Ranking the 10 Most Polarizing Names in Baseball

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Polarizing Names in Baseball

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    The idea of heroes and villains is central in the telling of any good story, and professional baseball is no different.

    Whether it is a player, coach, umpire or front-office type, there are certain baseball personalities who find themselves in the role of pariah.

    Sometimes, however, it is not quite as cut and dry as someone being either loved or hated. In the world of baseball, it is very possible for someone to be both.

    Here then is a look at the 10 most polarizing figures in baseball today. Some no doubt weigh more heavily on the side of dislike, but each of these 10 men are liked by at least some portion of the population.

10. Pete Rose, Retired Player

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    Despite the fact that he's been banned from baseball since 1989, Pete Rose remains one of the most polarizing figures in the game, particularly when Hall of Fame voting time rolls around each season.

    Baseball's all-time hits leader with 4,256 for his career, Rose played 24 seasons before running into trouble for betting on baseball and eventually being banned from the sport in 1989 as well as from the Hall of Fame in 1991.

    Many feel he deserves enshrinement given the fact that his indiscretions in no way affected his numbers, while others contend that a cheater is a cheater and they don't belong in Cooperstown. Without fail, the debate comes up each January when voting takes place.

    With the two sides split more or less down the middle, he remains one of the most polarizing figures in the sport, even today.

9. Angel Hernandez, Umpire

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    There are a handful of guys in the running for worst umpire in the league right now.

    While CB Buckner and Joe West both got serious consideration for this list, Angel Hernandez is, for me, the worst umpire in the game today.

    He first made headlines for ejecting former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael from the announcers booth after he took a shot at his umpiring prior to singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field.

    He has made some memorable bad calls throughout the years, but his comically bad strike call in the World Baseball Classic this past spring and missed call on an Adam Rosales home run, even after reviewing it, have put him squarely in the headlines this season for all the wrong reasons.

    Despite all of that, Hernandez has worked a pair of All-Star games, seven LDS, seven LCS and two World Series, so he's doing something right in the eyes of his superiors.

8. Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, Chicago White Sox Announcer

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    For the most part, MLB announcers try to stay at least somewhat impartial while calling a game, even though most have at least some rooting interest in the teams they announce for from the booth.

    Then there's Hawk Harrelson, who brings an unparalleled level of homer hyperbole to his broadcasts of the Chicago White Sox, for better or worse.

    Those who love him point to his old-school view of the game and diehard allegiance to the Sox. Those who hate him, point to his non-stop barrage of catchphrases and unwillingness to embrace sabermetrics.

7. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers Starting Pitcher

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    A quiet ace during his time with the Royals, Zack Greinke went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA to win the AL Cy Young Award in 2009 after battling anxiety throughout his career to that point.

    He was traded to the Brewers prior to 2010 and then dealt again at the deadline last year before hitting the free-agent market as the top available arm this past offseason. 

    The Dodgers gave him a six-year, $147 million deal, and many questioned if he was worth that elite level of money given his production to that point.

    If the contract wasn't reason enough for him to be a topic of debate, he has been in the middle of a pair of bench-clearing brawls this season. The first ended in a broken clavicle that cost him a month on the DL and the second brawl saw Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ian Kennedy throwing at Greinke's head.

6. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals Left Fielder

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    There is no denying that 20-year-old Bryce Harper is a rare talent, as he hit 22 home runs and stole 18 bases as a 19-year-old last season to capture NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    He has been even better this season, but not everyone loves the way that he approaches the game.

    A prodigy who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated while he was still in high school, Harper carries himself with a confidence that borders on cocky, and that has rubbed some people the wrong way.

    From blowing a kiss to an opposing pitcher after homering off of him in the minors, to his infamous "that's a clown question, bro" response to a reporter, Harper is certainly not an under-the-radar type talent.

    He still undoubtedly has some growing up to do, but the all-out way he plays the game is commendable, even if you're not a fan of Harper.

5. Jeffrey Loria, Miami Marlins Owner

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    An art dealer who purchased the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 following his sale of the Montreal Expos to Major League Baseball, Jeffrey Loria has quickly emerged as the most hated owner in MLB.

    Shortly after taking control of the team, the Marlins won the World Series title in 2003, as Loria kicked off his tenure with the team in style.

    Following that World Series win, however, Loria sold off a good portion of the team in a fire sale that reminded many Marlins fans of the dismantling of the 1997 title-winning team.

    It was his latest roster renovation this past offseason that really drew the ire of Marlins fans and the city of Miami in general.

    After building the new Marlins Park, much of which was funded by the city of Miami with the promise that the front office would invest in putting a winner on the field, the Marlins struggled to a 69-93 record last season after spending big money on free agents Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle in the offseason.

    As a result, Loria and company dealt the above mentioned trio, along with the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Edward Mujica, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck since the trade deadline last year, and they've been baseball's worst team so far this season.

4. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers Left Fielder

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    Perhaps the most dynamic all-around offensive player in the game today, Ryan Braun has posted back-to-back 30/30 seasons, winning the NL MVP in 2011 and leading the National League with 41 home runs last season.

    A fan favorite not only in Milwaukee, but also league-wide following the 2011 season, Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone levels in December of that year and was originally suspended 50 games.

    However, he won an appeal after it was discovered that the test collector had taken his sealed sample home for two days before turning it in, according to a New York Times report.

    While he dodged a bullet on a technicality there, his name is linked to PEDs once again in the ongoing Biogenesis investigation and he could wind up suspended for 100 games if the allegations against him prove true.

    To this point, he's still not officially been found guilty for anything, but there is question enough surrounding the legitimacy of his performance that he's no doubt lost some fans.

3. Scott Boras, Player Agent

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    Like Drew Rosenhaus is in football, although with a substantially smaller ego, Scott Boras is the most despised agent when it comes to major league baseball.

    From an ownership standpoint, he's a nightmare, but there's a reason so many of the game's superstars turn to him when it comes to brokering a deal. He's really good at his job, and more times than not, his clients get paid.

    He brokered the seven-year, $105 million deal that made Kevin Brown the first $100 million man in baseball prior to the 1999 season and he was behind the 10-year, $252 million deal that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers.

    He's also the reason the San Francisco Giants are still paying Barry Zito (seven years, $126 million) and why the name Chan Ho Park (five years, $65 million) might as well be profanity in Texas.

    Some blame Boras for the ongoing balloon of player salaries in baseball, while others recognize him as a necessary evil in today's sports landscape and someone who is the best at what he does.

2. Bud Selig, Commissioner

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    Bud Selig has served as acting MLB commissioner since 1992 and officially took over the role in 1998. His time at the helm has seen some major positives and some equally notable negatives.

    While the 1994 players' strike came shortly after he took office, the league was heading in that direction anyway before he took the reins. He helped turn the game around from a financial standpoint and avoid further problems.

    He was instrumental in the inception of the wild card playoff format and the reshuffling of the two leagues into three divisions. He also helped create the World Baseball Classic, which will likely never rival soccer's World Cup, but has gained popularity since its first go-around.

    On the flip side, he can't help but be held at least somewhat responsible for the steroid era with his slow implementing of drug testing. He also will forever be remembered for the 2002 All-Star Game tie and resulting decision to make what was an exhibition game "mean something" in determining home-field advantage in the World Series.

1. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees Third Baseman

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    From a purely statistical standpoint, Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest players to ever step onto a baseball field. He has a .300/.384/.560 line with 647 home runs and 1,950 RBI over the course of his 19-year career.

    After Barry Bonds broke the single-season home run record and tainted perhaps the most hallowed record in all of sports, A-Rod became the man who was going to restore integrity to the record.

    That is until he tested positive himself, with Sports Illustrated reporting in 2009 that he had tested positive for steroids back in 2003. 

    Now he's tied up in the same Biogenesis scandal that Ryan Braun and roughly 20 other players are and could be facing a suspension as a result.

    Setting aside the tarnished legacy for a second, A-Rod also comes under more scrutiny than most given the fact that he plays in New York and is in the middle of a 10-year, $275 million contract.

    He won a pair of MVP awards during his time with the Yankees, but has also struggled time and again in the postseason. This past playoffs saw him benched, as he went a combined 3-for-25 with zero RBI.

    Outside of Tim Tebow, there may be no more polarizing figure in professional sports today than Alex Rodriguez.