Lenny Dykstra and the 25 Biggest “Sleazeballs” in MLB History
Throughout baseball history, there have been many players, coaches, owners and commissioners that were what I would consider "sleazeballs." What exactly is a sleazeball?
Well, in my opinion, it is someone that does something, says something, or supports something that a normal human being would consider sleazy, immoral or just downright nasty.
It could be for something they did on the field during their career, something they did off the field during their career, or something they did years after they retired.
This slide show will rank the biggest "sleazeballs" in baseball history, starting with the least of the sleazeballs and working our way to the worst sleazeball in the history of this great game.
As you work your way up to the worst sleazeball, the players actually start to approach the level of "villain" because their acts were more than just sleazy—they were actually either criminal or were a main part of some of the worst things to happen in the game's history.
Let's get started with an honorable mention before moving on to No. 25.
Honorable Mention: Bud Selig
Bud Selig makes this list as an honorable mention for two reasons: his efforts to contract the Minnesota Twins while leaving his Milwaukee Brewers alone, and for looking the other way during the Steroid Era.
Back in the 2002, there was discussion regarding contracting some MLB teams, and Bud Selig as the "acting commissioner" suggested the Twins be one of the teams to be contracted (along with the Expos). This was sleazy because his Milwaukee Brewers were actually performing and drawing worse than the Twins were.
Bud simply wanted to protect "his" team. If you believe he actually turned control of the team over to his daughter during this time, I've got a bridge in New York to sell you.
In 1998, baseball was still recovering from the strike of 1994, but Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris' single-season home run record and this brought the fans back to the game. Even though there had been concerns and questions regarding steroid use in baseball going all the way back to the 1980s, Bud Selig and the other owners simply turned a blind eye to it all because baseball was making money faster than you could say "chicks dig the long ball."
It was not until he was called before Congress that Bud relented and instituted policies regarding PED use. If he had instituted these when the whispers first became shouts, maybe we would all be looking back at that time in history as a golden age of baseball instead of the giant question mark it has become.
No. 25: Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera is a fantastic hitter for the Detroit Tigers. However, off the field, he has issues.
Most notably is his alcohol issue. During the playoffs in October 2009, the police were called when Miguel was drunk and got into an argument with his wife. According to reports, his blood alcohol level was .26 (three times the legal limit) when he was tested at the police station.
Later that night, he went 0-4 with a strikeout against the Chicago White Sox and left six men on base. Cabrera would then spend three months in rehab.
Then in February 2011, it was reported he got into an argument with patrons at a restaurant where he was allegedly drunk and threatened them, indicating he had a gun. Later, he would be pulled over by the police and proceeded to use the ultimate sleazeball defense of, "do you know who I am?" when questioned.
While dealing with issues regarding alcohol or any substance abuse is not sleazy, the actions of the person can be, and that is why Miguel Cabrera is on this list.
No. 24: Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez is the first of several admitted steroid users on this list.
However, that's not what makes Alex a sleazeball; there are several other factors that make Alex sleazy.
To start with, you have the way he handles himself in the media. Alex is very conscious of what he says and how he appears in the media, always trying to say the right thing but coming across as fake as a result.
Then, you have his alleged cheating on his wife with a stripper.
Finally, you have his "bush league" actions like slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove during the 2004 ALCS and yelling something (either "ha" or "mine," depending on who you ask) to distract Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Howie Clark from catching a pop fly.
When you combine all these facts, you end up with basically a sleazy player; granted a very talented sleazy player.
No. 23: Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens is another alleged steroid user on this list.
It is sad that when I think about one of the greatest pitchers in my generation, two things pop into my head right away: his alleged steroid use in which he called out a teammate, Andy Pettitte, for mis-remembering a prior conversation on the topic, and his throwing a broken bat at Mike Piazza during the 2000 World Series.
Add in his request for special treatment from the teams he played on late in his career (not having to travel with the team if he wasn't scheduled to pitch, for example), his Favre-ish "I'm retired, I'm not retired" diva-like attitude at the end of his career, and his complaints about having to carry his own luggage, and you end up with a pitcher that is approaching a high level of sleaze.
The final reason Clemens makes this list, though, is his alleged affair with country singer Mindy McCready that he met when she was 15 (though she says the affair didn't start until years later), his alleged affair with the ex-wife of golfer John Daly, and reported affairs with several other women.
Instead of being known as a top-10 pitcher of all-time, Roger is now known as a top-25 sleazeball.
No. 22: Mark McGwire
Yet again, an admitted steroid user makes this list.
This time it is one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history, Mark McGwire.
Mark McGwire makes this list for his initial testimony in front of Congress investigating steroid use in baseball, his subsequent denials, and finally, his admission of steroid use.
During his testimony to Congress he said, "I'm not here to talk about the past," and, "My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I will say, however, that it remains a fact in this country that a man, any man, should be regarded as innocent unless proven guilty."
Years later, McGwire would finally admit to using steroids "to get healthy" and that "they didn't really help" his career. Too bad for McGwire that Jose Canseco and others (steroid dealers and federal investigators, for example) have said that he started using steroids well before injuries started to affect his career and that without the steroids, he probably would have been out of the game well before his historic 1998 season.
McGwire went from "the person who saved baseball after the 1994 strike" to just another sleazeball from the Steroid Era.
No. 21: Rafael Palmeiro
Once again, a steroid user makes the list.
Palmeiro's rise to sleaziness began with his testimony in front of Congress in which he famously wagged his finger and said, "Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don't know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never."
Well, five months later, Palmeiro tested positive for PEDs. It was his statements after the positive test results were released that make Palmeiro a sleazeball. He said he unknowingly took the steroids and that it may have been given to him by Miguel Tejada, from whom he used to get B12 injections.
While Tejada would later be mentioned in The Mitchell Report, throwing a teammate under the bus will always make you a sleaze.
No. 20: Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich
Who are Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich?
They were pitchers for the New York Yankees in 1973. During spring training that year, they made the announcement that in October 1972, they had swapped wives.
That's right, two teammates traded wives (not sure if a wife-to-be-named-later was part of the deal).
This prompted Yankees GM Lee MacPhail to jokingly say, "We may have to call off Family Day."
It was the 1970s and wife-swapping was part of the culture of that era, but it's still sleazy.
No. 19: Gary Sheffield
Gary Sheffield is another alleged steroid user to make this list.
During his BALCO testimony, Sheffield admitted to "unknowingly" using steroids (the Cream and the Clear). I'm sorry, but no professional athlete will ever unknowingly put anything into their body, so to me, that's just a sleazy excuse.
But if that was the only thing sleazy about Sheffield, he wouldn't be this high on the list.
There's a reason that a player with Sheffield's immense talent played on so many teams during his career. He's been known to speak his mind, but what comes out of his mouth sometimes is just pure sleaze.
In an interview with GQ magazine in June 2007, he was quoted as saying, "You’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out." He then said, "(It’s about) being able to tell (Latin players) what to do—being able to control them,” and, "They have more to lose than we do. You can send them back across the island. You can’t send us back. We’re already here."
Then, in an interview for HBO's Real Sports in July 2007, he said that Yankees manager Joe Torre treated black players differently than white players during Sheffield's time on the Yankees and that Derek Jeter wasn't "all the way black."
Race is still an issue in this country, but for Sheffield to blame the issues he had on Joe Torre, to explain why there's more Latin players in the game, and to call out Derek Jeter for no reason is a sleazy way to discuss it.
No. 18: Milton Bradley
Throughout his career, Milton Bradley was known for his temper and his ability to blame anyone and anything for his shortcomings.
Bradley reportedly went after Kansas City Royals announcer Ryan Lefebvre for comments he made about Bradley on the air but was stopped by Rangers manager Ron Washington before he got to the press box.
Bradley also never met an umpire that he didn't want to physically harm.
Furthermore, in January 2011, Bradley was arrested for threatening his wife (the charges were later dropped after he agreed to an out-of-court hearing).
When you look back at the career of Milton Bradley, you'll see two sides of him. One side was very thankful for the chance to play baseball. The other side, the sleazy side, was a hot-head who was constantly injured and blamed everyone but himself for the problems he had with teammates, coaches, umpires and fans.
His actions led to multiple suspensions, fines and, finally, his release earlier this year.
No. 17: Albert Belle
Where to begin with Albert Belle?
There's the incident in which he went after a fan who called him Joey.
There's the Halloween incident in which he went after trick-or-treaters who egged his house that resulted in him hitting one of them with his car.
There's his using a corked bat, getting found out, and then sending his teammate Jason Grimsley through the ceiling into the umpires' room to swap the bat out with a non-corked one.
There are his self-comparisons to Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton in justifying why he doesn't do interviews, basically saying that they didn't, so he wouldn't either.
Finally, you have Belle's conviction for stalking an escort by planting a GPS on her car and obtaining her phone records. Belle would be sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years probation for his actions.
Albert Belle is a sleazeball; you can decide which reason is best.
No. 16: Jose Offerman
Jose Offerman was known more for his bat than his defense. However, it was two incidents around home plate that resulted in him being included on this list.
First, in August 2007, Offerman was hit by a pitch thrown by Bridgeport Bluefish pitcher Matt Beech. Offerman charged the mound with his bat in his hand. After being ejected from the game, Offerman was arrested by Bridgeport police.
Offerman was given two years probation because it was determined by the courts that he was "not likely to offend in the future."
They couldn't have been more wrong.
In January 2010, in the Dominican Republic Winter League, Offerman was the manager of the Licey Tigers. After his catcher was ejected from a game for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire, Offerman came out to argue with the first base umpire.
He then swung at the umpire, and after the incident, he was once again arrested. Offerman has since been banned for life from the Dominican Republic Winter League.
Charging the mound is part of the game. Charging the mound with a weapon is sleazy.
Arguing with an umpire is part of the game. Taking a swing at one, however, is not.
No. 15: Jeffrey Loria
Jeffrey Loria is the type of owner that no fan wants to own their favorite team.
From his actions, Loria seems to only be interested in making money, not putting together a winning team.
When he couldn't convince the city of Montreal to build a new stadium for his Expos, he sold the team to Major League Baseball and immediately bought the Florida Marlins.
As owner of the Marlins, Loria has put as little money as he could into the team and begged for a publicly funded new stadium (which he has gotten).
To see the full extent of Loria's sleaze, read the article written by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports in which he breaks down just how much of a sleazeball Loria is.
No. 14: Jim Bouton
Is there anything more sleazy than a player making money from a tell-all book?
That's what Jim Bouton did with his book Ball Four, in which Bouton basically spilled the beans on the rarely-reported-on actions of what took place behind the closed doors of a major league locker room.
In the book, Bouton discussed the petty jealousies, the womanizing, the drunken exploits and the drug use of baseball players.
Bowie Kuhn, the MLB commissioner at the time, went so far as to call the book "detrimental to baseball."
While Bouton's stories were true, they violated the "what happens here, stays here" mindset of a professional locker room.
While everyone has the right to publish what was in essence a diary of one season, it's sleazy when you discuss others by name or reveal embarrassing stories about them simply to make a buck.
Just like another player that will appear later in this list, Bouton did expose the truth about the "darker side" of baseball, such as amphetamine use, that gives us all a better understanding of the game and its players.
However, it's still sleazy to do it.
No. 13: Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters of our generation.
However, he was also one of the sleaziest.
There are several things that make Ramirez sleazy.
You have his "Manny being Manny" actions such leaving a game during a pitching change to use the restroom in the Green Monster.
You have the incident in which he shoved a Red Sox traveling secretary to the ground after he couldn't get Manny 16 tickets to a game. He also reportedly said "just do your job" as he shoved him.
You have the way he got traded out of Boston by claiming that he was injured in order to take himself out of the lineup, and subsequently "forgetting" which knee he had hurt before taking an MRI. This is taking lazy play to an extreme.
Still, the sleaziest thing Manny did was use PEDs. Not once, not twice, but allegedly three times (that he was busted for). His name reportedly is on the list of players who tested positive in the "anonymous" 2003 tests; then he tested positive in 2009 for a "female fertility drug", and finally, again in spring training of 2011.
Manny could have gone down as one of the greatest players in history but instead is going down as one of its sleaziest.
No. 12: Jose Canseco
There are several reasons Jose Canseco made this list.
Like Jim Bouton, the main reason he's on this list is the tell-all book, Juiced, that he wrote exposing the Steroid Era in baseball. While everyone named in the book denied steroid use, they for the most part either admitted their steroid use later, were named in the Mitchell Report, or eventually tested positively for steroids.
While Canseco is a sleaze for doing this, he would become arguably the most honest player in regards to steroid use in baseball.
That would normally be enough to get him on the list; however, he also had legal issues which upped his ranking. He has been arrested for spousal abuse, assaulting tourists and trying to sneak a fertility drug into the U.S. from Mexico.
When you look back at Canseco's career, the first thing that comes to mind is that he was a roided-up sleazeball.
No. 11: John Rocker
John Rocker made this list for one reason: his offensive comments made during an interview with Sports Illustrated in January of 2000.
During this interview, when asked if he would ever play for the Yankees or the Mets said, "I'd retire first. 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?"
If those comments don't yell "I'm a huge racist, homophobic, sleazeball," then nothing does.
No. 10: Barry Bonds
We've finally reached the Top 10. Are you surprised to see Barry Bonds this "low?"
The fact that Barry Bonds is No. 10 should tell you just how many true sleazeballs there are in baseball history.
Many fans would consider Barry Bonds the sleaziest player in decades.
His general attitude towards fans and the media along with infidelity would be enough to get him included on this list.
What makes him Top 10, however, is his alleged steroid use.
After McGwire and Sosa set the baseball world on fire in 1998 with their home run chase, Bonds decided that he was a better player than both of them (he was) and that he should be getting that attention instead. So, he decided to use steroids (once again, allegedly).
The rest, as they say, is history. Bonds would go on to absolutely destroy many of baseball's offensive records while continuously denying any steroid use and disregarding the evidence against him.
To get a true account of his sleaziness I suggest you read the book Game of Shadows and/or check out any transcripts of his perjury trial.
No. 9: Lenny Dykstra
Lenny Dykstra was a scrappy player during his career.
It was revealed in the Mitchell Report, though, that he had used steroids.
What makes Dykstra a sleaze are a couple of incidents that took place during his career as well as what has happened to him since retiring. From these incidents, you can see the level of sleaze slowly building.
In 1991 Dykstra was driving drunk when he crashed his car, injuring himself and teammate Darren Daulton.
In 1999, he was arrested for the sexual harassment of a 17-year-old employee of his car wash. The charges were later dropped.
In 2009, he was banned from his properties that were being foreclosed on because he was accused of vandalizing the property.
In December 2010, Dykstra hired an escort and paid her with a check that later bounced.
In January 2011, he was accused of sexual assault by his housekeeper.
In April 2011, he was charged with bankruptcy fraud and grand theft auto.
That brings us to June 2011, when he was charged with 25 counts of grand theft auto, possession of several drugs and HGH. His trial is set for July 11, 2011.
While Dysktra was a fan favorite during his playing days because of his intensity, it appears now that he will be better remembered for when his life spun out of control.
No. 8: Elijah Dukes
What garners Elijah Dukes entrance into this list are his off-the-field actions.
Dukes' problems all stem from anger management issues. The problem is that these actions went far beyond simply losing his temper.
In May 2007, Dukes' wife filed a restraining order against him mainly because of a message he left her on her phone in which he threatened her and their children. I would show the quote, but this is a family site, so I won't. Needless to say, it was surreal and shows the very dark side of Dukes.
Then, in June 2007, he was accused of impregnating a 17-year-old foster child living with one of his relatives.
When Dukes was traded to the Washington Nationals in 2008, they hired a former cop to accompany Dukes everywhere. I'm guessing it was not for Dukes' protection, but rather, for that of everyone around him.
The final incident that makes Dukes a sleaze occurred in March 2011, when he was arrested for assaulting a pregnant ex-girlfriend.
No. 7: George Steinbrenner
George Steinbrenner was a fantastic owner for the New York Yankees. He simply wanted to win, no matter the cost.
However, two incidents made Steinbrenner a sleaze.
The first happened in 1974 when he was convicted of making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's campaign. He was later pardoned for his crimes.
The second incident happened in 1990 when he was banned from baseball for hiring a gambler, Howie Spira, to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. Steinbrenner famously referred to Winfield as "Mr. May" for his inability to play well in the later parts of seasons.
To me, that second incident is one of the sleaziest things an owner can do. You simply don't go after one of your own players like that. If you're unhappy with how a player is performing, you trade them. If you're trying to find a way out of the contract without having to pay the player and that player hasn't done anything illegal to warrant it, you simply can't hire someone to find something.
It is that incident which makes me, a Yankees fan, say that Steinbrenner doesn't deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame. An owner is supposed to epitomize morals and ethics, not be a giant sleazeball.
No. 6: Hal Chase
Hal Chase, according to Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson, was the greatest first baseman in the game.
However, what makes Chase one of the biggest sleazeballs in baseball history is the fact that if there was a gambling scandal anywhere in baseball, Chase was in the middle of it.
Whether by directly betting on baseball, by attempting to pay players to throw games or by being the middle-man in the Black Sox Scandal (allegedly), Chase was arguably the driving force behind the gambling scandals in baseball.
Gambling almost killed baseball prior to the 1920s. One of the biggest offenders was Hal Chase and that is why I have listed him here instead of members of the Black Sox such as Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Without Chase, I do believe, gambling wouldn't have been as prevalent as it was.
No. 5: Pete Rose
Pete Rose is easily a top-five all-time sleazeball in baseball history.
We all know the story. In 1989, Pete Rose was permanently banned from baseball for betting on baseball games. What made it worse was that Rose was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds at the time.
Rose agreed to the ban mainly because by agreeing, he ensured baseball wouldn't release the full details of the investigation.
To get back into baseball, Rose only had to admit publicly that he had bet on baseball. He refused to do this for 15 years.
He finally came clean in a book called My Prison Without Bars, in which he admitted to betting on baseball but never against the Reds.
Sorry Pete, but trying to profit off the apology doesn't make it an apology. The fact he never bet against the Reds is irrelevant. He didn't bet on every single Reds game, so that makes me question any move he made during the game on which he hadn't bet. For example, how do we know that Rose never held pitchers back for the games he did plan to bet on?
I firmly believe the only reason Rose finally admitted to the gambling was because he realizes just how much money he's lost over the years because he can't add "Pete Rose, Hall of Famer" to his autographs.
While "Charlie Hustle" was a great player, "Charlie Sleazeball" is a more apt name for him now, simply for making people question the integrity of the game.
No. 4: Charles Comiskey
Why did the 1919 Chicago White Sox allegedly take money to throw the World Series? Because the White Sox owner, Charles Comiskey, was the cheapest owner the game's ever seen.
Comiskey paid his players among the lowest salaries in the game and even made them pay to have their uniforms cleaned. He would also promise his players bonuses which, for example, might end up being cases of flat champagne. Further, if a player was close to reaching a performance bonus in his contract, he would have the player benched.
This last one happened to Eddie Cicotte. Cicotte was promised a $10,000 bonus if he could win 30 games in a season. When it looked like Cicotte was going to get his 30th win, Comiskey had him benched.
Comiskey's cheap and sleazy actions as an owner would make the cheap owners of today look great in comparison.
No. 3: Ty Cobb
Ty Cobb is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. However, he was also one of its greatest sleazeballs.
Cobb's temper was legendary. For example, he once attacked a heckler (who didn't have any hands!) in the stands, and separately attacked a groundskeeper (and then choked his wife when she tried to intervene).
Cobb was also a racist. The groundskeeper he attacked was African-American and he once slapped an African-American elevator operator for being "uppity" and stabbed an African-American night watchman who tried to intervene.
Cobb was a very intense but great player and continued to give players advice until his death. However, his temper and racism make him a sleaze.
No. 2: Cap Anson
Cap Anson is on this list mainly because he is arguably the biggest racist in the game's history.
Cap Anson repeatedly refused to take the field if the opposing team had any African-American players. In 1887, when Anson saw that African-American pitcher George Stovey was scheduled to start, Anson said he wouldn't play. Needless to say, Stovey didn't pitch and Anson played.
Anson was also reportedly a member of the Klu Klux Klan.
Many people believe Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. This isn't correct. Prior to to 1890, African-Americans were allowed to play. Beginning in 1890, segregation began to occur across the country and baseball joined in, which continued until Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947. Just how much influence Anson had in it in baseball is debatable.
While Anson didn't directly cause segregation in baseball, his actions and influence in the game definitely helped it develop.
No. 1: Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the first commissioner of baseball starting in 1920.
Landis ruled baseball with an iron fist. Even though the members of the Black Sox were acquitted, he still had them banned permanently from baseball.
It is also firmly believed that Landis' actions kept segregation in baseball going as long as it did. Baseball wasn't integrated until three years after his death in 1944.
While Landis suspended players for derogatory racial statements made to the press and publicly said that "baseball has no written rules against black players being on teams," when Bill Veeck reportedly told Landis he was going to buy the Phillies and stock the team with nothing but Negro League players, Landis blocked the sale.
Landis did many great things for baseball, such as clean up its gambling issues and start the All-Star Game; however, his inaction regarding the "unwritten" segregation of baseball is arguably the worst thing ever to happen in baseball history, thus earning him the title of "Sleaziest Person in Baseball History."
So, what do you think? Do you have a problem with the order? Did I leave anyone out? Feel free to comment below.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!