I was talking to a Rangers fan this weekend about the great players it was easy to hate through history. Dave Kingman. Reggie Jackson. Ty Cobb. Cap Anson. Joey “Albert” Belle. My own memory is filled with players whose deeds against the Cubs put them into the pantheon of putrescence: Steve Garvey (for ’84), Will Clark (for being a jerk and for ’89), and the like. There are those players Chicago fans love to hate because of the team they play for and some other intangible, like Daryl Strawberry. And sometimes it’s just the sound of a guy’s name. I never liked D.T. Cromer because of the sound of his name. Sometimes it’s because it’s because of the way the guy plays the game (Deion Sanders) and other times it’s because the guy’s a genuine jerk (Rickey Henderson). And still other times it is because he didn’t play up to the rigid expectations you place on a player who wears your favorite uniform. Despite Pottyfinger’s 39 homers last year, I still consider him a flop, like Kal Daniels, Larry Gura (v2.0), and I guess if you’re Larry Himes, Jose Guzman.
A million things factor into disliking a player, and the collective consciousness of a fandom tends to collect around effigies of certain players. Throughout my days as a fan I’ve always found plenty of guys to hate. But this past weekend a new friend asked me which guys I just couldn’t stand in the game today and it really made me think.
I had a hard time coming up with names. I think Roger Clemens has un-adressed problems, but the guy’s had such a good career I kind of wish he’d keep beating the clock. It’s usually very easy for me to look to the Cardinals’ roster and find guys to hate, but Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, and Poo-holes are talented, dedicated, hard working, and though not impossible to root against, are also hard to hate. Even Yankee posterboy Derek Jeter isn’t completely evil.
So after literally hours looking at rosters and names, I have compiled this list of the five players I dislike the most in MLB today. And I’d like to say “hate,” but I just can’t muster that much passion against them (apologies to runners up Julian Tavarez, Tony Womack, Manny Alexander, Kevin Brown, Ismael Valdez, Mo Vaughn, and Todd Zeile):
5: Rey Ordonez
Hopefully the King of Futility won’t be able to find a job next year. It’s hard to get a non-baseball fan to believe that the boring Cal Ripken is a more valuable defensive shortstop than the spectacular Rey Ordonez because he positions himself better, but the stats bear it out. On top of that, Rey is such an offensive sinkhole that the pitcher is often the 2nd-worst hitter in the lineup. He’s gotten so much hype, but never got better with the bat or in the field. I couldn’t stand seeing him get so many ooh’s and aah’s even when he was a Met. He made the list when Hendry made him a Cub last year.
4: Milton Bradley
This is a man whose attitude has been awful from day one. I remember reading prospect reports about the guy that said, “he has tons of talent, but a terrible attitude.” We’ve seen the bad attitude and he’s established himself as a major league player, but ‘tons of talent’ has not turned into ‘tons of production.’ This is a man who has wasted his natural talents because of a controllable weakness: his attitude. Put Rex Hudler’s brain in Bradley’s body and you have a legend. Keep Bradley’s brain in there and you get someone whose failures make me smile.
3: Steve Trachsel
Grumpy, irritable, foul-tempered, and constantly complaining about his role with the Cubs, Trachsel lulled his teammates to sleep with his ponderous pitching pace. Like Crash Davis said (and I paraphrase), “You win 20 in the show and you can grow fungus in your shower shoes. It’s eccentric. Until then it’s just gross.” Trachsel’s fungal personality and failure to win 20 games puts him in the latter category.
2: Gary Sheffield
This guy has had to fight his bad reputation everywhere he goes. With some guys a reputation is not earned, but Sheffield is a guy who deserves every ounce of bad karma that comes back at him. His teammates with the Brewers didn’t like him. The Pads teammates didn’t like him. In Florida he was tolerated at best. In LA he alienated everyone. With winning teams in Atlanta and New York his entire contribution is with his play on the field, and his contribution with the bat has made him tolerable to his teammate, but he still manages to whine every now and then. Now we find out that he’s been cheating to help him build up those numbers. If this guy had as much baseball talent as, say, me, but the same attitude, he’d be known to local high schoolers as “my a**hole manager at McDonalds.”
1: Matt Morris
He gains the coveted spot because he’s a Cardinal who spoke out against Cub players. LaRussa likes to play Oliver Stone to his guys, motivating them through getting them to believe there’s a conspiracy against them at times. Morris took the hook in his mouth and bit, but his mediocre skills make him the kind of guy you’d rather throw back rather than keep and allow to stink up the boat. Matt More-Ass is the only guy in MLB today that I’d pay money to see slip on some ice in fifty years and break his hip.
It’s a little sad that I can’t muster up the kind of hatred that I had when I was fifteen years old, and a little surprising as well. Who among you has a guy you just can’t stand? Whom do you hate?