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John Rocker was a villain, but does not fit this list.
Webster's Dictionary defines cliche as 'that thing where people lead off a discussion of a topic by defining a key word from Webster's Dictionary. It's the worst.'
Nevertheless, sometimes, a definition is just the thing: Knowing which operative word is crucial and what it means can set strict parameters that make it easier to frame a debate. So here we go: Webster's defines vilify as 'to utter slanderous and abusive statements against.'
There is more to it, then, than being portrayed as a villain. Vilification suggests vicious treatment, partially deserved, partially unjust. A person is vilified if and only if they do certain things to make a villain of themselves, but ultimately get more rebuke than they deserve. By this reckoning, John Rocker is not vilified: He's a dope, and deserved every ounce of what he got from fans and the media.
The guys who DO make this list fall primarily into seven categories:
- The Heels- These guys are the worst sort of villains, bad in the clubhouse, bad to media types, bad to fans. Rudeness, cheating and general snobbery run rampant in this crew. But each also got a bit worse than they earned at times.
- The Heretics- Gross violations of baseball's ancient honor codes branded each of these as intolerable rebels.
- Grumpy Old Men- Unwilling to engage the media or go through the usual motions of acknowledging the fans, these got a reputation for being surly or cold.
- The Goats- Blowing key moments made each a hated villain.
- Martyrs- In the causes of changing baseball forever, these men bore the brunt of harsh criticism from many corners.
- Clubhouse Cancers- That most nebulous of negative labels for those perceived as self-aggrandizing or aloof.
- Carousers- Party animals who never lived up to their potential because of drug or other off-field problems, these players got a healthy dose of undue judgment for their struggles with addiction.
So now, we're set. The 30 players who have felt the greatest wrath of the baseball public over the past 150 years are as follows: