One of the most talked about story lines to come out of the NBA Finals is LeBron James' comments towards his critics and "haters" that he made at the press conference. Ever since "the decision," LeBron has come under immense scrutiny about his ability, or inability, to win a championship on his own. This got people to thinking, what players in major league baseball today have an "ego" problem that maybe they think they are still as good as they used to be, or even better, they aren't as good as they think they are and the act has worn thin.
This installment will focus on five egos in the majors today that have been popped or at least knocked down a peg from where they used to be.
Once upon a time, Carlos Zambrano was a feared pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. That was 2004-2007. Since then, he hasn't won more than 14 games. His ERA hasn't been lower than 3.33, and it's probably a fair statement to say he isn't a big clubhouse favorite. Injury has played a role in his fall from amongst the top pitchers in the National League, but most of it is completely on him. He has had numerous altercations with teammates, managers and the opponents. Once one of the faces of the Cubs franchise, he has been passed over in favor of young players like Starlin Castro and Carlos Marmol (whom he just recently called out for pitch selection in a loss to the Cardinals).
Sticking with the Cubs theme, Soriano has pretty much become non-existent not only with the Cubs but also baseball period. He currently is on a rehab assignment and should be back soon, but from where he came from to where he is now is an interesting story.
Once upon a time, he was traded for another member of this list whom we will get to later, from the Yankees to the Texas Rangers. While in Texas, he was the 2004 All-star Game MVP and had two solid seasons, hitting a combined 64 home runs and driving in 195. In 2006. he was traded to the Washington Nationals, where he was penciled in as the left fielder. After never playing that position, he refused to go to the position, and the Nationals countered with threatening to disqualify him, meaning his contract would be void. He decided to go and has been "out there" ever since.
His current team signed him to an eight year-$136 million contract in 2007, which will make him a Cub at least for the next few years. Once upon a time, you could count on Soriano for 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Those days are gone, but with that contract, the ego is still there.
It may be quite unfair to put Howard on this list, but after reading my argument, maybe you'll change your mind. He is a world series champion, league MVP, rookie of the year and an all-star. He also has the distinguished honor of winning the single biggest arbitration case for a single season and signing a five year $125 million contract.
However, this is my argument: It's not his team. For all the stats that Howard has put up, I believe the Phillies belong to the pitching staff of Hamels, Lee, Oswalt and Halladay. I mean no disrespect to Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, but the team belongs to the pitchers. Howard is betting the green but is second fiddle to the awesome staff assembled in Philly.
Francisco Rodriguez is the next of our second fiddle egos. Coming off a record setting 62 save season in 2008, he signed a three year-$37 million deal with the Mets. Although he hasn't come close to the 62 he saved in 2008, he has saved as many as 35 and is having a nice start to the season this year.
However, K-Rod has had altercations with team executives, opponents and even his girlfriend's father that not only have cost him his reputation, but also knocked his ego down a few pegs. He is known to have a quick temper and is somewhat emotional on the mound. Being a Met fan isn't easy these days with the uncertainity of ownership and what to do with some key players (David Wright. Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes come to mind), but if I'm K-Rod, I'm loving the fact Reyes is having a great year just to keep the heat off of me.
Our last second fiddle ego is the man with the biggest ego in baseball: Alex Rodriguez. From his rant against A's pitcher Dallas Braden to how he holds himself on the field, A-Rod is baseball's LeBron James. A-Rod took a lot of heat signing with the Yankees because of the thought he couldn't win a title on his own (same as LeBron). He finally won his title, but the Yankees will always be Derek Jeter's team. In fact, you could make the argument that Mark Teixeria and Robinson Cano have become more popular that A-Rod.
Still, it doesn't seem to phase him even with baseball investigating his continued relationship with his cousin and his high profile girlfriends. A-Rod's ego is as big as they come, but he is not the player he once was and is getting passed by players much younger and frankly better than A-Rod is now.