Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez and Each MLB Team's Most Criticized Player

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIJune 1, 2011

Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez and Each MLB Team's Most Criticized Player

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    Baseball players are celebrities, just like politicians and pop stars.

    Much as American gossipers love to follow the exploits of popular figures, nothing captures their attention like trouble—screw-ups, failures, not living up to expectations. Same goes for the men who get millions of dollars to play a children's game.

    In this slideshow are 30 of the most criticized players in baseball—the player from each team who receives the most negativity from the fans, the press or other people from around MLB.

    Read on and enjoy the schadenfreude!

Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton

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    It's not Upton's fault that his exceptional production to date is considered disappointing—for how many 23-year-olds is an .824 OPS in 475 games considered not good enough?

    Upton could have a Hall of Fame-worthy career and still go down in history as a disappointment.

Atlanta Braves: Dan Uggla

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    When the Braves signed newly acquired second baseman Dan Uggla to a $62 million contract extension, they were presumably expecting the 30 homers and fantastic plate discipline he showcased year after year with the Florida Marlins.

    So far this year, he's rewarded Atlanta for its investment by hitting .178 with a .568 OPS. At minus-0.5 WAR, he's been below replacement value.

    It's no surprise Braves fans aren't happy with him.

Baltimore Orioles: Mark Reynolds

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    Even at the time, the Orioles' offseason infield upgrades seemed misguided—Baltimore's roster doesn't look nearly ready to compete with the big boys of the AL East.

    But the O's surely expected better from Reynolds. He's hitting .198 with a .694 OPS and is seeing at-bats in the bottom third of the order.

Boston Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka

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    Daisuke Matsuzaka cost the Red Sox more than $100 million including his posting fee, and he hasn't given them a very good return on their investment.

    The Boston media isn't very forgiving of mediocrity from its teams' stars, and Dice-K's injuries and struggles have inspired quite a bit of ill will.

Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano

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    Zambrano isn't exactly a Hall of Famer, but he's a much better pitcher than fans seem to give him credit for. The team doesn't think too highly of him either, as evidenced by his ill-advised stint in the bullpen last year.

    That's what happens when you're a player with a short temper.

Chicago White Sox: Ozzie Guillen

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    OK, so he's not a player anymore. Still, there's no one in the South Side who takes more flack than Ozzie.

    From his affinity for "small ball" and overly aggressive play to his trademark tirades—for example, he called reporter Jay Mariotti a "f***ing f**." There's no question that he is the game's most controversial manager.

Cincinnati Reds: Edinson Volquez

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    Volquez is one of the most polarizing figures on the Reds, and it's not hard to see why.

    After being suspended for a positive PED test last year, Volquez attracted quite a bit of criticism when he called out his teammates for a lack of run support last week. Oh, and he has a 6.35 ERA.

Cleveland Indians: Matt LaPorta

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    Being traded for a star player isn't fair to a prospect; fans of his new team, bitter over seeing their star player skip town, will have little patience for minor league development or MLB adjustment time.

    Such was the fate of LaPorta after he was below replacement-level (-0.6 WAR) in his first two partial seasons with the Indians. Even now that he has a .780 OPS, Manny Acta is still batting him eighth.

Colorado Rockies: Ian Stewart

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    There's a downside to being labelled a top prospect: If you don't fulfill your lofty potential, you're a bust, even if you develop into a useful player.

    Of course, Stewart's also dealing with the fact that he's hitting .064.

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera

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    Cabrera's been the target of much criticism over the course of his accomplished career, ranging from fears about his weight gains to his off-field legal problems.

    Of course, that hasn't stopped Miggy from ascending to the level of one of the best players in the game.

Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez

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    With great power (and speed and contact ability) comes great responsibility. Jogging to get a ball that had caromed into left field after kicking it on a botched play—as Ramirez infamously did last year—is not a good way to fulfill that duty.

    It doesn't help that Han-Ram is currently hitting .210 with a .615 OPS.

Houston Astros: Carlos Lee

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    The barbs are always sharper for the highest-paid player on a team, and thanks to the exorbitant contract he got from the Astros in 2006, the shoe fits for Lee.

    Of course, the criticism he faces is more because of his .671 OPS than his salary.

Kansas City Royals: Luke Hochevar

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    The Royals might not have expected Hochevar to become Stephen Strasburg when they picked him with the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, but a top-of-the-rotation guy for the future seemed like a reasonable vision for his career.

    With a career record of 22-37 and a 5.49 ERA, it's safe to say he hasn't lived up to expectations.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Vernon Wells

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    A clear consensus pick for one of the worst contracts in the game, the Angels shocked the baseball world when they gave up superior hitter Mike Napoli in exchange for Wells and the $86 million left on his contract before the season.

    He's now hitting .183, and the Halos are likely experiencing buyer's remorse.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Jonathan Broxton

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    The importance of the closer in our modern definition (the save-earning, ninth-inning man) is oft overstated, but as the guy left looking stunned on the mound when the opposing team completes a comeback, every fireman has a big target on his back.

    So when a closer performs as poorly as Broxton has so far this year—he's got a 5.68 ERA—well, you get the picture.

Milwaukee Brewers: Yuniesky Betancourt

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    His is a name that will live in infamy.

    Betancourt, 2009's least valuable player (minus-2.2 WAR), has become something of a punching bag in the blogosphere thanks to his general ineptitude at every aspect of the game.

Minnesota Twins: Francisco Liriano

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    Liriano didn't get any love from the media during his magical 2010 comeback season, when he put up an insane 2.66 FIP with 6.0 WAR. Wasn't his fault he had a .331 BABIP.

    He can't catch a break this year either, but in his critics' defense, he's pitched awfully (5.73 ERA).

New York Mets: Jose Reyes

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    First, Reyes was criticized for his impatience at the plate. Then his reputation took a hit as he struggled through injuries and inconsistent play. Now his team's owner says he's "had everything wrong with him."

    Rumor has it Reyes could be on the move soon. For his sake, let's hope he can find peace with his new team.

New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez

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    A record-breaking contract, a reputation of selfishness (fair or not, it exists) and a couple disappointing postseason series set the stage for Yankees fans screaming for A-Rod's head.

    It got so bad that New York writers seriously suggested that the Yankees would be better off with Scott Brosius than the man who twice won the MVP award while in pinstripes.

Oakland Athletics: Billy Beane

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    He might not actually be suiting up for the A's anymore, but no one in the Athletics organization takes more flack than Beane.

    The main subject of the book Moneyball, Beane has been accused (by people who should know better) of ghostwriting the book to brag about how smart he is. In addition, detractors of sabermetrics frequently ignore the incredible low-budget teams he put together in the early 2000s just because he never won a World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard

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    From the time he set foot in the majors, analysts have been hounding Howard for his high strikeout totals. His critics focused only on his swollen K-rate—not on the fact that he hit 58 homers in his first full season.

    Now that he's older and his plate discipline, power and defense are all declining, Howard will likely continue to be a punching bag as he cashes $25 million checks for the next six years.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Brandon Wood

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    Those who have read Moneyball will be familiar with this quote from Cyril Connolly: "Whom the gods wish to destroy they first call promising."

    Had another young player posted a .447 OPS with minus-3.1 WAR in his first 195 games, he would be forgotten. Not so for Wood, who was once supposed to be one of the top prospects in baseball.

San Diego Padres: Brad Hawpe

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    Hawpe—along with Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, Jermaine Dye and Manny Ramirez—has the distinct dishonor of possessing one of the worst gloves of his generation.

    Now at first base, he's the owner of a .670 OPS. No wonder he doesn't get much love.

San Francisco Giants: Barry Zito

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    From the time the Giants signed Zito to the then-biggest contract ever awarded to a pitcher, a target was on his back—he simply wasn't good enough to be paid like the best starter in baseball.

    After four-and-a-half years of performing somewhere between average and mediocre, Zito has had many San Franciscans pulling their hair out.

Seattle Mariners: Chone Figgins

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    With Milton Bradley gone, the title of most criticized Mariner falls to Figgins.

    Presented as a huge boost to the Seattle franchise when the M's signed him coming off a 2009 campaign in which he posted 6.9 WAR, he's posted just 0.2 WAR since signing a $36 million contract.

St. Louis Cardinals: Colby Rasmus

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    The negativity toward Rasmus isn't coming from fans or analysts, who are on the whole impressed with his plate discipline and power.

    Instead, it's come from his manager, Tony La Russa. The two had a semi-public feud last season that resulted in Rasmus reportedly asking for a trade.

Tampa Bay Rays: B.J. Upton

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    Like his brother Justin, Upton has been a very good—or at least solid—player throughout his MLB career. But as a former No. 1 overall draft pick, anything short of turning into a perennial All-Star would seem like a disappointment.

    From a player of lesser pedigree, his production would be impressive. But he's losing the expectation game.

Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton

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    Another former No. 1 overall draft pick, Hamilton too suffered from the curse of high expectations until his 2008 breakout and to some degree even up until his 2010 MVP season.

    Combine that with his struggles with alcohol and illegal drugs, and Hamilton had more than his share of doubters.

Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista

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    Bautista came out of absolutely nowhere to hit 54 homers in 2010, and everyone and his mother came out of the woodwork to explain why he couldn't possibly do it again in 2011.

    He's currently on pace for 61 dingers and 14.7 WAR. His critics are starting to shut up.

Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg

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    From the time the Nationals signed him to the biggest contract in MLB draft history, contrarians have labeled Strasburg as overhyped and unlikely to live up to his storied potential.

    Now that he's undergone Tommy John surgery, there will be many who'll fear he won't be able to make a full comeback. His job will be to prove his critics wrong.


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