The 50 Greatest Villains in Baseball History
When New York Yankees designated hitter Jorge Posada made some noise over the weekend by taking himself out of the starting lineup after learning he would be batting ninth in the batting order, immediately reports swirled about supposed bad blood between Posada and Yankees manager Joe Girardi, and even with general manager Brian Cashman.
By the following day, Posada had apologized for his actions, and all was forgiven by the Yankees and fans, as Posada was greeted with a thunderous ovation when announced as a pinch-hitter during the nationally-televised Sunday night game.
While Posada and his 16-plus seasons in the Bronx may have earned him a mulligan with his hissy fit, it brings to mind a list of players in MLB history who were not just one-and-done types of villains in the world of baseball.
There have been players and others who, for various reasons, have come to be regarded as true bad boys in the annals of baseball history, and most of them earned their reputations through their attitudes in the clubhouse, their demeanor and behavior towards fans and media, and through off-field actions that called into question their immaturity and their attitudes.
We will take a look at a list of 50 players in Major League Baseball who have been labeled as villains.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.
50. Alejandro “Butch” Heddo: Rookie of the Year
We’ll start the list with a fictional character, but an absolute jerk nonetheless, from the movie "Rookie of the Year."
Alejandro “Butch” Heddo, a power hitter for the New York Mets, greets young Henry Rowengartner in his first appearance with the Chicago Cubs by hitting a mammoth home run.
Heddo completely mocks young Henry as he’s rounding the bases. Surely if it were Don Drysdale on the mound, Heddo would get his comeuppance in his next plate appearance.
However, Henry gets his revenge on the last day of the regular season by heeding his mother’s words and tossing an underhand floater past the wildly swinging Heddo to give the Cubs the win, and the division title.
49. Jim Bouton: 1962-1970, 1978
While pitcher Jim Bouton wasn’t considered villainous while he was playing for the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, he certainly was after he published his famous clubhouse diary, Ball Four.
Bouton chronicled the everyday life of a major-league player in Ball Four, and referenced many different compromising situations with former teammates, including Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.
The revelations by Bouton in his book earned him an immediate blacklisting by most of the players throughout MLB, as prior to the book, clubhouses were considered a “what you see here, stays here” type of place.
48. Armando Benitez: 1994-2008
While closer/relief pitcher Armando Benitez certainly enjoyed success as a closer in the majors, being named Rolaids Relief Man of the Year in 2001 while with the New York Mets, his career was also marked by a series of childish incidents and boorish behavior.
In 1998, while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles, Benitez allowed a home run to New York Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez. During Martinez’ next time at bat, Benitez plunked him with a pitch, prompting a bench-clearing brawl.
During the brawl, Benitez challenged the entire bench to a fight, and took solid punches from both Darryl Strawberry and Graeme Lloyd.
Nine years later, Benitez earned the wrath of the San Francisco Giants and their fan base when he repeatedly showed a complete unaccountability for poor performances on the mound.
General manager Brian Sabean acknowledged such following the trade of Benitez to the Florida Marlins, telling MLB.com: "We're at a crossroads in my mind. Apparently, the fans, the press and maybe some people in the clubhouse felt he needed to go.”
47. Jack Parkman: Major League II
Cleveland Indians catcher and power-hitter Jack Parkman is God’s gift to baseball—or at least that’s what he tells everyone within earshot.
His complete arrogance eventually pisses off everyone in the Indians’ clubhouse, and owner Roger Dorn, strapped for cash, trades Parkman to the rival White Sox.
Parkman’s trade also puts an end to the smoky haze inside the dugout, which was ever-present with the chain-smoking Parkman.
46. Jose Offerman: 1990-2005
When first baseman Jose Offerman was signed to a four-year, $26 million contract by Boston Red Sox in 1999, it drew almost immediate ire from the local fanbase, which was still upset that popular slugger Mo Vaughn had left town for the Anaheim Angels.
While Offerman enjoyed a good first season in Boston, his last three years weren’t anywhere near what was expected, and Offerman became the whipping boy.
Offerman was designated for assignment on Aug. 1, 2002, and when he learned of the decision, Offerman trashed the area around his locker at Arlington Stadium in Texas. Offerman was upset that he hadn’t been notified the day before when the team was in Anaheim, close to Offerman’s home.
While Offerman’s villain label was more to do with replacing a popular player in Vaughn, Offerman earned the label after his career in the majors was over.
In 2007, Offerman attacked a pitcher with a bat in the Independent League, hurting him as well as the opposing team’s catcher. Offerman was charged with second-degree assault.
In January 2010, Offerman earned a lifetime ban from the Dominican Republic Winter League for throwing a right hook to an umpire.
45. Mo Vaughn: 1991-2003
When Mo Vaughn started his career in Boston in 1991, he was thought of as an endearing, engaging player. That reputation stayed with him for a few years, and in 1995 Vaughn was named the AL MVP, endearing him even more to local fans.
However, that soon changed. Some off-field incidents, including an accident following a night out at a strip club, started tarnishing Vaughn’s reputation.
Combined with an acrimonious relationship with general manager Dan Duquette and Vaughn's repeated assertions that Sox management didn’t want him around, Vaughn signed a free-agent contract with the Anaheim Angels following the 1998 season.
From that point on, Vaughn’s reputation completely soured, as he often was named in clubhouse rifts with Angels’ players, most notably closer Troy Percival, who was upset that Vaughn hadn’t come to the aid of his teammates during a bench-clearing brawl in early September 1999, leading to a clubhouse scuffle.
Vaughn was traded to the New York Mets following the 2001 season in which Vaughn never played a single game, and his time in New York was tumultuous at best.
Vaughn was overweight for much of his time in New York, and he was out of baseball a month into the 2003 season after a knee injury ended his career.
The acquisition of Vaughn helped lead to the firing of Mets general manager Steve Phillips.
44. Randall Simon: 1997-2006
By all accounts, first baseman Randall Simon was a likable guy who seemed to fit in well with the six teams that he played for during his career. However, on July 9, 2003, Simon made a decision that forever labeled him as a villain.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were in Milwaukee to face the Brewers at Miller Park. That night, the Sausage Race was held, a regular occurrence at Miller Park.
As the four sausages were heading past the third-base dugout, Simon, holding a bat, plunked Guido the Italian Sausage atop the head with his bat, knocking it and another sausage down to the ground.
While the female inside the sausage uniform was relatively unhurt, Simon was nonetheless charged with misdemeanor assault and fined $432.10.
Simon will forever be known as the man who took down Guido the Italian Sausage.
43. Doc Ellis: 1968-1979
Aside from the fact that Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Doc Ellis pitched a no-hitter in 1970 and later admitted he was high on LSD during the event, Ellis was famous for another incident that marked him as a villain.
In May 1974, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, Ellis decided that he was going to attempt to hit every hitter in the Reds lineup, supposedly to prove a point to his teammates.
Apparently, Ellis was upset that Reds’ hitters referred to the Pirates as “dumb.” Ellis vowed during spring training that he would deck every hitter he faced.
According to Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"They called our team dumb," said Ellis of the Reds. "I told Kurt Bevacqua in spring training I would drill all of them.
"Bevacqua said, 'I'll bet you a Chateaubriand.'
Ellis proceeded to hit Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen. He tried to hit Tony Perez, but Perez kept ducking the pitches and drew a walk. After attempting to hit Johnny Bench twice, Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh came out and pulled Ellis.
High on LSD and throwing at hitters. Yeah, there’s a quality personality.
42. Kenesaw Mountain Landis: MLB Commissioner, 1920-1944
As the first commissioner of Major League Baseball, federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis oversaw baseball with an iron fist, becoming well-known for his swift judgment and actions involving the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
However, while Landis worked hard to clean up the gambling and other shenanigans within baseball, he was also singularly responsible for making sure that the color line that existed in baseball would not be crossed.
Sure enough, only three years after Landis’ death, Jackie Robinson finally broke baseball’s color barrier.
Happy Chandler, who took over for Landis after his death, remarked: "For 24 years, Judge Landis wouldn't let a black man play. I had his records, and I read them, and for 24 years, Landis consistently blocked any attempts to put blacks and whites together on a big-league field."
Source: Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers by Peter Golenbock
41. Charles Comiskey: Owner, Chicago White Sox, 1900-1931
As the original owner of the Chicago White Sox, Charles Comiskey was instrumental in helping to form the fledgling American League in 1901. He built the original Comiskey Park in 1910, which was home to the White Sox until 1991.
However, Comiskey was known to be frugal, and treated his players like livestock. It was thought that the Black Sox scandal during the 1919 World Series occurred because of Comiskey and his refusal to pay his players an honest wage.
In a biography written by Traci Peterson, she writes:
“Comiskey had some of the best players in the country on his team, but paid them all far below what players of comparable talent were earning elsewhere. Charles Risberg and Claude Williams made less than $3,000 a year.
"Joe Jackson and George Weaver made only $6,000 a year. Eddie Cicotte had been promised a $10,000 bonus if he could win 30 games in a season. When Cicotte closed in on the 30-game goal, Comiskey had him benched to keep him from reaching the mark.”
40. Dave Parker: 1973-1991
In 1979, Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Dave Parker became baseball’s first million-dollar man, signing a five-year, $5 million deal. However, with the deal came extreme heat from Pittsburgh’s middle-class fans, who hurled “nuts, bolts, bullets and batteries” at him, as described by Pirates closer Kent Tekulve in Baseball Digest.
Later, Parker became the central figure in the Pittsburgh drug trials of the 1980s, when several key Pirates players were named, and he testified against a local drug dealer.
Parker didn’t help his reputation in Pittsburgh with a magazine interview in Ebony Magazine in October 1979. In the interview, Parker said: “You take Pittsburgh, which is basically a blue-collar city. People here feel that anybody who makes a large sum of money should work 18 hours a day. What they fail to understand is that there is a great demand for a talent like mine.”
Great way to ingratiate yourself with the Steel City, Dave.
39. Ruben Sierra: 1986-2006
Ruben Sierra may have been a solid hitter during his 20 seasons in the majors, but he was not considered popular among managers, in particular Tony La Russa and Joe Torre.
La Russa once referred to Sierra as “the village idiot,” and “a spoiled kid who has no clue what baseball is all about” by Torre.
"As much as I tried to talk to him about the team concept of baseball," Torre wrote in his book, Chasing the Dream, "he just never did get it."
Sierra did eventually make his peace with Torre some years later when the two were reunited with the Yankees in 2004. However, the early years of Sierra were certainly no picnic.
Source: New York Daily News
38. Keith Hernandez: 1974-1990
Former National League MVP Keith Hernandez may have been a darling to New York Mets fans for their World Series victory in 1986; however, his former manager at his previous stop wasn’t quite as enamored.
Hernandez was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Mets in June 1983, after several run-ins with management, including manager Whitey Herzog, who called Hernandez “a cancer in the clubhouse.”
Hernandez was also known for his partying ways and admitted use of cocaine, which was partly the source of friction between he and Herzog.
Hernandez and teammate Darryl Strawberry were also involved in a scuffle in 1989 following Strawberry’s late arrival to a team photo session.
37. Scott Olsen: 2005-2010
Scott Olsen, who was recently released by the Pittsburgh Pirates after being unable to regain strength in his recently-repaired throwing shoulder, built a reputation as a bad boy early in his career with the Florida Marlins.
Olsen once got into a fight with teammate and fellow pitcher Sergio Mitre after Olsen blew up over a missing button on his shirt.
Mitre stepped in to try to calm Olsen down, and a scuffle ensued. Other transgressions with fellow teammates and flipping the bone to fans in Milwaukee earns Olsen a spot on this list.
36. Elijah Dukes: 2007-2009
When the Tampa Bay Devil Rays drafted Elijah Dukes in 2002, they drafted a player who projected to be a star. What they got instead was a troubled kid with a penchant for impregnating women.
In three years, Dukes was arrested several times for assault, he was also arrested for failure to pay child support, and even had a special “assistant” assigned to him by the Washington Nationals just to keep him out of trouble.
It didn’t work, and Dukes has been out of the majors since.
35. Dick Allen: 1963-1977
In his book "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract,” written in 2001, sabermetrician Bill James called Dick Allen the second-most controversial player in baseball history behind only Rogers Hornsby.
While Allen was a great player during his days with the Philadelphia Phillies, he became a lightning rod for controversy.
In 1969, Allen was fined and indefinitely suspended by the Phillies when he missed a twi-night doubleheader against the New York Mets. Allen was at a horse race in New Jersey and failed to return on time.
Allen later played for the Chicago White Sox, even winning the American League’s MVP award in 1972. But his career there also ended in scandal, as he refused to play in late September 1974 because of an ongoing feud with White Sox third baseman Ron Santo.
34. Kevin Brown: 1986-2005
During his major-league career, pitcher Kevin Brown was easily one of the most intense ballplayers of his era, and oftentimes his intensity was mistaken for churlishness, but not without some cause.
Brown was prickly with the media, and once insulted San Diego fans after they were cheering for Sammy Sosa during the famous McGwire-Sosa home-run chase to break Roger Maris’ single-season record.
After becoming baseball’s first $100 million man with signing of a seven-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Brown was revealed in the Mitchell Report to be one of the players who had used steroids.
The report had documented proof that Brown had received steroids in the mail from former New York Mets clubhouse-employee Kirk Radomski.
Brown never met with the investigators, and has declined comment since.
In 2004, Brown’s temper put him in trouble with Yankees management. Following a meeting with manager Joe Torre, Brown punched a wall outside his office, breaking his hand and putting him out of action for several weeks.
33. Gary Sheffield: 1988-2009
Gary Sheffield played for eight different teams in his 22 seasons in the majors, and judging from his temper and attitude, it’s a wonder that number was only eight.
The Milwaukee Brewers unloaded Sheffield after four seasons, and after numerous run-ins with coaches and accusations of racism.
Several more teams and several more accusations later, Sheffield’s villainous image was cemented, even refusing to play in the World Baseball Classic because he wasn’t getting paid.
In 2007, during an interview with GQ Magazine, Sheffield again took a racist slant, this time disparaging Latin players. Sheffield said:
“What I said is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out. ... (It’s about) being able to tell (Latin players) what to do — being able to control them,” he told the magazine. “Where I’m from, you can’t control us.”
He went on to elaborate, "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.”
Sheffield even went so far as to say Yankees manager Joe Torre treated black ballplayers differently from whites, but stopped just short of calling him a racist.
Do you think he’s missed in New York?
32. Miguel Cabrera: 2003-Present
Miguel Cabrera has been a monster hitter ever since he debuted with the Florida Marlins in 2003. However, in recent years, apparently his superstar status has given him reason to believe he’s above the law.
In early October 2009, while his Detroit Tigers were in the midst of a pennant race, Cabrera was involved in an altercation with his wife after spending the entire night before drinking at a nearby hotel.
While he wasn’t charged at the time, his actions were immediately called into question regarding putting himself before his team.
In mid-February of this year, Cabrera was again involved in an alcohol-related incident, this time being charged with a DUI and resisting arrest without violence.
Cabrera even invoked the infamous “don’t you know who I am?” line on the arresting officers.
31. Joe Jackson: 1908-1920
Shoeless Joe Jackson was easily considered one of the best ballplayers ever when the 1919 World Series began, pitting his Chicago White Sox against the Cincinnati Reds.
After losing the Series to the underdog Reds, Jackson was one of eight White Sox implicated in trying to throw the World Series, and in September 1920, during a sensational trial, Jackson reportedly admitted his involvement in the fix.
In spite of a jury acquitting the eight players in 1921, MLB commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis nonetheless saw fit to ban all eight players from the game for life.
Several reports since have refuted Jackson’s involvement in the fix.
30. George Steinbrenner: Owner, New York Yankees, 1973-2010
From the time he bought the Yankees until well into the 2000s, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was a polarizing figure, especially with his arch-nemesis, the Boston Red Sox.
Steinbrenner had no issue whatsoever in spending whatever money it took to restore his Yankees to prominence, raising the ire of other owners and teams.
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, in response to his Red Sox being outbid by Steinbrenner in a bidding war for Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, said of Steinbrenner at the time: "No, I'll make a comment. The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America."
29. Cap Anson: 1871-1897
Cap Anson was a legendary ballplayer during the very early days of organized professional baseball, but also was known as a legendary a-hole.
Anson was famous for being a racist, and wouldn’t even take the field during exhibitions if the opposing team fielded any black players.
In the late 1890s, Anson once convinced a sportswriter to write that the team he was managing at the time, the Chicago White Stockings, were “composed of drunkards and loafers who are throwing him down,” in an effort to deflect criticism of his poor management of the team.
Source: David L. Fleitz (2005). Cap Anson: The Grand Old Man of Baseball
28. Chuck Knoblauch: 1991-2002
When Chuck Knoblauch entered the majors in 1991 with the Minnesota Twins, he proceeded to win the American League Rookie of the Year award and helped his Twins win the World Series over the Atlanta Braves.
Six years later, Knoblauch demanded a trade, saying that he wanted to play for a contending team. Knoblauch’s reputation in Minnesota had become frayed, due to what many called a me-first attitude, and Knoblauch didn’t help matters with a truculent demeanor towards the media and fans.
General manager Terry Ryan had finally had enough and traded Knoblauch to the Yankees, where Knoblauch became an adventure just in throwing balls to first base.
27. Carlos Zambrano: 2001-Present
Carlos Zambrano has spent his entire career with the Chicago Cubs, and given the issues he’s had with teammates, it’s a surprise that he’s lasted that long.
In 2007, Zambrano got into a major altercation with catcher Michael Barrett after Barrett had allowed a passed ball and committed an error that led to a run and the unraveling of Zambrano on the mound. The fight spilled from the dugout into the tunnel, essentially a two-round bout.
In 2009, Zambrano was fined and suspended for throwing a ball into left field after an argument with a home-plate umpire over balls and strikes.
Later that season, Zambrano missed a team flight to Atlanta, with the matter being handled internally by the Cubs.
Last season, in late June, after Zambrano blamed first baseman Derrek Lee for not going after a ground ball hard enough, another altercation ensued.
How many more teammates does Zambrano have to go through before the Cubs finally get the hint?
26. John McGraw: 1891-1906
Before John McGraw’s great career as a manager, he was a player for 16 seasons, with the Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants. McGraw was considered one of the dirtiest players of his era.
Back then, baseball’s rules allowed for one umpire, and McGraw would look for ways to distract the umpire while at the same time doing everything he could to trip players running down the basepaths.
25. Mickey Mantle: 1951-1968
While Mickey Mantle was considered to be one of the greatest center fielders ever to play the game, he was also one of the legendary drinkers in the game as well.
In the later years of his life, Mantle said he was more concerned that people remembered his exploits on the field rather than off.
However, the stories of his drunken escapades were already out there, as well as reports of stiffing autograph seekers and walking out on bar tabs.
However it’s sliced, Mantle didn’t come off smelling like a rose in the end.
24. Todd Jones: 1993-2008
Back in 2003, relief pitcher Todd Jones became a villain of a very large community: the gay community.
In an interview with the Denver Post, while Jones was a member of the Colorado Rockies, Jones was asked a question about the Broadway play, Take Me Out, which chronicled the fictional story of a ballplayer who came out of the closet.
Jones said he would not want to have a gay teammate and that gays had no right going around and flaunting their sexuality.
"I wouldn't want a gay guy being around me," Jones told the paper. "It's got nothing to do with me being scared. That's the problem: All these people say he's got all these rights. Yeah, he's got rights or whatever, but he shouldn't walk around proud.
"It's like he's rubbing it in our face. 'See me, hear me roar.' We're not trying to be close-minded, but then again, why be confrontational when you don't really have to be?"
Way to be PC, Todd.
Source: Tampa Bay Coalition
23. Michael Barrett: 1998-2009
In an earlier slide, we mentioned the confrontation in 2007 that occurred between Chicago Cubs teammates Carlos Zambrano and catcher Michael Barrett. While Zambrano admitted fault in that particular scuffle, it was not the first that Barrett had been involved in.
In 2004, Barrett was involved in two separate incidents with Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt. Oswalt plunked Barrett, supposedly in retaliation for a three-run homer hit earlier in the game by Aramis Ramirez. The incident caused the benches to empty and it took several minutes to restore order. Five days later, the teams were playing each other again, and Barrett this time confronted Oswalt, with the umpires having to get between them and causing the benches to empty once again.
Two years later, during an inter-league game with the Chicago White Sox, Barrett had an issue with White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had bumped him on a play at the plate. Pierzynski bumped into Barrett, and Barrett clocked him with a punch, earning him a 10-day suspension.
And then, of course, the incident with Zambrano.
One fight is an isolated incident. Two fights is more than coincidence. Three fights is a pattern, and one that earned Barrett the label of villain.
22. Pete Rose: 1963-1986
I have to admit that it was a little tough to put Pete Rose on this list. By all accounts, he was an excellent teammate and one of the fiercest competitors ever to play the game.
However, the fact remains that Rose bet on baseball games, and at times bet on his own team. His arrogance would not allow him to admit this fact for over 14 seasons, and his actions were a complete detriment to his team.
That qualifies as villainous.
21. Rogers Hornsby: 1915-1937
Let’s see, where should we start with Rogers Hornsby? He was undoubtedly one of the best second basemen ever to play the game, but in his wake, Hornsby left scores of people in the rubble due to his wrath.
Hornsby fought with his manager (Branch Rickey), he faked an injury out of anger that got him suspended, he was traded because of gambling problems, he was voted no World Series shares by the Chicago Cubs even though he was part of the team for two months and he tried to pay off a loan to his owner from money earned by gambling.
Other than that, Hornsby was a saint.
20. Shea Hillenbrand: 2001-2007
During Shea Hillenbrand’s seven-year career, he managed to completely tick off at least three of the teams he played for, and it was enough to blackball him for good.
In 2003, new Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein decided that playing new third baseman Bill Mueller ahead of Hillenbrand was the best plan of attack, and Hillenbrand was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Byung-Hyun Kim, but not before completely blowing up at Epstein before leaving town.
Three years later, playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, Hillenbrand angered his second team. This time, Hillenbrand criticized the decision to give Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus more playing time over him, leading to a bitter dispute with manager John Gibbons, and writing scathing comments on the clubhouse chalkboard.
ESPN reported that Gibbons supposedly challenged Hillenbrand to a fight, and would quit if management didn’t immediately cut him. Management agreed, and Hillenbrand was released that night.
Finally, after being signed by the Anaheim Angels in December 2006, Hillenbrand, upset at his lack of playing time, said: "If I'm not going to play here, give me enough respect to trade me or get rid of me." The Angels acquiesced and released him the next day.
Other than a brief stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hillenbrand received no other offers to play in the majors. Shocking.
19. Bobby Bonilla: 1986-2001
Can you imagine what the clubhouse must have been like in Pittsburgh with both Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds? Bonilla was bad enough on his own.
In 1989, Bonilla assaulted a clubhouse attendant after the attendant refused to remove netting on some field seats in Three Rivers Stadium for Bonilla’s family, in an effort to “shield” them from other fans.
In 1992, then with the New York Mets, Bonilla threatened sportswriter Bob Klapisch after he wrote his book The Worst Team Money Could Buy: The Collapse of the New York Mets. Bonilla told Klapisch that he would “show him the Bronx.”
In a second stint with the Mets, Bonilla routinely clashed with manager Bobby Valentine over a lack of playing time, and completely showed up Valentine by playing cards in the clubhouse during Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS. Bonilla was gone after the season ended.
18. Pedro Martinez: 1992-2009
There was no pitcher in baseball who dominated quite like Pedro Martinez in the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, one team in particular considered Martinez one of the biggest villains of all.
Martinez became the target of New York Yankees fans for two events. One was a quote, in which Martinez was referring to the infamous Red Sox curse before winning the World Series in 1984. Martinez said: "I don't believe in curses...wake up the damn Bambino, I'll drill him in the ass."
In Game 3 of the ALCS, Martinez drilled Karim Garcia in the middle of the shoulders with a pitch, prompting a shouting match between Martinez and the Yankees bench. Tempers really flared the following half-inning, when Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez was nearly hit by a ball that sailed over his head from pitcher Roger Clemens. A brawl ensued, and Martinez was charged by 72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer, who Martinez easily side-stepped and then slammed down into the ground.
The images and video of Zimmer hitting the ground is still played on sports stations from time to time, no doubt raising the anger of Yankees fans once again.
17. Randy Johnson: 1988-2009
While many baseball fans remember lanky 6’10” left-hander Randy Johnson as the wild hurler in his youth who morphed into a 300-game winner during a stellar 22-year career, others remember a man who was constantly at odds with the media and, at times, with teammates.
If Johnson didn’t feel like being interviewed, he would simply shove the camera away, sometimes dropping it to the floor. He developed a reputation as a surly, scowling player who was difficult to get along with.
While his reputation may have been misinterpreted as aloofness, Johnson was nonetheless viewed as a villain with a nasty fastball and a great career.
16. Jose Canseco: 1985-2001
Jose Canseco was part of the Bash Brothers during the Oakland A’s great run in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Later on, Canseco did his bashing in other ways.
Canseco readily admitted his use of steroids, and then proceeded to name other ballplayers who he had allegedly seen use performance-enhancing drugs as well.
While there were some players who Canseco named that actually did end up being named in the Mitchell Report, still others were not, and Canseco will not be getting invites to home parties by any ballplayers anytime soon.
15. Reggie Jackson: 1967-1987
Reggie Jackson may have been dubbed Mr. October, but by others he was dubbed Mr. Jerk.
Jackson was caught up in more than his share of clubhouse disputes, most notably with Oakland A’s teammate Billy North and New York Yankees manager Billy Martin.
However, Jackson’s mouth didn’t help his cause, either. Among some of the things that came out of Jackson’s mouth:
"I'm still the straw that stirs the drink. Not Munson, not nobody else on this club."
"After Jackie Robinson, the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson, I really mean that."
"I didn't come to New York to be a star, I brought my star with me."
"The only difference between me and those other great Yankees is my skin color."
I could add more, but I think you get the picture.
Source: Baseball Almanac
14. Albert Belle: 1989-2000
During the tumultuous 12-year career of Albert Belle, he hit 381 home runs, and he also hit anything that got in his way when things didn’t go his way.
Belle had a temper that quickly wore thin with each team he played for. The tales of Belle taking a bat to water coolers, Gatorade buckets, trash barrels, fountains and even teammates’ personal belongings are really too numerous to mention.
Many believe that Belle’s temper and surliness with the media as the reason that Belle missed out on the 1995 American League MVP award to winner Mo Vaughn. Belle led Vaughn in every significant offensive category except for runs batted in, yet still lost the award.
ESPN’s Buster Olney said this about Belle:
It was a taken in baseball circles that Albert Belle was nuts... The Indians billed him $10,000 a year for the damage he caused in clubhouses on the road and at home, and tolerated his behavior only because he was an awesome slugger... He slurped coffee constantly and seemed to be on a perpetual caffeinated frenzy.
Few escaped his wrath: on some days he would destroy the postgame buffet...launching plates into the shower... after one poor at-bat against Boston, he retreated to the visitor's clubhouse and took a bat to teammate Kenny Lofton's boombox.
Belle preferred to have the clubhouse cold, below 60 degrees, and when one chilly teammate turned up the heat, Belle walked over, turned down the thermostat, and smashed it with his bat. His nickname, thereafter, was "Mr. Freeze."
Source: Olney, Buster, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty
13. Rafael Palmeiro: 1986-2005
Rafael Palmeiro had a phenomenal 20-year career during which he hit 569 home runs and collected over 3,000 hits, only one of four players to total over 500 homers and 3,000 hits (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray).
However, Palmeiro’s career took a stunning turn in 2005. After being named by Jose Canseco as one of the individuals who Canseco identified as a steroid user in his book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, Palmeiro appeared before Congress in March 2005 and uttered the now famous words, "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."
Just five months later, Palmeiro tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, and was suspended for 10 days.
Palmeiro was later named by former player Jason Grimsley as a player who used amphetamines before baseball banned them.
12. Roger Clemens: 1984-2007
For the man who won 354 games and seven Cy Young awards in his 24-year career, Clemens may never see the hallowed halls of baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Clemens, who will be headed to trial in July on charges of perjury connected to his grand jury testimony regarding the use of steroids, has steadfastly and arrogantly maintained his innocence in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary.
Clemens also was often criticized for some slightly “prima donna” ways, such as complaining that he had to carry his own bags through the airport, and once insulting two different countries in reference to the World Baseball Classic and the devotion of Japanese and Korean fans.
"None of the dry cleaners were open, they were all at the game, Japan and Korea,” Clemens said.
Clemens’ name was also mentioned 82 separate times in the Mitchell Report.
11. Manny Ramirez: 1993-2011
Manny Ramirez was easily one of the most feared right-handed hitters in baseball during the 1990s and 2000s, but the mere mention of his name conjures up memories of an enigmatic, go-your-own-way type of player who famously spawned the phrase "Manny being Manny."
Unfortunately, Manny also became vilified in Boston for getting into a dugout scuffle with Kevin Youkilis and tossing a Boston traveling secretary (Jack McCormick) down to the ground in the clubhouse.
Of course, Manny's two positive tests for banned substances didn't help his cause, either.
10. Kenny Rogers: 1989-2008
Kenny Rogers probably never would have made this list if it weren't for one incident in 2005 that became national news.
Rogers, upset over the media's handling of his contract negotiation talks with the Texas Rangers, famously shoved two cameramen before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and after one cameraman got back up and resumed filming, Rogers attacked again, knocking both the camera and cameraman to the ground.
Rogers was fined $50,000 and suspended for 20 games by commissioner Bud Selig. The cameraman sued both Rogers and the Texas Rangers for damages.
9. Jose Guillen: 1997-2010
Jose Guillen ended up playing for 10 teams during his career, and his reputation as a troublemaker was a big reason for that fact.
In 2004, while playing for the Anaheim Angels, Guillen was removed from a game for a pinch runner by manager Mike Scioscia. Guillen was enraged, and he engaged the media in publicly bashing Scioscia for his removal. Guillen was suspended for the rest of the season and for the postseason for inappropriate behavior.
After the season ended, Guillen was traded to the Washington Nationals for Maicer Izturis and Juan Rivera, making the Nats the sixth team for Guillen in just five seasons.
The following season, the Nationals played the Angels. During the game, Nats manager Frank Robinson insisted the umpires check the glove of Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly for a foreign substance.
Scioscia angrily lashed out at Robinson, and the benches emptied. During the scuffle, Guillen could be heard screaming at several Angels' players along with Scioscia.
After the game, Guillen told the press he still harbored ill will toward Scioscia:
I don't got truly no respect for [Scioscia] anymore because I'm still hurt from what happened last year . . . Mike Scioscia, to me, is like a piece of garbage . . . He can go to hell . . . I can never get over about what happened last year.
It's something I'm never going to forget. Any time I play that team, Mike Scioscia's managing, it's always going to be personal to me.
Guillen ended up with his name on the Mitchell Report, implicating use of performance-enhancing drugs, and last year with the San Francisco Giants, Guillen was left off the postseason roster because of an ongoing investigation.
Source: New York Times
8. Ty Cobb: 1905-1928
Ty Cobb's style of play was legendarily aggressive, attacking, and no-doubt dirty. The Detroit Free Press once described Cobb's style as "daring to the point of dementia."
Cobb was born in Georgia, and he had an intense hatred of blacks. Cobb once attacked a Detroit Tigers' black groundskeeper at their spring training facility in Georgia, and when the groundskeeper's wife tried to intervene, Cobb choked her.
During another incident, Cobb attacked a black elevator operator for being "uppity," and when another black man came to his defense, Cobb pulled out a knife and stabbed him.
Cobb was also involved in dozens of fights on the field, with opposing players, managers and even teammates.
7. Alex Rodriguez: 1994-Present
There may be no other player who represents the phrase "pampered athlete" more than Alex Rodriguez, who has spent as much time in tabloids as he has in the sports pages.
In a supreme act of selfishness, A-Rod, who had a 10-year, $252 million contract with the New York Yankees, announced during the 2007 World Series that he was opting out of his deal and was seeking a new contract.
The news enraged the public, who expressed outrage over the timing of the notice, right in the middle of the World Series.
In Joe Torre's book The Yankee Years, he said that A-Rod had been given the nickname A-Fraud by Yankees employees who had grown tired of Rodriguez' petty clubhouse demands.
6. A.J. Pierzynski: 1998-Present
To give you an idea of what people think of A.J. Pierzynski, following the Chicago White Sox victory in the 2005 World Series, manager Ozzie Guillen said of Pierzynski: "If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."
Pierzynski has been involved in several on-field scuffles, most notably with Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, and he has never been afraid to mince his words in front of a microphone.
After Pierzynski signed a free-agent contract with the White Sox, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story saying that Pierzynski had kneed Giants' trainer Stan Conte in the groin during a spring training game in 2004.
Pierzynski shot right back, saying: "Don't you think if something like that happened, in spring training, you would have heard about it? I would have gotten in some sort of trouble?"
5. Jeff Kent: 1992-2008
Jeff Kent, known for his great offensive production as a second baseman, was also known early on as a poor clubhouse guy, with a quick temper and tendency to keep his distance from most teammates.
Kent's time in San Francisco was marred by several incidents, including a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken wrist, in violation of his contract.
Kent, however, denied that happened, saying he broke his wrist while washing his truck.
Kent's relationship with star slugger Barry Bonds was icy at best, culminating in an infamous dugout shoving match during the 2002 season.
4. Carl Everett: 1993-2006
To say that Carl Everett was a polarizing figure during his time in Boston would be a vast understatement. Everett also probably never met a home-plate umpire that he liked.
In 2000, Everett was suspended for 10 games after bumping home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa with a headbutt following Kulpa's decision that Everett was employing an illegal batting stance.
That was just one of many altercations involving umpires for Everett, and others weren't excluded from his temper, either.
Everett got into a famous shouting match with Seattle Mariners manager Mike Hargrove in 2005, and while in Boston, Everett constantly fought with the media, once calling Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy the "curly haired boyfriend" of Globe writer Gordon Edes.
3. Milton Bradley: 2000-Present
With the news on Tuesday that Milton Bradley was released by the Seattle Mariners following his designation for assignment just 10 days earlier, it may spell the end for Bradley, whose act has grown old.
Bradley's temper is legendary, and as a result, no team made an offer for Bradley when he was designated for assignment by the Mariners. Bradley had been asked by several teams he had played for to undergo anger management counseling, including the Mariners.
Bradley's tirades against umpires are numerous. In 2007, Bradley had to be restrained by Padres' manager Bud Black after umpire Mike Winters swore at Bradley during an argument. Bradley suffered a torn ACL after Black had wrestled him away from Winters.
Bradley also had several confrontations with manager Lou Piniella while with the Cubs, and was suspended for the remainder of the 2009 season after making disparaging comments to the press about the Cubs.
2. John Rocker: 1998-2003
John Rocker may not have been in the majors for very long, but boy, did he make some enemies quickly.
Rocker, who had gained fame early in his career for his exploits on the mound as a closer, gaining 38 saves in 1999, found trouble the following year when he threatened a female reporter and was demoted by manager Bobby Cox.
But the biggest brouhaha stemmed from an interview that Rocker did with Sports Illustrated, in which he said this about playing for either the New York Yankees or New York Mets:
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?
And if that wasn't enough, Rocker had this to say about Yankee fans:
Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you and say, 'Hey, I did your mother last night—she's a whore.' I talked about what degenerates they were, and they proved me right.
The reporter also said that during the interview, Rocker spit at a toll machine and mocked Asian women.
I guess he didn't say enough during the interview...
1. Barry Bonds: 1986-2007
To listen to Barry Bonds, he'll tell you he has just been misunderstood. To listen to other ballplayers, including teammates, he was just a selfish punk.
Bonds, recently convicted of obstruction of justice for not fully cooperating with a grand jury investigation in the BALCO controversy, was widely known as a difficult teammate at best.
In 2006, former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman wrote the book Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Anti-Hero.
In the book, Pearlman conducted over 500 interviews withe former teammates, opposing players, clubhouse personnel and other people who shared stories about Bonds and his legendary bragging, tremendous ego and other allegations.
Because of the ongoing steroid controversy, Henry Aaron, whose home-run record was broken by Bonds on Aug. 7, 2007, refused to be in attendance, instead calling Bonds and congratulating him.