Albert Pujols signing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rocked the baseball world. Many called him a lucky man while others rightfully called him a sellout. But is he the biggest in baseball history?
Merriam-Webster defines the verb "sell out" as "to betray one's cause or associates especially for personal gain."
For personal gain—in baseball that usually has meant two things: a pursuit for more money or a quest to improve one's physique through illegal PEDs, chiefly steroids and HGH.
There's been a lot of money-grubbing and PED-usage in recent baseball history, so this list is full of color pictures and guys still alive and kicking. But make no mistake about it—these next 15 players are truly the biggest sellout in MLB history.
And don't worry, there's a few old-timers, too.
J.D. Drew, a Scott Boras client, was drafted second overall by the Phillies in 1997 and held out for at least a $10 million deal. The Phillies never gave him that money.
After playing that year for the independent St. Paul Saints, Drew was drafted fifth overall by the Cardinals in 1998, the Cardinals ended up signing Drew for $7 million.
Drew proved he's all about the money again in 2007, when he opted out of his contract with the Dodgers, leaving $33 million over three years on the table. He signed with the Red Sox for $70 million over five years later that offseason.
After spending 1998 with the Padres, Kevin Brown, then 33, infamously signed with the Dodgers for seven years at $105 million, becoming baseball's first $100 million man. What was L.A. thinking?
A good question, too, is what was Kevin Brown thinking? The Dodgers' contract was nearly $40 million more than the Padres' offer, Brown's next-best option. Brown was destined to live down his mammoth deal.
What's worse, Brown had said he would prefer to be closer to his home in Georgia than he had been in San Diego.
Is it too soon to weigh the case of Albert Pujols? Probably. But he is rightfully on the list of the game's biggest sellouts and he'll likely stay here.
Pujols' 10-year, $254 million contract is the second-highest in baseball history. The Cardinals reportedly offered Pujols nine years and slightly south of $200 million, but jeez, come on, Albert!
Pujols' move places him financially and ethically in the realm of Alex Rodriguez, who seemed to be the complete antithesis of everything that Pujols stood for.
It's truly a stunning if not baffling move by Pujols, who had a very good chance of going down as the greatest Cardinal ever if he'd re-signed with St. Louis. No more.
Jason Giambi is the first player on this list to exhibit the devastating combination of making monster money and having a personal history of PED use.
In 2001, Giambi spurned his California roots, leaving the Oakland A's for the New York Yankees, to the tune of seven years and $120 million.
Giambi would rank higher on this list if not for his admission of steroid usage 2007, which followed an awkward apology in 2005 that beat around the bush. He also cooperated with the Mitchell Report investigation. He's a sellout and a cheat, but he's faired better than many of his fellow money-making juicers. Giambi's also enjoyed a respectable back end of his career after being traded to the Rockies in 2009.
Like Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro was also called on to testify before Congress in 2005. Palmeiro 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."
Palmeiro looked pretty silly when he was suspended 10 games later that season for just that—taking steroids. Palmeiro linked his positive test to unknowing ingestion of steroids via B12 supplements, stating,
I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period. Ultimately, although I never intentionally put a banned substance into my body, the independent arbitrator ruled that I had to be suspended under the terms of the program.
Should Palmeiro be taken at his word? The New York Times' Murray Chass thinks so, as he argued in Nov. 2005. After all, the only person to directly implicate Palmeiro has been Jose Canseco, who'll be visited later on this list...
Manny Ramirez has certainly been awarded some big-time contracts, however he truly earns his place on this list for his off-field behavior and his repeated drug violations.
Ramirez sells out by acting like an idiot, showing up others on the teams he's played for and for never coming clean about his PED usage.
Ramirez was blessed with a tremendous all-around offensive game, however he's significantly sullied his reputation in recent seasons with his drug violations, ugly exit from the Red Sox and his brief and maligned stint with the Rays.
"I'm not here to talk about the past." These are the infamous words that Mark McGwire repeated, again and again, when he testified in Congress back in 2005.
McGwire came clean, more or less, in 2010, prior to accepting his current role as the Cardinals' hitting coach.
Big Mac brought so much joy to baseball (alongside the next fellow on this list) so it might seem tough to well, be so tough on him, but there's little denying that most of his career is forever clouded in dark infamy.
Like Palmeiro and McGwire, Sammy Sosa was subpoenaed to testify before Congress in 2005. At those hearings, Sosa, who is able to speak English just fine, had his attorney issue his formal PED-use denial.
Sosa's troubles began before ’05, however. "Slammin' Sammy" was one of the players listed who reportedly tested positive for steroids in 2003. He began a steep decline in 2002. Sosa was also infamously caught with a corked bat in 2003.
Sosa further drew heat in 2009, when, upon formally announcing his retirement. In an interview with ESPN Deportes, Sosa said would "calmly wait" his induction into the Hall of Fame, stating, "Don't I have the numbers to be inducted?" Asked about steroids allegations in the same interview, Sosa said the following:
I always played with love and responsibility and I assure you that I will not answer nor listen to rumors. If anything ugly comes up in the future, we will confront it immediately, but with all our strength because I will not allow anybody to tarnish what I did in the field.
Over his career, Sosa has seemed out of touch with how serious an implication steroids allegations are and he's had a knack for saying some questionable stuff on record. A true sellout.
Jose Canseco is another alleged PED user on this list. His high spot on this list is owes to his infamous in his 2005 tell-allbook Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.
Among the players that Canseco named as fellow PED abusers were Mark McGwire, Jason GIambi, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro. Needless to, massive scandal ensued.
On AE later that year, Canseco offered a lame mea culpa: saying that he "regretted mentioning players [as steroid users]. I never realized this was going to blow up and hurt so many people." Sure you didn't, Jose.
Carl Mays is on this list for a rather unique reason. Pitching for the Yankees in 1920, he struck and killed the Indians' Ray Chapman with a high fastball.
As Chapman crumpled to the ground and was being attended to, Mays remained on the mound. He didn't attend Chapman's funeral. These actions however, pale in comparison refusal to the take the high road and keep his mouth shut as he was assailed by criticism. He went on the offensive, blaming the umpire for giving him a scuffed ball, which was a very stupid thing to say considering Mays was a spitballer notorious for doctoring the ball.
Even Ty Cobb, a widely disliked player, thought that Mays deserved no sympathy.
For much of the 2000s, Alex Rodriguez was one of the best, if not the best, players in all of baseball. He is also the poster-boy for money-grabbing. A-Rod has twice set the mark for the highest contract in baseball history, first in 2000 with the Rangers and again in 2007 with the Yankees. His opt-out process with New York in 2007 was a PR fiasco.
A-Rod's aloof personality and a perception as a choker have only further cemented his sell-out status. Rodriguez did, however, have an excellent 2009 postseason capped off with his first World Series title.
Pete Rose's gambling in the mid-1980s earns him a deserved high spot on this list. Rose also served six month in prison in 1990 for tax evasion. Rose's high spot is truly cemented, however, by his long-time denial of the gambling allegations. He finally "came clean" in his 2004 autobiography My Prison Without Bars.
Rose's long and winding path toward good public standing is not complete however and, indeed, it has been painful. He should be in the Hall of Fame though.
Chick Gandil was the ringleader of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. He acted as the chief liaison between the players and the gamblers, led by bookie Joseph "Sports" Sullivan. Sullivan paid Gandil $35,000—nearly nine times more than his $4,000 salary.
Gandil was among the eight players banned by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis in 1921. The Black Sox scandal was not Gandil's lone brush with gambling. He organized a pay-off of the Tigers in 1917 to help the White Sox win the pennant.
Roger Clemens. Clemens has the complete package. He's a money grubber, a prickly personality, a cheat and a liar.
Clemens was a frequent name in the Mitchell Report back in 2007. His legal battle to fight his steroid accusations has evolved into a lengthy affair. He is currently awaiting a second attempt at retrial for his federal grand jury perjury charges.
Clemens is also a sellout for how he was coddled by the Astros over his three years in Houston and his final 2007 season in the Bronx, during which he was not required to travel with the team when it wasn't his turn to pitch.
Who could top Roger Clemens? Barry Bonds, of course.
Like Clemens, Bonds is a terrific, best-of-his-generation player whose career has forever been sullied by alleged PED use. Like Clemens, Bonds has also enjoyed a long legal battle stemming from perjury charges. Like Clemens, he's a jerk. Bonds cements his No. 1 sellout status with this ignominy.
Bonds also has the distinction of being the only player to ever pull out of the MLBPA licensing agreement, electing in 2003 to manufacture, market and sell his own merchandise. How much slimier could he be?