Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and the Most Polarizing Figures in MLB Teams' Histories
Baseball is a high-profile game with a long history and no truly definitive way to measure who was the better player or had the bigger ego.
That's why no one ever agrees about anything.
In this slideshow are the most polarizing players in each team's history—the men who inspired the most debate or sparked the biggest controversy.
So read on, enjoy and may this list inspire many more great discussions!
Arizona Diamondbacks: Curt Schilling
The Diamondbacks are too new of a team to have suffered any real controversy; the worst they've gotten was a quote from Schilling before the 2001 World Series.
"Mystique" and "aura" he said—the intangible qualities surrounding the opposing New York Yankees—are "dancers in a nightclub."
Atlanta Braves: Hank Aaron
The controversy surrounding Aaron has nothing to do with perceived faults or impropriety—he's a symbol to many fans of what the game was before steroids.
For some, "Hammerin' Hank" will always be the true home-run king.
Baltimore Orioles: John McGraw
McGraw may be better remembered for his days managing the Giants, but most of his playing career was actually spent with the Orioles.
His reputation as a fierce competitor and frequent cheater followed him all through his baseball career.
Public domain image (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com)
Boston Red Sox: Babe Ruth
Sure, it's broken now, but for more than 80 years, Boston supposedly languished under the "Curse of the Bambino."
But even beyond the alleged supernatural fallout from Ruth being sold to the Yankees in 1919, the motivations of Red Sox owner Harry Frazee are often called into question.
Chicago Cubs: Steve Bartman
Bartman may never have taken the field for the Cubs, but the wrath he suffered after he accidentally stopped Moises Alou from making the catch on a foul ball in the 2003 NLCS was far worse than what most players ever receive.
The incident is known as the most prominent manifestation of the Cubs' "Billy Goat" curse.
Chicago White Sox: "Shoeless" Joe Jackson
The best and best-loved player on the 1919 White Sox, Jackson was banned for life for his alleged complicity in the Black Sox Scandal.
Because of his likely innocence, he has become something of a martyr in many fans' eyes while others maintain he was guilty.
Cincinnati Reds: Pete Rose
Some people think it's a tragedy that baseball's all-time hits leader is not in the Hall of Fame. On the other side, there are those who think he deserved his banishment for betting on games—or at least that he should have known the risk he was running.
Whatever the right answer is, the fact that Charlie Hustle's banishment is still a hot-button issue says something about how polarizing the issue is.
Cleveland Indians: Rocky Colavito
The Indians aren't cursed, they're just a historically mediocre, low-budget team.
Still, some insist on pointing to the Tribe's trade of Colavito to the Tigers in 1960 as the source of Cleveland's woes.
Public domain image (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com)
Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez
Jimenez' hot start a year ago served as fuel for a holy war between sabermetric analysts and fans of traditional baseball stats.
The former group—which was eventually proven right—pointed to luck-neutral stats that showed that Jimenez was dramatically overperforming his peripherals, while the latter group claimed that he was "effectively wild" and truly had the skill to induce weak contact.
Detroit Tigers: Ty Cobb
Between his racist philosophy, statistical controversies and violent tendencies, Cobb's character remains an interesting topic of discussion even 50 years after his death.
He was as great of a player as he was terrible of a person.
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez
Ramirez and then-Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez had a public feud in 2010 when Ramirez was benched after his lazy attitude chasing down a ball cost the team two runs in a game.
Ownership implicitly sided with Ramirez—Gonzalez was fired shortly after the incident—but many writers thought disciplining Han-Ram was appropriate.
Houston Astros: Carlos Lee
When Lee signed a $100 million contract with Houston in 2006, the question was posed: Did the Astros overpay, or did they really overpay?
After posting just 0.7 WAR since 2009, evidence points to the latter.
Kansas City Royals: George Brett
Brett sparked a firestorm in 1983 when, after he hit a two-out, ninth-inning home run, the umpires found too much pine tar on his bat and ruled the play an out.
The decision was eventually overturned; each part of that process inspired much controversy.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Vernon Wells
When they traded for Wells this winter, the Angels presented the move as a way to acquire a powerful outfielder after missing out on all their major free-agent targets.
To the rest of the world, though, the fact that the team gave up good players in exchange for one of the worst contracts in the game was something of a head-scratcher.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Jackie Robinson
Nowadays, Robinson is seen as a national hero—a brave man who persevered through major adversity and paved the way for racial equality in sports and society as a whole.
But 65 years ago? Many players and fans didn't take kindly to the idea of integration.
Public domain image (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Milwaukee Brewers: Jim Bouton
Before the release of Ball Four, baseball was seen as a symbol of purity in American society, full of the kind of people kids could look up to.
But after Bouton released his tell-all book that detailed everything from players' vulgar habits to the use of "greenies"? The illusion was shattered, and Bouton fell out of favor with his peers.
Minnesota Twins: Bert Blyleven
For years, Blyleven's was one of the most frustrating Hall of Fame cases to discuss; detractors dismissed him as a "compiler" even though—with 287 wins—he was only 13 victories away from the arbitrary number at which no one would have doubted him.
Luckily, those days are behind us—Blyleven was finally elected in January.
New York Mets: Francisco Rodriguez
After Rodriguez assaulted his girlfriend's father in August (and injured himself in the process), the Mets drew the ire of the MLBPA when they gave K-Rod an unpaid suspension.
Had they tried to void the rest of his contract—as was rumored—it would have led to an ugly battle between the team and the union.
New York Yankees: George Steinbrenner
To Yankees fans, Steinbrenner was a benevolent icon who spent billions of dollars in payroll to make sure his city was in the running for the championship every year.
To everyone else, "The Boss" was a convicted criminal who ruined baseball by turning it into a rich man's game.
Oakland Athletics: Billy Beane
After the release of Moneyball, Beane became the unofficial symbol of the sabermetric movement (at least, to those who hadn't been privy to the concepts before).
As such, the A's' successes are seen as victories for the statheads, while their falterings are seen as proof of why Beane (many detractors who hadn't read the book thought it was an autobiography) shouldn't have written a book about how smart he is.
Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard
A few years ago, there was a heated debate over whether or not Howard's lofty strikeout totals hindered his offensive value.
Now the question is whether the Phillies were smart to have locked up one of the most intimidating hitters in the game for $25 million a year through 2016 or if they significantly overpaid for a guy who won't age well.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Dock Ellis
The man most famous for pitching a no-hitter while on LSD also made quite a name for himself in other ways—particularly his tendency to maliciously bean opposing hitters.
Ellis once hit Reggie Jackson in the face with a pitch. In another game, he tried to bean every single batter he faced.
San Diego Padres: Ken Caminiti
Caminiti's 1996 MVP award wasn't the worst decision the BBWAA has ever made, but it was pretty bad.
Even forgetting Jeff Bagwell and Bernard Gilkey, Barry Bonds had a 1.5-WAR lead over Caminiti.
Seattle Mariners: Milton Bradley
Bradley might not have been at his worst when he was in Seattle, but his tenure with the Mariners was still full of controversy.
His release from the team last month sparked a debate about the true state of race relations in baseball—he wasn't the villain he's often seen as, but he wasn't purely a victim either.
San Francisco Giants: Barry Bonds
There are some who think Bonds should be thrown in jail, and his records should be erased. Even among those who don't wish to persecute him, there's a sense of remorse that a cheater has had the second-best career of all time.
Bonds may be the most controversial player of all time.
St. Louis Cardinals: Mark McGwire
Tampa Bay Rays: Manny Ramirez
Ramirez spent only a week with the Rays, but his abrupt retirement in April after a second positive PED test started the 2011 MLB season off with a bang.
What other controversies have happened in Tampa Bay?
Texas Rangers: Rafael Palmeiro
Palmeiro wasn't a Ranger when he wagged his finger at Congress or when he tested positive for stanozolol, but he's best remembered for the 10 years he spent in Texas.
Because of his hypocrisy, Palmeiro is seen as epitomizing the worst aspects of the PED era.
Toronto Blue Jays: Joe Carter
Carter's lofty RBI totals and legendary World Series home-run totals have secured him a place in the baseball history books.
While there's no disputing the magic of that home run, there is a debate over whether or not Carter was really a good hitter. He had a career wRC+ of just 103; thrice he collected over 100 RBI despite being below replacement-level.
Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg was probably the most-hyped prospect ever when he made his MLB debut last year. There was no denying his generational talent.
Now that he's undergone Tommy John surgery, things have changed. Some think he'll be able to pick up where he left off last year, but others fear he'll never again be the same pitcher.
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