John Rocker first appeared in baseball as a late-season call-up for the Atlanta Braves in 1998. He impressed enough to be named the full-time closer in 1999 and he seemed to have a bright future. Then, he agreed to an interview with Jeff Pearlman of Sports Illustrated, and it all went downhill.
In the January 2000 issue of the magazine, Rocker made racist, sexist and homophobic remarks based on his experience pitching in New York while the Braves were playing the New York Mets. He was then asked if he would ever play for the Mets or Yankees.
"I'd retire first," Rocker said. "It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?"
Now this is what I don't understand. John Rocker agreed to an interview with Sports Illustrated, a magazine that has a huge audience, and still made those comments. Did he think that people would just brush them aside??
Either way, his career went downhill from there. His remarks earned him a suspension for most of spring training and the first 14 games of the 2000 season. He got off to a slow start and was eventually sent down to the minor leagues after threatening a reporter, ironically the same Jeff Pearlman who wrote the article that initially got Rocker in trouble.
Rocker's struggles continued in 2001 and the Braves sent him to the Cleveland Indians, where he continued to be ineffective. He had two unproductive stints with the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2002 and 2003 before retiring. As of 2008, he sells real estate in Atlanta.
Simply put, John Rocker could have been a great pitcher. Yet, he let his emotions get in the way of his effectiveness. To this day, he still defends his words. Thus, he wins the top spot on this countdown.