bungy, whom Cobb had known for years, attempted to shake Cobb’s hand or pat him on the shoulder. The overly familiar greeting infuriated Cobb, who slapped him and chased him from the clubhouse. When Bungy’s wife tried to intervene, Cobb turned around and choked her until teammates pried his hands off her neck.
Seems a bit excessive for a simple pat on the shoulder. But that was the way things were—or Cobb was just insane. King also writes how Cobb jumped into the stands and beat a fan who was heckling the team, among other incidents by one of the top players ever to take the field, making this decision easy on my part.
Cobb is the most hated baseball player of all time. Period.