For every player MLB fans can’t help but love and root for, there are just as many that fans want to see fail. From Alex Rodriguez’s troubled career to Barry Bonds being the ultimate MLB bad guy, fans love to hate certain superstars. These are the most hated players to ever put on cleats and step on the baseball diamond.
Alex Rodriguez Is Liked More Since Retiring
Alex Rodriguez will probably never make the Hall of Fame, but unlike Barry Bonds and Pete Rose, his attempts to fix his reputation have largely been successful. One of the least liked players of his generation, when Rodriguez left the game, his redemption tour started.
Rodriguez was hired by ESPN and took full responsibility for his past actions. As an in-game analyst on national MLB telecasts, the formerly maligned superstar has become one of the most respected voices in the business. Even if fans still can’t stand him.
Bryce Harper Signed With The Enemy
Bryce Harper was a phenom when he debuted for the Washington Nationals before he was old enough to drink. In 2015, Harper hit .330, knocked in 99 runs, scored another 118 runs, and bashed 42 homers on his way to winning the National League MVP award.
In 2018, Harper decided it was time to cash in, and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The only problem was the Phillies and Nats are rivals, which led Washington fans to disown their fabled son. The next season, Washington won the World Series and the Phillies missed the postseason. Call it karma?
SF Fans Will Never Forgive A.J. Pierzynski
One of the best catchers of his generation, A.J. Pierzynski was also a controversial figure with fans. Not known for being the friendliest person in the world, when the San Francisco Giants traded for him before the 2004 season, there was nothing he could do to turn his haters into fans.
Pierzynski actually put up good numbers in his one year in SF, but it wasn’t enough for the team to keep him around. It didn’t help that the Giants traded two future all-stars, Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano, for one year of disinterested play.
Don Drysdale Wasn’t Trying To Hit Bats
Over a span of eight years, Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Don Drysdale led the National League in hit batsman five times. He wasn’t throwing pitches to make contact with bats, a practice that turned him into one of the most hated players of his era.
Standing six feet and five inches tall, however, players rarely stood up to Drysdale. Eddie Matthews was one of the few players who wasn’t intimidated, and after he was plunked in 1957, he used his fists to let the pitcher know how he felt.
Carlos Zambrano Couldn’t Control His Temper
Carlos Zambrano could have had a Hall of Fame career if he could have just kept his temper in check. As a starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, he was nearly unhittable. In 2006, he led the National League in wins. Two years later he threw a no-hitter.
Zambrano was also known as a wildcard. One teammate even described him as a grenade who was best to stay away from. After a miserable outing in 2011, Zambrano cleared out his locker and told the Cubs he was retiring. He would later admit, “It was my fault, the way I got off of the Cubs. It was my fault, not the Cubs’ fault.”
Carlos Gomez Made Himself A Target For Pitchers
In his last two seasons in Major League Baseball, Carlos Gomez played in 223 games and was hit by 40 pitches. While not all of those were intentional, it’s likely more than a few were thanks to his love for showy bat flips and slow trots.
For Gomez, it was a part of the fun. After one particular bat flip against the Pittsburgh Pirates sparked a major brawl, the slugger said, “I’ve been doing this for eight years. They know that I do that. It’s not to disrespect nobody.”
Gary Templeton Made Sure St. Louis Hated Him
Gary Templeton started his MLB career with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he made sure he didn’t stay there. Tired of the city and team, he flipped the bird to several fans one game after being ejected. With no choice but to move him, St. Louis shipped him off to San Diego.
Speaking about his time with the Cardinals, manager Whitey Herzog said, “Templeton doesn’t want to play in St. Louis. He doesn’t want to play on (artificial) turf. He doesn’t want to play when we go to Montreal. He doesn’t want to play in the Astrodome. He doesn’t want to play in the rain. The other 80 games, he’s all right.”
Barry Bonds Broke Records And Hearts
Barry Bonds went from one of the game’s most beloved players to one of its biggest villains. The winner of multiple National League MVP awards and the reigning single-season and career home run champ, Bonds is more known today for his alleged use of steroids.
In San Francisco, Bonds is still loved like family, but in every other baseball city, he is known as one of the game’s biggest cheaters and will likely never make the Hall of Fame as a result.
Albert Belle Was Known For His Personality
Albert Belle was an incredibly consistent offensive force during his MLB career. He’s one of six players ln league history to have nine consecutive seasons of 100 RBIs or more. Despite this production, he was also a locker room problem and not the easiest personality to play with.
As Buster Olney wrote in The New York Times, “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.”
Ryan Braun Lied To Everyone
Just when it seemed the steroid era of MLB was over, along came Ryan Braun. A superstar for the Milwaukee Brewers, he was also one of the most likable players in the league. When he denied his first positive test for PEDs, it was easy to believe him.
Two years later he was linked to the Biogenesis scandal and came clean, releasing a statement that read, “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”
The 2017 Houston Astros Cheated For Rings
Unfortunately for the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros team, it’s impossible to choose just one player to make this list. Two years after winning it all, it was revealed the team cheated, stealing pitches from opposing teams and using trash cans to signal when pitches were coming.
Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and George Springer had their reputations crushed, and it will be a long time before non-Houston fans will find forgiveness in their hearts.
Pete Rose Was Banned From The Hall Of Fame
Pete Rose is arguably the greatest hitter in MLB history, yet is not in the Hall of Fame. How is this possible? During his managerial career, Rose bet on the outcomes of games, turning him into the top enemy of the league.
Even after apologizing, the league has refused to forgive one of the greatest on-field talents the game has ever seen, “I placed bets on major league games in violation of the rules. It was a big mistake that I regret to this day. I apologize to the players, the fans and the game.”
Ty Cobb’s Reputation Was Sensationalized
Ty Cobb was an MLB superstar for nearly a quarter of a century. He retired with a career batting average of .366 and over 4,000 total hits. During his career, he was known as volatile, but also maintained the respect of many of his peers.
After he retired, several biographies were published that painted a less-than-ideal picture of the icon, turning him into a villain for many. Although much of the information in these biographies has been discredited as sensationalized, the damage to Cobb’s reputation will never go away. He’s arguably the most-loathed star of pre-steroids baseball.
Milton Bradley Refused Anger Management
When Milton Bradley was at the peak of his career, he was one of baseball’s elite power hitters. Because of that, teams were able to overlook his issues, even when he refused to go to anger management classes at their request.
In 2007, Bradley disagreed with a call by umpire Mike Winters and had to be restrained by his coach. When his talent no longer made up for his temper, no team was willing to sign Bradley to a new contract.
Jeff Kent Clashed With Barry Bonds
Jeff Kent was a home running hitting second baseman who made his name as a battery mate with Barry Bonds on the San Francisco Giants. During his time with the team, he put up massive numbers but also turned the entire team against him.
Getting into a dugout fight with Bonds didn’t help things. At the end of the day, SF chose to stick by its franchise player and Kent ended up in Houston, where he continued to produce.
Kenny Rogers Fought The Media
Kenny Rogers pitched in the major leagues from 1989 until 2008, and became infamous for one incident in particular. In 2005, while playing for the Texas Rangers, Rogers was infuriated with how the media was handling his contract negotiations.
After one game in Anaheim, Rogers decided to make his frustrations known and attacked multiple cameramen. He was suspended for 20 games, fined $50,000, and was sued by one of the cameramen.
You Either Loved Manny Ramirez Or You Hated Him
When Manny Ramirez played for your team, you probably loved him. When he played for anyone else, you probably wished he would sit on the bench for nine innings. The man who invented “Mannywood” was both a personality on and off the field.
Ramirez was in your face, got into fights with teammates, and even got busted for steroids. Still, he made every team he played for better, making him worth the baggage for the teams he signed with.
Roger Clemens Will Never Admit To His Faults
On paper, Roger Clemens should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He retired with 324 wins and seven Cy Young awards. He was also labeled a diva after famously refusing to carry his luggage through an airport.
Clemens also became one of the faces of the steroid era of MLB, although he still maintains his innocence. Clemens will have until 2022 to be enshrined in Cooperstown before his name is officially taken off the ballot.
Jose Canseco Called Out His Teammates
Playing alongside Mark McGwire for years in Oakland, Jose Canseco shined as a “Bash Brother.” After he retired, Canseco ruined any goodwill he had gained after publishing a scathing memoir about his MLB career and controversies surrounding it.
Not only did Canseco come clean, in detail, about his use of performance enhancers, but he also named other players who he saw using the same thing. He may never be welcomed in an MLB clubhouse ever again, but at least his conscience is clear.
John Rocker Should Have Kept His Opinions To Himself
When he first came up with the Atlanta Braves, relief pitcher John Rocker was a revelation. In his first three seasons, he kept his ERA under 3.00 and became the team’s closer. Then he ran his mouth and it all came crashing down.
Before a game against the Mets, Rockers unleashed an angry, unwelcome, and hurtful rant about the city’s subway riders. The comments did not go over well, and his career cratered as a result. There was no coming back.
Shane Spencer The Playoff Beast
In his rookie year, Shane Spencer slugged away ten home runs in September, and three of those were grand slams. He proved his worth during the 1998 playoffs with a hitting percentage of .500 against the Texas Rangers. Spencer also hit two home runs against them. He and the New York Yankees went on to win the World Series.
Afterward, he never had numbers that jumped off the stat sheet. He hit 59 home runs and had 242 RBIs over six years of his career. Four more years with the Yankees and none of that postseason magic would return for Spencer. He would eventually retire in 2006.
Giles’ Outfield Collision Ended His Career Early
Before Marcus Giles found a stable home with the Atlanta Braves, he bounced back between the minor and major leagues. This went on from 1996 until 2003 when the Braves added him to the starting line-up at second base. Once there, Giles made his presence felt right away with an impressive 21 home runs, 49 doubles, and 69 RBI.
This led to his first all-star selection and top 20 finish in MVP voting. The following season, it looked like Giles was ready to keep the momentum until he had a collision in the outfield. This caused him to miss 50 games, messing up his rhythm. His numbers dropped drastically and by 2006, he was out of Atlanta. Giles retired from the game of baseball in 2007.
Wang Chien-Ming: Two Seasons And Done
Pitcher Wang Chien-Ming had two great seasons with the New York Yankees. From 2006 to 2007, he won 38 games and turned himself into the ace pitcher for the Yankees going into the 2008 season. However, outside of those two seasons, he didn’t have much to show for, and Chien-Ming gained a reputation for being inconsistent.
From winning 38 games in two seasons to only winning 16 over eight seasons, Chien-Ming had fallen off. He would never see more than 54 strikeouts even though he had 180 combined in ’06 and ’07.
Aaron Boone Walks Off
There are some athletes who will live forever thanks to a time-stopping play. Aaron Boone is one of those players. After a solid year with the Cincinnati Reds, Boone headed to New York to play for the Yankees. New York will always cherish Boone’s walk-off home run in game seven of the playoffs against the Boston Red Sox in 2003. That play sent the Yankees to the World Series.
He would never reach those heights again after he sustained an injury playing pickup basketball. It forced him to miss the entire 2004 season. It was his only all-star season. Four years later, Boone would retire. This goes to show, stick to your sport.
Career-Defining Moment For Mitch
You know it’s bad when you’re remembered for the worst thing you’ve done even if you had some great stats. For Mitch Williams, this is exactly the case. In the 1993 World Series, Williams gave up a walk-off home run in game six against the Toronto Blue Jays. That aside, he had above-average numbers for his career but could never stay consistent.
His only all-star year came in 1989 while pitching for the Cubs. That season he had 67 strikeouts and 36 saves in 76 games. But everyone only knows him for the mistake in ’93.
That One Year Anderson Went Crazy
Now, Brady Anderson wasn’t your typical one-hit wonder by the traditional meaning. In fact, he had a great career with the Baltimore Orioles. He just had a one-hit wonder type of season that would never be produced again. In 1996, Anderson hit an incredible 50 home runs. Previously, he had only hit 24 home runs during his 15 years in MLB.
That qualifies as a one-hit wonder season by rule. Anderson wouldn’t get close to those numbers again. After wrapping up his career in Baltimore, Anderson played one season with the Cleveland Indians before retiring from baseball.
Doyle Saved His Best For The World Series
Brian Doyle only played in 110 games from 1978-1981, and only managed to hit one home run in the regular season during his entire career. However, when the lights shined the brightest, that is when Doyle came alive. Specifically, during the 1978 World Series with the Yankees.
As a rookie second baseman, Doyle played in six World Series games. During that span, he batted a .438 average and had seven hits in 16 at-bats. He also managed to have no strikeouts and two RBI. After being traded to the Oakland Athletics his career dwindled once again and he retired after one season.
Hot Rookie, Not So Much After
When a college athlete wins the championship before entering the draft, it is believed that they will have similar success in the professional league. The Seattle Mariners drafted Dave Fleming during the third round of the 1990 draft. He didn’t make his debut until the summer of ’91 and his first full season wasn’t until 1992.
Fleming won 17 games that year and had a 3.39 ERA. That was good enough to earn him third place in Rookie of the Year voting that season. But like all good things, that play came to an end the following season. He just wasn’t able to keep up that play.
Rookie Of The Year To Utility
Much like others on this list, Jerome Walton had a great rookie season. He had 24 steals, 23 doubles, and 46 RBI’s in 116 games. That would be good enough to earn him the Rookie of the Year in 1989 with the Chicago Cubs. Three years later, he was forced to utility outfield duties.
Walton would never get near those rookie year numbers again throughout his ten years of playing. His highest numbers feel to 14 stolen bases, 22 RBI’s, and only 16 doubles. He already had those numbers just midway through his rookie season.
Tough Road For Rhodes
Tuffy Rhodes had a great career in the Nippon Professional League in Japan that lasted for 13 seasons. He hit 464 home runs during that time. But he hadn’t had that kind of luck in the MLB. Rhodes first made his MLB debut in 1990, playing for the Houston Astros before moving over to the Chicago Cubs.
Rhodes’ 1994 season was an anomaly. He had three opening-day home runs and played 95 games that season. He also tallied up 17 doubles. Rhodes never got more than six doubles and three homers in any other season. He would end up being out of the league and heading overseas by the end of 1995.
The Next Big Thing
Did we say the next big thing? Well, that’s what the San Diego Padres thought Phil Plantier was going to be back in ’93. After a strong showing his rookie season with the Red Sox, he headed over to the Padres. Once there, he turned in great numbers: 34 home runs and 100 RBI’s in 462 at-bats.
Those stats were good enough to have him only behind Barry Bonds in home-runs-per-at-bats. In his final three MLB seasons, Plantier would only hit 21 home runs. Talk about a major drop off. He would retire in 1998.
Coming On Too Strong?
The St. Louis Cardinals gave pitcher Rick Ankiel a shot and boy did he impress. At the end of the 1999 season, Ankiel came alive. Through 33 innings, he pitched 39 strikeouts. 2000 was his first full season as a rookie, and Ankiel threw 194 strikeouts in 175 innings. That placed him second in Rookie of the Year voting.
That same fall, Ankiel would end up losing his touch during the playoffs, which is the worst time for that to happen. He ended up walking 25 batters in his first 24 innings of the 2001 season and was sent back down to the minor league. Ouch.
The Rookie Hamelin
You can’t make an entrance into the major leagues better than Bob Hamelin in 1994. Hamelin had 25 doubles and 65 RBI’s. Don’t forget about the 25 home runs he hit, which was solid, for a rookie. The man was on fire and beat out Manny Ramirez for the Rookie of the Year award.
As quick as he won that award, Hamelin’s career disintegrated. The very next season, he found himself in the minors. He went from 65 RBI’s to 25. One-hit wonder in the true sense.
This Rookie Had It
The theme appears to be that players have a great rookie season in the MLB, then drop off. Sadly, they are unable to sustain that high level of play once the adrenaline of making the big leagues wears off. This was also true for Kevin Maas. His 1990 season is one you shouldn’t forget. He was called up to the major league at the end of June and ended up hitting ten home runs in fewer than 80 at-bats.
Maas ended up finishing that season with 21 homers in 254 at-bats. The determination to continue his performance seemed to be there but it just never panned out for him. All of Maas’ numbers had declined by a great amount and by 1992, he was in the Minors.
The Sophomore Slumper
The sophomore slump is a term used in sports that describes most of what we’ve touched on here! It’s when a player regresses in their second season after having an incredible rookie year. Joe Charboneau is another prime example of this. Charboneau’s astronomical rookie season would be followed by despair.
After winning the Rookie of the Year in 1980 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI’s, Charboneau would be hit with the injury bug, injuring his back during spring training. He only played 70 games in the next two seasons.
Mark Prior didn’t have a sophomore slump. He did amazing in his second season. It was even better than his rookie year. The second overall pick of the 2001 draft put up great numbers his sophomore year. With 245 strikeouts and 2.43 ERA, he earned third in the CY Young award voting for best pitcher.
In a playoff game, Prior was facing a batter with a three-run lead against Florida. Steve Bartman took away a foul ball from Moises Alou. This led to Florida scoring eight runs that same inning. The Cubs went on to lose and Prior spent the next three seasons on the disabled list. He would never pitch again.
The Slump Is Strong With Morris
Warren Morris hit a game-winning home run for LSU in the College World Series back in 1996. In 1999, he arrived at the major league and instantly caught the attention of his teammates and fans. He hit 15 home runs and had 73 RBI’s. Don’t forget about his .288 batting average. Morris was able to finish third in Rookie of the Year voting.
In 2000, the slump came strong. His average went down to .259 and then in 2001, it also dipped to .204. Once 2003 was over, Morris was no longer in the Majors. That is what you call a disappearing act.
Contract Year For Garland
This might be a smart one-hit wonder. There are years when a player’s contract is about to expire and when that is the case, players tend to set-up their game. This is the time to show that they deserve more money or another shiny contract from another team.
After three years as a reliever with the Baltimore Orioles, Garland had an opportunity to prove his worth. He did just that with a great year: H pitched a 20-7 record and saves in in 25 starts. That offseason, he was offered a ten-year deal worth $2.3 million (this was in the ’70s). But when the season came, Garland was only decent by standards. The following season, he had a myriad of injuries. All that money wasted.
The Shock Was Gone
Luis Gonzalez was a great hitter since the day he put on an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform. He even led the National League in hits, back in 1999. But then 2001 came and everyone was shocked. When Gonzalez came up to bat, he gave people something to be excited about.
He went from 37 home runs to 57. His on-base percentage and hitting were all at career highs. Then the next season he only hit 28 home runs. That turned out to be the highest total of his career.
The Landslide Rookie Of The Year
There aren’t many built the way Mark Fidrych was built. He had quite the imagination. He would talk to the baseball and also groom the mound with his hands. He wasn’t given a chance to pitch until May 15th of the 1976 season. He won that game and was given another start. He ended up pitching another complete game and from there, Fidrych became a phenom.
He ended up taking the place as starting pitcher in the all-star game that year and finished the year with a 19-9 record. He got second in CY Young voting and won the Rookie of the Year in ’76. The workload caught up with the youngster. Fidrych ended up hurting his knee and tearing his rotator cuff. The remaining four years of his career only saw him start 27 times.