Ranking MLB's 10 Biggest Divas
Successful MLB players amass more power and wealth than they're mature enough to handle, which transforms them into obnoxious divas. Carlos Zambrano and Alex Rodriguez are among the biggest, most difficult personalities to deal with.
Each blatantly disrespects an important group, whether it be teammates, competitors, umpires, ownership/management or loyal fans. These guys belittle other individuals and constantly make selfish choices, often without any fear of the consequences. They unnecessarily start drama and rarely own up to mistakes.
The most important qualifier for a diva is outstanding talent. With one exception, those who cracked this top-10 are former All-Stars who—either currently or in a past season—have earned significantly more than the league's average salary.
Divas might be enjoyable to watch, but be thankful that you don't need to interact with them personally.
10. Brian Wilson (Free Agent)
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Hey, remember him?
Brian Wilson has barely been in the news at all in 2013 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The latest update on his playing status comes courtesy of ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, who writes that the 31-year-old might wait until the All-Star break to hold a showcase for interested teams.
Being quirky is one thing, but Wilson clearly has a few screws loose and a warped sense of reality. This goes deeper than his ridiculous beard and "look at me" wardrobe choices.
Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted that the former postseason hero actually expected the San Francisco Giants to tender him a contract for 2013:
Yes, I'm told Wilson feels disrespected by #sfgiants, tho one person who knows him said he's "pouting" and could change mind about return.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) December 1, 2012
To refresh your memory, Wilson earned $8.5 million the previous season. He was guaranteed at least 80 percent of that ($6.8 million) as an arbitration-eligible player if the club hadn't cut him when they did.
Fan favorite or not, such an arrangement made zero business sense from the Giants' perspective. The bitterness that Wilson feels toward them is totally unwarranted.
9. Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels)
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It truly is inspirational how Josh Hamilton rose from the depths of substance abuse to become a major league regular, American League MVP and $25 million-per-year player.
That said, he has pretty much wrote the book on how not to break up with a team during his final season with the Texas Rangers.
Chatting on The Dan Patrick Show in December (h/t Deadspin), the slugger reiterated that quitting chewing tobacco threw him out of sync the previous summer. Hamilton said going cold turkey affected him both physically and mentally, hence the mega slump.
Sure, Josh. It wasn't your lack of focus or poor plate discipline or anything like that.
Whatever the case, his drop-off was unacceptable. If altering the routine was such a dramatic process, he should have waited until after the season.
Despite an enviable athletic build, Hamilton has played 150-plus games in only one season (2008). Let's set aside the DL stints because those are out of his control. Countless "day-to-day " concerns that have kept him out of the lineup—knee soreness, shoulder weakness, groin strain, lower back stiffness, etc.—don't bar others from participating.
8. Josh Beckett (Los Angeles Dodgers)
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Josh Beckett was pampered from the beginning of his professional career. The then-Florida Marlins drafted him No. 2 overall in 1999, accelerated him through the minors and plugged him into the starting rotation upon debuting in the majors.
To his credit, Beckett lived up to the hype. He maintained a high strikeout rate and low batting average against, particularly during the 2003 World Series run.
Perhaps more inconsistency would have humbled the right-hander. Instead, Beckett got the impression that rules of conduct didn't apply to him and acted without restraint as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
He threw at Bobby Abreu's head in 2009 after the batter was granted a timeout by the umpire (via MLB.com). It's conceivable that he did so unintentionally, but taunting Abreu in the aftermath—which caused both benches to empty—makes you doubt him.
More of the same from Beckett the next season. Courtesy of MLB.com, he plunked two Cleveland Indians in an August 2010 matchup, then had the audacity to talk trash to one of them, Shelley Duncan, during another bench-clearing. The umpiring crew ejected him.
However, the final straw for his tenure in Boston was an off-the-field controversy. When supposedly injured with a stiff lat muscle, Beckett was spotted golfing, according to 98.5 The Sports Hub's Hardy (h/t Steve Silva, The Boston Globe).
"I spend my off-days the way I want to spend them," he fired back. "My off-day is my off-day."
Following that, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com wrote about the pitcher's twisted psyche:
Thursday night was the first opportunity for Beckett to explain himself. But that was beneath him. He made it clear it was an affront to his right to privacy for anyone to even question why he would play golf the day after Sox fans were told he was physically unable to perform. Or for anyone to ask him, in light of how badly the Sox are playing, if he even thought of how it might look from the outside.
7. Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds)
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Of course not. Though Cincinnati Reds fans can appreciate the showmanship, rival second basemen are probably less amused. That persona is the same away from the ballpark, as he boasts on Twitter, "I'm Ya Favorite Athlete's Favorite Athlete."
In 2010, Phillips spoke very critically of the St. Louis Cardinals prior to a midsummer series (via Hal McCoy, Dayton Daily News). Without repeating his foul language, let's just say he complained about their tendency to complain and wasn't even prompted to do so. Those comments incited an ugly brawl when the teams met at Great American Ball Park (courtesy of MLB.com) .
More recently, he accused Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Jared Hughes of using a racial slur:
— Brandon Phillips (@DatDudeBP) September 11, 2012
He backtracked the next day, the Sporting News reports, calling it all "a big misunderstanding" after discussing it with Hughes.
Next time, Brandon, maybe you talk it through before causing an uproar. Just a thought.
6. Chris Perez (Cleveland Indians)
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Honesty on its own is never a problem. Chris Perez provides honesty without censorship, and that comes back to bite when media members have access to you.
Perez, coming off an impressive save, was annoyed by the lackluster attendance figures for his Cleveland Indians (via Chris Assenheimer, Chronicle-Telegram). He shamed them for not supporting a first-place team, while conveniently overlooking the fact that the club had started hot in recent seasons, only to disappoint. Continuing, he seem convinced that the small turnouts deterred free agents from joining the Tribe.
But the closer didn't shut up for long. He used explicit language to chew out an Oakland Athletics fan later in the summer. It truly takes an insecure individual to respond to a single heckler. Professional athletes ought to have thicker skin.
As the Indians faded out of the playoff picture in 2012, Perez discussed his discontent with team ownership through Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports. He pointed out a contrast between Cleveland and the eventual AL-champion Detroit Tigers, who understood that you "get what you pay for in baseball."
He reminded Morosi that "the bottom fell out" late in the season, implying that everyone underachieved without citing his 6.75 ERA the previous August.
5. Michael Young (Philadelphia Phillies)
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Major league players who sign five-year, $80 million contract extensions usually don't find much to complain about. That's particularly true of guys like Michael Young, who seem valuable based on batting average and runs batted in, yet don't grade as elite under the magnifying glass of advanced statistics. They should be grateful.
Michael Young isn't one of the "guys like Michael Young." He's unique, sensitive compared to most veteran hitters.
The aforementioned agreement was supposed to take effect beginning with the 2009 season. But before the Texas Rangers even reported to spring training, Young created disharmony by denying the team's request that he switch positions. Elvis Andrus, a highly-touted prospect, was being groomed into an everyday shortstop, even though Young had just won a Gold Glove for his performance there.
MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports that the veteran reluctantly backed off his trade demand to serve as Texas' third baseman:
"My focus is playing for the Rangers, playing for a winning club and playing the best third base that I can," Young said. "Yes, I was adamant about staying at shortstop. But at the end of the day, after looking at everything, the chances of being traded were slim and the team wasn't really pursuing a trade."
In the aftermath of the dispute, general manager Jon Daniels praised "Mike's selfless decision."
That's weird. Most other industries might choose another word to describe an employee on a fully-guaranteed, above-market-value contract being asked to make a lateral move within a company to a post that better suits his skill set.
Two years later, there was more drama. The Rangers signed Adrian Beltre to man the hot corner and traded for slugger Mike Napoli, which left Young without clear defensive responsibilities. Once again, he requested a trade, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, because he "was not particularly keen on the idea of being a DH."
Young's stubborn personality blinded him from the telling numbers. In 2010, he had led all American League third basemen with 19 errors. Per FanGraphs, his Ultimate Zone Rating from 2009-2010 was the worst of any AL player at the position.
Craig Calcaterra of HardballTalk reflected on Young's tenure with Texas now that's he with the Philadelphia Phillies:
I have no idea what the Rangers allegedly did to mistreat Young. He was moved off shortstop, second and third for better players. Despite this he was always a full-time player, routinely playing in 150+ games a year with 600+ plate appearances.
I have heard that the lines of communication were poor and that may very well have led to some bad blood between Young and the front office. But Young likewise didn’t always communicate well, turning beefs with the front office, legitimate or otherwise, into trade demands and public drama.
4. Roy Oswalt (Colorado Rockies)
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Roy Oswalt is not your prototypical veteran journeyman who's hanging around for an elusive World Series ring. He certainly won't be the guy to drape his arm around a struggling rookie and tell him what adjustments to make the next time out.
A trade request he made while on the 2010 Houston Astros perfectly exemplifies his attitude problem (via Bernardo Fallas, Houston Chronicle). "The biggest thing is doing the right thing the right way and not trying to cause distraction," he told the media, but then conceded that, "I know it’s going to be a little bit of a distraction just because of the intensity of it." In the middle of a season, mind you, he talked about there being "no sense in playing" because the Astros were struggling. Very classy, Roy.
Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle plainly states that the All-Star "isn’t very good at hiding his feelings."
The past two seasons, Oswalt has expressed a preference to pitch relatively close to his Mississippi home. There's nothing objectionable about that.
But the disrespect he showed the Texas Rangers after they tried their best to accommodate him was totally out of line. They moved him to bullpen in early August 2012 when, through six starts, he had a 6.49 ERA and seven HR allowed. And then he tries to defend his shakiness to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram by citing his win-loss record?
What a hypocrite! For all his past talk about prioritizing winning, Oswalt fought this justified demotion kicking and screaming.
3. Joba Chamberlain (New York Yankees)
Joba Chamberlain's diva-ness comes and goes, so bear with me for his turbulent history.
He acted admirably during that October 2007 midge mess. Though visibly uncomfortable as a swarm of tiny, pestering insects descended on Progressive Field during his first career playoff appearance, he didn't complain.
But Chamberlain sparked a fist-pumping debate early the following season (via ESPN.com). Hall of Famer Goose Gossage and veteran outfielder David Dellucci (among others) took exception to his post-strikeout celebrations. "It is what it is," Chamberlain, still technically an MLB rookie, said following their reactions." I am not going to change."
Mere weeks after the 2008 campaign ended, a Nebraska state trooper arrested the 23-year-old for DUI, reports Larry McShane of the Daily News. A police video reveals that Chamberlain sought preferential treatment and rambled about how unfriendly New Yorkers can be.
He began 2009 in New York's starting rotation. During a visit to the MLB Network studios, he whined about the added stress of not having a set role the previous year.
Skipping ahead to the postseason, however, Chamberlain was resigned to the fact that the Yankees would use him out of the bullpen after an inconsistent September. "If they tell me to fold towels, I'll fold towels—I don't really care," he told Mike Puma of the New York Post. "I'll do anything to win on this team."
And he did. The Yankees won their 27th championship, thanks in large part to Chamberlain's 2.84 ERA and 7.00 SO/BB during the World Series run.
Between then and now, the right-hander has reverted back to his cocky/overdramatic nature. He bragged to Anthony McCarron of the Daily News that he could be pitching in the majors again less than 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Nearly all pitchers to undergo the procedure take at least a year and ultimately, Chamberlain was no different.
All this brings us to 2013, his final year under team control. Chamberlain brought unnecessary attention to himself when speaking to reporters in spring training—according of Erik Boland of Newsday—by discussing a potential yet unrealistic return to starting duty:
This is probably going to spark a bunch of stuff but it's one of those things where it's like, do you think you have the capability of starting? Yes. Do I have four pitches that I can throw for a strike? Yes. Do I have two plus-pitches in the bullpen that I can throw at any time? Yes. So I guess I'm trying to have my cake and eat it, too, because I feel I'm good enough to do both.
"Good enough to do both?" Is that what he calls a 1.71 WHIP in 10 relief appearances?
An oblique strain has limited Chamberlain as we arrive at the one-quarter mark of the season. While on the disabled list, he's still hanging with the team.
Hence this month's heated exchange with Mariano Rivera. With Chamberlain "shouting as he interacted with people in the stands," the legendary closer asked him to quiet down, to which our No. 3 diva responded, "Don't you ever shush me again" (via Mark Feinsand, Daily News). As usual, he has zero regrets about disrespecting Rivera:
Joba on whether he would have handled things differently in hindsight: "I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't change anything I do in life."— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) May 12, 2013
Upon returning to the active roster, Chamberlain will surely give us more material.
2. Carlos Zambrano (Philadelphia Phillies)
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He's baaaaaack! Carlos Zambrano just inked a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, who have been plagued by surprisingly mediocre starting pitching in 2013. The contract allows him to exercise an opt-out clause if not promoted to the majors by July 1.
Anybody who followed Major League Baseball while Big Z was a member of the Chicago Cubs (2001-2011) should be well aware of all his baggage. Like all the most infamous divas, he has a short fuse and tendency to throw huge tantrums.
There have been a handful of memorable meltdowns, though his confrontation with Mark Carlson stands out as perhaps the most amusing of them to occur on the field (via MLB.com). Major League Baseball suspended Zambrano for six games.
He also shows a tendency to lash out at his own teammates. Two such "Z moments" involved catcher Michael Barrett (h/t tuduo.com) and first baseman Derrek Lee (courtesy of MLB.com). Following the latter, the Cubs mandated that he attend anger management classes.
They asked him to exclude caffeine from his diet early in the 2008 season, and a very public struggle ensued. It takes a true attention-seeker like Zambrano to get Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune to waste his time covering that.
His tenure in the Windy City culminated with his most childish choice of all. After an ineffective outing ended in ejection, the Venezuelan right-hander emptied his locker, according to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, and threatened to retire with nearly a year-and-a-half remaining on his contract.
That's when the light bulb finally went off for the franchise. GM Jim Hendry placed Zambrano on the restricted list, the Associated Press reports (h/t FoxSports.com). This hot head never wore a Cubs uniform again.
At times, Zambrano was among the best starting pitchers in the sport. His psychotic behavior always overshadowed that, however.
1. Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees)
Nobody came into the league with more raw talent than Alex Rodriguez, nor is there a greedier player with such a distorted perception of the world.
Bleacher Report's own Ally Williams points out a clause in his already-outrageous contract that guaranteed he would be Major League Baseball's highest-paid player. It gave him the power to opt out if the Yankees refused to honor it.
A-Rod attributed the performance-enhancing drug use during his Texas Rangers tenure to playing in a "loosey-goosey era," according to the ESPN.com transcript from his admission interview in 2009. Very few fans (if any) felt sympathy for him.
And none will forgive his alleged Biogenesis involvement (via Tim Elfrink, Miami New Times). All the recorded transactions with the anti-aging clinic took place between 2009 and 2012, directly following his public apology.
Rodriguez tries to top his competition in the tabloids, too. That's evident from his high-profile romantic relationships with quinquagenarian Madonna and actress Kate Hudson.
It's a brilliant coincidence that his current girlfriend, Torrie Wilson, rose to fame as a WWE diva.