MLB Divas: Each Team's Biggest Ego Among Players in 2011
Baseball is and always will be a team sport, but there are still a handful of players out there who think that they're bigger than the game.
Barry Bonds was one of those players because he was infamous for distracting fans from what was happening on the field with the parade show that embodied his last few years of professional baseball.
Bonds has set quite a high standard when it comes to being a public sideshow, yet with all the tools (traditional media, social media, 24/7 sports news) at the disposal of these players, it won't be long before someone inherits the crown.
Here's a look at each team's biggest diva and why he is such a terrible role model for the game.
Teams are sorted alphabetically with the Arizona Diamondbacks first and the Washington Nationals last.
Arizona Diamonbacks: Justin Upton, OF
It’s a shame I couldn’t include the legendary Kirk Gibson here, who currently manages the Diamondbacks. But Justin Upton isn’t a bad consolation prize if we're sticking with active players.
The former No. 1 overall pick became the youngest player in baseball when he made his major league debut in 2007 at the age of 19. He’s since gone on to become a complete player with a rare combination of power and speed, and he’s still only 23! Upton has handled the hype well thus far, but he’s on the verge of becoming a perennial MVP candidate and a superstar. Let’s see how he can handle it.
Atlanta Braves: Dan Uggla, 2B
Uggla may be relatively new to the Atlanta Braves, yet he’s still managed to infuse his new club with his particular brand of energy and enthusiasm.
The power-hitting second baseman boasted his own fan club called “Uggla’s Ugglies” while he was with the Marlins and it’s only a matter of time before he starts a similar club in Atlanta. Uggla is also very popular for his work hosting This Week in Baseball and his appearances on various other sports shows. Now he just needs to live up to that five-year, $62 million contract extension he signed with the Braves.
Baltimore Orioles: Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Guerrero will eventually go down as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. However, he’ll also be remembered as one of the game’s quirkiest players.
The nine-time All-Star never saw a pitch he couldn’t hit (he once hit a ball that bounced in the dirt) and is one of the rare players in MLB who doesn’t use batting gloves. He’s also a big fan of showing off his arm, trying to throw out runners that most outfielders wouldn’t even dream of catching. Now, in the later stages of his career, he’s exclusively a DH, yet we still see his incredible raw talent every time he swings at a pitch two feet outside of the strike zone, and hits it into the bleachers.
Boston Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon, RP
Papelbon loves attention, whether he’s coming in for the save in the ninth inning of a close game or playing the spoons as the leader of the Boston bullpen band. The Red Sox closer gained millions of fans when he celebrated Boston winning the AL East title in 2007 by Irish step dancing on the mound to the Dropkick Murphy’s song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” Then he did the same thing when the Red Sox won the pennant and again when they won the World Series.
When he’s not dancing, Papelbon is likely making a fuss over how he wants to be the highest-paid closer in baseball. He may have had a valid argument back in 2007 when he was actually one of the best pitchers in baseball, but not anymore with a career-high 4.03 ERA in 29 games this season. It takes a big man to swallow his pride and Papelbon literally has pride oozing out of his nostrils.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano, SP
It’s hard to classify Zambrano as a diva, a hothead or just an average psycho. Whatever you want to call him, Zambrano is undeniably one of the most vocal and emotional men in baseball.
He has an ongoing feud with a certain intrusive water cooler and he’s not afraid to call out the umpires, his couches and even his teammates. Zambrano is as committed to winning as any professional athlete you’ll ever see, but there is a line of what’s considered acceptable behavior and the big righty apparently never read the MLB decency manual.
Chicago White Sox: A.J. Pierzynski, C
Let’s be honest—the biggest diva in U.S. Cellular Park is obviously Ozzie Guillen. But since he’s not technically a player, the next-best choice is the one who man who most embodies Ozzie’s “eccentric” approach to baseball.
Pierzynski has racked up more than his share of enemies throughout the league thanks to an approach to the game that borders on reckless. It should come as no surprise, then, that the veteran catcher had several recent stints as a guest on TNA wrestling and once challenged world champion John Cena to a steel cage match.
On the bright side, at least Pierzynski got his comeuppance when he was punched out by Michael Barrett in 2005. Naturally, the White Sox went on to win the World Series that year.
Cincinnati Reds: Brandon Phillips, 2B
The Reds are one of the best young teams in baseball, but Brandon Phillips is still undeniably the clubhouse leader. The veteran second baseman is a defensive whiz and a spark plug with both his bat and his mouth.
In 2010 he famously declared that he hated the St. Louis Cardinals and then the next day started a bench-clearing brawl between the two teams by tapping catcher Yadier Molina with his bat. That’s a big no-no in pretty much any sport, yet Phillips is proud of what he did and stands by his comments.
Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore, OF
Is it ironic that Sizemore came to the Indians in the same trade that netted fellow divas Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee for Bartolo Colon? Safe to say that trade didn’t quite work out for the Montreal Expos.
As for Sizemore, he’s had a disappointing career after once being considered one of the best all-around players in the game. His only claim to fame since was sending his then-girlfriend some racy photos. Anybody who has the rocks to stand in front of a mirror and take nude pictures of himself certainly has a big ego.
Colorado Rockies: Jason Giambi, UT
Giambi has receded into the MLB shadow now that he’s not a full-time player anymore, but the fact that he only has 57 at-bats shouldn’t exclude him from diva status.
The controversial slugger made headlines when he became involved in the BALCO scandal and admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. He’s also renowned for being one of the sweatiest players in baseball history and for a strange superstition that entails him wearing a golden thong to break out of a slump. No, really.
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Cabrera isn’t quite on the same diva level as Manny Ramirez, although he carries just as big of a bat. Still, the Venezuelan-born slugger has a habit of getting himself into trouble.
Cabrera’s long list of transgressions includes quarrelling with teammates, domestic altercations with his wife and repeated drunk driving arrests. Somebody likes to party a little bit too much, although it seems like Cabrera is serious about dealing with his alcohol addiction and anger issues. He’s still only 28 so there’s plenty of time for him to drop the “diva” label.
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez, SS
Ramirez gives young superstars a bad name with the way he behaves on and off the field. He has all the talent in the world but a 10-cent head.
Ramirez has drawn criticism for not running out ground balls and repeatedly feuding with his manager. He’s been benched more than once for disciplinary reasons and does not seem to care about setting a positive example for his teammates. The sky’s the limit if he ever matures.
Houston Astros: Carlos Lee, OF
The Astros are a pretty down-to-earth club (it’s hard not to be when you lose so many games), but one player who just doesn’t embody the ideals of small-market baseball is “El Caballo.”
Lee was a hell of a player early in his career, yet in 2006 he still managed to rope the Astros into giving him a six-year contract for $100 million, at least twice what he’s actually worth. Since then Lee’s numbers have tailed off dramatically and he seems content just cashing in his paycheck instead of trying to help his team win.
Kansas City Royals: Melky Cabrera, OF
The Royals are one of the youngest teams in baseball with a collection of mega prospects still trying to establish their major league credentials. As a result, you won’t find many divas in Kansas City, at least not until the Royals start winning.
But Cabrera, despite being only 26, is not a part of Kansas City’s long-term plans and has already more than gotten his feet wet. While breaking through with the Yankees in 2005 Cabrera earned himself several nicknames, among them “Melky Way” Cabrera, the “Melk Man” and “Leche.” He sold several T-shirts along the way, although apparently he wasn’t famous enough to get a spot on the “Got Milk?” campaign.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Tori Hunter, OF
Hunter is one of the best all-around ball players in the game and has earned a reputation for making stunning defensive plays. However, that doesn’t mean he’s afraid to ruffle some feathers.
In 2010 Hunter made headlines by calling out black Latinos as not real African-Americans, and then this year he stirred up some controversy by bemoaning the “infestation” of Yankees fans at his home stadium. A player who’s willing to speak his mind is someone to admire, except when the stuff that comes out of his mouth is ludicrous and confrontational.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Vicente Padilla, SP
Padilla has spent almost the entire 2011 season on the disabled list, but a lack of playing time doesn’t spare him the ignominy of being on this list.
One of the active bean ball leaders among pitchers with 106 hit batsmen in his career, Padilla has earned a reputation as a pitcher who’s always willing to go inside on a hitter. Among Padilla’s favorite targets are A.J. Pierzynski, Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Teixeira, and he’s been the source of more than a handful of bench-clearing brawls.
The dull-brained righty is famous for pulling off the rare triple feat of shooting himself in the leg, contracting Swine Flu and then being released because he was “regarded as a disruptive clubhouse presence.” It doesn’t get much worse than that.
Milwaukee Brewers: Prince Fielder, 1B
It’s hard not to get noticed when you’re the size of a miniature whale with the biceps of a redwood. It’s even harder to stay out of the limelight when you develop a habit for hitting 400-foot home runs.
Fielder, 27, is undoubtedly one of baseball’s best young stars and, even though he has to endure constant criticism about his weight, he’s still widely regarded as a clubhouse leader. It remains to be seen how the slugger will handle the circus surrounding his first big contract.
Minnesota Twins: Delmon Young, OF
Young has cooled down considerably since his hot-headed days as a rookie for the Tampa Bay Rays. However, the former No. 1 overall pick from the 2003 draft won’t likely ever be able to shake the diva label.
In 2006 while playing for the AAA Durham Bulls, Young famously threw a bat at an umpire after being called out on strikes. He received a 50-game suspension for the incident and a reputation for overreacting, but to his credit he’s behaved much better since he got promoted to the majors. Then again, not many 25-year-old men are truly emotionally mature.
New York Mets: Francisco Rodriguez, RP
I’m not even going to bother trying to defend Rodriguez’s action. Instead, I’m just going to fast-forward to 2009. In that year the Mets closer was involved in two separate heated arguments, first with Yankees reliever Brian Bruney and then with his own assistant general manager, Tony Bernazard.
The next year K-Rod outdid himself by pummeling the father of his girlfriend after a game at Citi Field. He was arrested, suspended and, the really sad part, he even tore a ligament in his right thumb during the altercation. The term “mental lightweight” just doesn’t seem to do Rodriguez justice.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter, SS
It seems almost inconceivable that anybody could ever wrestle the title of “New York’s Biggest Diva” from Alex Rodriguez. But when you throw a hissy fit because your team didn’t want to pay you three times what you were worth and then proceed to drag along all your teammates as you limp to your 3,000th career hit, then you deserve an award.
Jeter is barely good enough to be a major league starter anymore, yet he acts like he’s the king of the city. It’s fair to say his string of high-profile relationships (Mariah Carey, Jessica Biel, Minka Kelly) and his army of ball-washers have grossly exaggerated his sense of self-worth.
Oakland Athletics: Dallas Braden, SP
The A’s run a pretty tight ship (unless you want to count those two years they employed Milton Bradley), but if there’s anyone on their roster who qualifies as a diva it’s definitely Dallas Braden.
The young lefty famously threw a perfect game last season, but he might be better known as the guy who stood up to Alex Rodriguez. When A-Rod walked across the Oakland mound during a game, Braden called him out for violating one of baseball’s “unwritten rules.” Anybody who one-up’s Rodriguez definitely belongs on this list. Plus, one of his best friends is Brian Wilson (later on this list).
Philadelphia Phillies: Shane Victorino, OF
It should be enough that his two nicknames are “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” and “The Pineapple Express.” However, everyone’s favorite Hawaiian-born major leaguer isn’t actually all that well liked outside of Philadelphia.
During the 2008 playoffs Victorino taunted Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda for pitching inside and instigated a bench-clearing brawl. Then in the following year’s postseason, a Cubs fan was kind enough to dump a full cup of beer on Victorino. Maybe if he spent less time robbing guys of extra-base hits, he’d have more friends.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, OF
The Pirates have been searching for a franchise player to lead them out of the MLB cellar, and they may have finally found him in the dynamic Andrew McCutchen.
The 24-year-old outfielder has drawn comparisons to Andruw Jones, Carl Crawford and even Barry Bonds with his rare combination of speed, power and defense. All the praise hasn’t gone to his head and he has a great deal of help in Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Gerrit Cole, but McCutchen may be the one diva on here that’s actually worthy of all the admiration.
San Diego Padres: Orlando Hudson, 2B
O-Dawg is one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball, but there’s another reason his nickname references a canine—the guy loves to bark.
He’s a vocal leader in the clubhouse and on the field, and occasionally even in the media. Last year he stood up for his African-American brethren (Jermaine Dye, Gary Sheffield) and hinted that there’s racism towards black players in baseball.
San Francisco Giants: Brian Wilson, RP
This was easy because only somebody who is completely and utterly outside of his mind would ever use his face as a breeding ground for something that could best be described as a Muppet.
I’m talking, of course, about Brian Wilson’s beard, which has attained a celebrity status of its own. Wilson also has an alter ego named “The Machine” and is a self-acclaimed “certified ninja.” I could go on, but it just gets weirder.
Seattle Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki, OF
Ichiro is one of the most upstanding citizens of baseball. He’s a consummate hitter and professional, with a work ethic that would make Barack Obama jealous. He’s also a certifiable superstar.
Ichiro dresses like he’s in a rock band and he plays like a Hall of Famer, which should come as no surprise considering how much you see his name and face in the media. There’s even a Japanese folk dance named after him!
St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols, 1B
With all due respect to Ichiro, Pujols is the best hitter on the planet. If he plays long enough he’ll break every offensive record in the books, and later this year he should sign the biggest contract in MLB history.
For somebody with so much talent, Pujols has an incredibly small ego. He’s always been a team player and knows how much of an icon he is in St. Louis and in his native Dominican Republic. He’s used his fame to raise awareness about Down syndrome and even helped bring an MLS franchise to St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Rays: Kyle Farnsworth, RP
How Farnsworth keeps convincing teams to give him money is one of the many unexplained mysteries of baseball. The hard-throwing righty is now on his eighth club in just 12 years and he hasn’t come close to cleaning up his act.
He’s twice knocked down opposing pitchers in bench-clearing brawls, first Paul Wilson in 2003 and then Jeremy Affeldt in 2005. He had an unfortunate confrontation with an electric fan in 2006 that landed him on the disabled list. Even his dogs don’t like him! Farnsworth injured his non-pitching hand breaking up a fight between his two bulldogs.
The real question is whether Farnsworth got all that aggression from the bulldogs, or it was the other way around?
Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton, OF
Hamilton has made an incredible turnaround since being drafted first overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Rays. His first few professional seasons were riddled with alcohol and drug addiction and he was out of baseball entirely by 2004.
However, just because Hamilton is now one of the most feared hitters in baseball doesn’t mean he’s past his bad boy days. In 2009 he was involved in a nightclub incident where he reportedly drank alcohol and attempted to acquire cocaine. Nothing ultimately came of the accusations, but it just goes to show how difficult it is to shake a habit, especially when you’re just 30 years old.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista, OF
Nobody on the Blue Jays roster really stands out as a bad apple, so instead I’m going to talk about one player who is rapidly approaching diva status—Jose Bautista.
Bautista could barely crack the starting lineup as a reserve outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Then he was traded to the Blue Jays and almost instantaneously became one of the best sluggers in baseball. He led the majors in home runs in 2010 and is again the leader in 2011, with a 1.115 OPS that would be the highest in MLB since 2004 (Barry Bonds—1.422). If Bautista keeps this up he’ll begin seeing his name on anything and everything MLB-related, like the Fan Cave video he recently recorded.
Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, OF
This might be cheating since he’s not on a major league roster and probably won’t be for at least another year, but there may not be a bigger diva at any level of baseball than Bryce Harper.
The 2010 No. 1 pick has been anointed as the second coming of Mickey Mantle and he’s more than happy to drink the Kool-Aid. The 18-year-old has earned a reputation for acting like...well, an 18-year-old. He constantly argues with umpires about calls, he shows up his opponents and he doesn’t care about his critics. Harper may very well be as good as advertised, but he as a long way to go in terms of maturity if he ever wants to survive an at-bat at the MLB level.