MLB Power Rankings: The Worst Clubhouse Cancer in Every Team's History
There is one term that, if you're an athlete, you never wanted to be associated with. That term may not be what you think, though.
It's not "bad," "out of shape" or even "a diva." The answer to that is, of course, being called a "cancer" in the clubhouse.
Being a team player may not help you get a contract worth $20 million a year, but being a cancer can absolutely prevent such a contract from materializing unless you happen to have multiple MVPs under your belt.
One thing that we know is that several teams seem to harness the majority of players considered clubhouse cancers. Nonetheless, every team has had at least one in their history, no matter how long or short that history is.
The following are the biggest clubhouse cancers in each team's history. Some are more obvious than others, since some franchises manage not to have too many issues with players.
30. Colorado Rockies: Scouting Report on Larry Walker
I disagree with Walker being considered a cancer in the clubhouse. Alas, I have to pick someone for the Rockies, which is hard since they usually have upstanding players.
Why do I pick Walker then, or more accurately, a scout?
A report in 2000 by an anonymous scout claimed that Walker was a cancer in the clubhouse and was only playing for himself. Not only did Walker lash out at the scout and his anonymity, but his teammates supported him in the heavy backlash.
As a result, the scout, whoever he may be, wins out as being far more of a cancer than Walker.
29. Milwaukee Brewers: Johnny Estrada
There are some players who appear on this list for a team despite only playing one season for that team. Estrada is the first of those. In one season, he was considered a clubhouse cancer by Ned Yost, and everything mentioned about him in the media seemed to be negative.
It didn't help that he wasn't a very good catcher on top of being supposedly unapproachable.
28. Kansas City Royals: Jose Lima
There's sometimes a fine line between an aloof guy who's just having fun and someone damaging to the team. I firmly believe Lima falls in the former category and was an enjoyable person to watch, but you'd be surprised how many had him in the latter.
After Lima had spent two years in Detroit and was released, he could not find anyone willing to sign him until Kansas City did in June 2003. Reportedly, he had been blacklisted as a cancer in the clubhouse, though nothing has been confirmed. Whether or not Lima was ever trouble was something we will never really know the answer to.
27. Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton
Justin Upton is a young talent who has a very sizable deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, yet for a short time, he was a big subject of trade rumors. How did that happen?
While nothing has been officially leaked as to whether he was considered a cancer by management, the fact that Kevin Towers was suddenly willing to make this move on a talented player tells me something bad was going on in the clubhouse.
Whatever it was, the two sides resolved it, as Upton is still a D'Back.
26. Baltimore Orioles: Jocko Halligan
The Baltimore Orioles are lucky enough to get a 19th-century player on this list. Halligan only played one year for the Orioles, 1892, but he certainly made his presence known.
He was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds after he played 26 games there and wore out his welcome, and in 46 games with Baltimore, he showed why.
During a poker game altercation, he punched his teammate, Cub Stricker, fracturing his jaw. He was not only released from the team, but blacklisted from the major leagues.
25. Texas Rangers: Michael Young
Michael Young originally was fine with the whole Adrian Beltre signing, despite the fact that he knew he would be relegated to DH duty. After a while, he changed his mind and demanded a trade late in the offseason.
More accurately, he demanded a trade at a time where no one who would want him could afford him, and he managed to throw a wrench into all of the Rangers' 2011 plans.
Since he'll remain on the team, this mark will be placed on him, which is a shame, since he was great for Texas for a long time.
24. San Diego Padres: Rickey Henderson
Depending on who you ask, Rickey Henderson was either a great teammate with a great love for a game or a guy who was solely out to boost his own statistics without helping the team at all.
I like to think he's the former, but some disagree—namely A's teammate Carney Lansford, who openly criticized Henderson's attitude. As for why he's on the Padres on this list, quite simply, Henderson's attitude would've made him a choice for any team, but the other franchises he played for had far worse cancers.
23. Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez has, for the most part, been a great player on the Marlins. However, he has had his fair share of issues that have called his attitude into question.
Perhaps the most famous incident was this past May, when Ramirez kicked a ball into the left-field corner after running after it. Upon doing so, he jogged over to it, running with no effort whatsoever. As a result, Fredi Gonzalez pulled him out of the lineup for the next game.
22. Minnesota Twins: Delmon Young
Delmon Young has improved over the years, and he's a much better teammate now than when he was in the Rays' farm system. For a while, though, he was a nightmare.
Aside from having confrontations with umpires, including a 50-game suspension for throwing a bat at an ump in 2006, he was even called, up until recently, an Albert Belle clone.
Some may consider that a compliment to his power, but seeing as how Belle is yet to appear on here, that's certainly not the case.
21. Los Angeles Dodgers: Gary Sheffield
When he was on most teams, Gary Sheffield did not seem to have too many problems, and during some years in his career, was a real force with the bat.
With the Dodgers, however, he was just a pain.
After spending a few years with the Dodgers, during the 2002 offseason, Sheffield openly criticized all levels of the Dodgers, saying that they were spending their money stupidly. He alienated pretty much everyone there, and it became a no-brainer to trade him.
He had problems with other teams he joined later in his career as well, such as the Yankees.
20. Tampa Bay Rays: Elijah Dukes
Elijah Dukes has had problems off the field wherever he's been, and during his season at Tampa Bay, he put the devil in Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
In 2007, he had issues with his wife and a foster child, and on top of that, received anger management training. Reportedly, his attitude in the clubhouse was not any better.
When the Nationals agreed to trade for him, there was much rejoicing in Tampa Bay, as they were finally rid of him.
19. Chicago White Sox: A.J. Pierzynski
There's no question that the Giants' trade for Pierzynski was perhaps the worst of the decade, given what the Twins got for him. On top of that, since his season with the Giants and his many years with the White Sox, he had developed a bad reputation.
The bench-clearing brawl with Michael Barrett of the Chicago Cubs in 2006 was one of the biggest incidents involving him, and he is known as an outspoken guy. Honestly, if he wasn't being managed by Ozzie Guillen, who can put up with guys like him, he likely would have had far more issues in his career and been much higher on this list.
18. Pittsburgh Pirates: Dave Parker
Dave Parker is one of those fringe Hall of Fame candidates who could have easily put up the numbers to get in had he, well, tried.
He started off his career great, but after an MVP win in 1978, he felt that he didn't need to work due to his raw talent and only needed to do enough to collect his next paycheck. That, combined with injuries and cocaine use, made him a cancer on the team.
When his contract ended in 1982, the Pirates let him enter free agency to get rid of the problems.
17. Washington Nationals: Nyjer Morgan
People on Washington's roster seem to carve out a niche for themselves. Stephen Strasburg is the super-hyped prospect, Jayson Werth is the overpaid guy who needs to prove himself, Livan Hernandez is the guy who's somehow been able to hold on, and Nyjer Morgan is the clubhouse cancer.
In August 2010, Morgan reportedly threw a ball at a fan. Then, at the beginning of September, he instigated a bench-clearing brawl against the Florida Marlins. On top of that, he had purposely run into the Marlins' catcher the previous night.
At this point, I think he has overtaken Lastings Milledge as this team's representative, though it is up for debate.
16. Boston Red Sox: Manny Ramirez
We all know the saying "Manny Being Manny." It could be argued that he belongs more on the Dodgers list, but there were also issues that began to emerge in Boston.
The first issues with Ramirez came in 2003, when he was spotted in a bar after reportedly being too ill to play—he was subsequently benched for a game. Ramirez had a fight with Kevin Youkilis in 2008, and on top of that, we all remember him diving to grab a ball that the Red Sox were trying to throw home to stop a runner.
Combine that with his reported lack of effort in 2008 due to his contract, and one can see why the Red Sox no longer wanted him.
15. San Francisco Giants: Barry Bonds
Bonds is an all-time diva with a massive ego and will always be one of the most controversial figures in baseball history from here on out.
That being said, was he a cancer on his team? Certainly he butted heads—once even getting into an altercation with teammate Jeff Kent in the dugout—but he's not as bad as many others on the list in this regard.
14. Chicago Cubs: Michael Barrett
The Chicago Cubs have had their share of cancers. For a while in 2010, Carlos Zambrano was that man, and back in the 19th century, Cap Anson was a cancer on the entire league. It's tough to look past Michael Barrett on this list, however.
Between 2004 and 2007, he fought A.J. Pierzynski in a brawl, missing 10 games to suspension as a result, and back in 2004, he had a confrontation with Roy Oswalt.
The icing on the cake, however, was a clubhouse fight with Carlos Zambrano in 2007, and after one more altercation, the Cubs had had enough and traded him to the Padres.
13. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jose Guillen
When a player spends three seasons with four teams, they are usually a pain. Jose Guillen most certainly was that for the Angels. He spent the 2004 season with Anaheim, which ended up being a hard year to get through.
In a late-season game against the Oakland Athletics, Mike Scioscia replaced Guillen with a pinch runner. He lashed out at the manager and team, with his attitude being such a problem that the Angels suspended him for the rest of the season.
He was sent off to the Nationals in the offseason.
12. Philadelphia Phillies: Dick Allen
Dick Allen is another one of those players who could have been an all-time great if he wasn't such a pain in the clubhouse. Perhaps the most well-known incident is a 1965 fight against Frank Thomas. The two got into a fistfight, and Thomas swung a bat at him, leading to his immediate release.
Since Allen is the one on here, he, of course, did more. In 1969, he missed a doubleheader after going to the track to see a horse race, and was suspended as a result.
He was one of the most outspoken guys of his time, and Bill James actually considers him the second-most controversial ballplayer of all-time.
11. Toronto Blue Jays: Shea Hillenbrand
When you have some good power in your bat, but after playing with three teams in two years no one wants to sign you, that says a lot. Such was the case for Shea Hillenbrand.
During his two years at Toronto, pretty much all he did was complain. He argued that no one congratulated him on an adoption, he opposed playing as a DH and sharing first and third base with Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay, and he wrote on the clubhouse billboard that the organization was a sinking ship.
No wonder he couldn't find work after 2007.
10. Oakland Athletics: Jose Canseco
How could the guy who reportedly got Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi and reportedly many others into the world of steroids, while of course taking them himself, not be a clubhouse cancer?
9. Cleveland Indians: Albert Belle
This was definitely one of the easiest ones to pick out of the list. It helps that he's one of the least likable guys the game has produced.
He had the corked bat incident in 1994, when he sent a man into the dressing room to get the bat who would later be a bastion of trouble himself, Jason Grimsley. On top of that, the Indians reportedly billed him for any damage he caused in the clubhouse.
Factor in the steroid usage and his surly attitude, and he gets a top-10 spot easily.
8. Seattle Mariners: Milton Bradley
Oh, Milton Bradley...somehow he remains on the Mariners' roster despite how much of a pain he is no matter where he goes. He was a cancer with the Cubs, the Indians and the Dodgers.
In 2009, he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, speaking out against the Cubs and turning them against him. He also left the Mariners in 2010 for a time seemingly at random, making that $12 million deal for 2011 look pretty bad.
7. Atlanta Braves: John Rocker
John Rocker has perhaps one of the worst mouths in MLB history. He attacked people in New York in a 2000 interview that was racist, homophobic and sexist, and on top of that, continued to make similar comments even after retirement.
While Braves fans may have supported him at first, they turned against him. Pretty much everyone did, actually, and rightfully so with the way he was talking.
6. Houston Astros: Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens has, alongside Barry Bonds, become one of the faces of steroid use. He used to be considered one of the greats of the game, both in the clubhouse and on the field.
Once the steroid accusations and affairs came out, the kid gloves came off and everyone began speaking their mind on what Clemens is really like. At the same time, he wasn't all that great during his career, given the beaning of Mike Piazza and throwing a piece of bat at him on separate occasions.
5. New York Yankees: Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson's tenure on the Yankees was known for two things. On the field, he was great, earning the nickname of "Mr. October." Off the field, the relationship between Jackson, his teammates and the staff was awful.
To start, Jackson and Billy Martin absolutely hated each other, with Martin taking him out of a game in the middle of the inning after he did not quickly field a ball. On top of that, the relationships were so strained throughout that the Yankees were called the "Bronx Zoo."
With all the problems he had there, I always consider him an Athletic deep down.
4. Cincinnati Reds: Marge Schott
I was originally just using players, and it's certainly tempting to put Pete Rose on here, but Marge Schott was a true cancer. How else does an owner get suspended for three years?
It's hard not to put someone on the list who has attacked people on their race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. On top of that, she got angry that a game was postponed because an umpire died on the field.
I could go on all day about comments she has made against pretty much anyone, as there's enough to write a whole book.
3. St. Louis Cardinals: Rogers Hornsby
The most controversial player of all time, according to Bill James, was also the greatest second baseman to play the game, Rogers Hornsby. For all the good things he brought to the table, he had a mountain of issues.
In 1918, Jack Hendricks took over as manager for the Cardinals. Hornsby didn't want to play under him, let his batting average fall and declared he refused to play, so the Cardinals fired Hendricks. Hornsby was also considered very difficult to get along with and gambled frequently on horse races.
He also never smoke or drank, which back then, ironically pushed him further away from teammates. He may have been a great player, but fans were they only ones who would have liked him.
2. New York Mets: Vince Coleman
The New York Mets have a truckload of clubhouse cancers. If I was just doing a top 10 overall, the Mets would probably constitute half that list. Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry and others fit into this list.
Perhaps the worst of all of them is Vince Coleman. In six seasons with the Cardinals, he was a great player and seemed to be the NL's answer to the AL's speed demon, Rickey Henderson. When he joined the Mets in 1991, however, the next three seasons were awful.
He injured Dwight Gooden's arm with a golf club, and threw a lit firecracker into a crowd of fans and was suspended for the rest of the season.
He was traded to the Royals, where he wasn't as bad. Something about being on the Mets turned Coleman into a monster.
1. Detroit Tigers: Ty Cobb
One of the greatest hitters of all time, Ty Cobb, happens to be the biggest cancer of all time. He had a surly attitude, on top of immense racism, and was so aggressive as to be dangerous to others.
His problems started in the beginning, when he couldn't handle rookie hazing in 1906 and alienated himself from his teammates. In 1912, he attacked a handicapped fan who was heckling him, leading to a suspension and the Tigers fielding a replacement team for one game. He also had a rather strange relationship with longtime teammate Sam Crawford and once fought umpire Billy Evans.
The Tigers were able to work around any rough edges he may have had, and perhaps that's thanks to how baseball was played in the deadball era. Had he played nowadays, he likely would have been baseball's main villain.