There are good reasons to dislike crummy players — they're crummy, that's usually reason enough. But sometimes you just can't stand a player for reasons having nothing to do with his on-field performance. Sometimes it's irrational.
I’m certainly not the only person who just couldn’t stand watching Jeff Franceour play for my favorite team, but I really found his brief time with the Mets unbearable. Perhaps I never gave the guy a chance out of the gate since the Mets had given up Ryan Church — who I really liked for some reason — to get Francoeur from the Braves. It was viewed at the time as a change of scenery for both players, but given the options, I would have preferred to watch Church. It didn’t make much sense, but that’s how I felt at the time.
Francoeur wound up getting under my skin even more after he arrived. With his cannon of an arm and big smile, he won over plenty of Mets fans as he put up an .836 OPS in the second half of the 2009 season. There certainly wasn’t anything wrong with that, but the Mets were dead in the water by the time he arrived, and it looked pretty damn obvious that he would not be able to match that production forever. His career numbers just weren’t nearly that good.
Unfortunately for me, the Mets held on to Francoeur for almost the entire 2010 season. When they finally gave up on him and sent him to the Texas Rangers on August 31, he had hit .237/.293/.369. Since Jerry Manuel just didn’t stop rolling Francoeur out there, I was thrilled when the news broke that he was finally gone.
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"Aaron Rowand: Most Despised, Awful, Hated Phillie In The History of All Time In Perpetuity and Forever" seems more appropriate than merely "Irrational Hatred." That proposed title may be an exaggeration, but for many of us who have been with The Good Phight for an extended period of time, there is no Phillie who more symbolized all that is wrong with Philadelphia fandom and sports than Aaron Rowand.
Rowand came to the Phillies in 2006 after spending four years with the Chicago White Sox. Rowand's arrival was by way of trade — Jim Thome was no longer needed because the Phillies had a young Ryan Howard, so the Phillies traded Thome to the White Sox for Rowand and a player to be named later. (That player was Gio Gonzalez, who almost won the Cy Young for the Washington Nationals this season. The Phillies traded Gonzalez back to the White Sox the next year for Freddy Garcia. Arg.)
Rowand immediately became the everyday center fielder for the Phillies. He also became a huge fan favorite. While his actual on-the-field performance barely scratched the surface of mediocrity, fans loved Rowand because he ran really hard on each play, he crashed into walls in the outfield, and he looked like he was really really, really trying hard throughout the game. That kind of stuff goes over really well in Philadelphia, and Rowand was loved accordingly. Oh, he also apparently had really great team-building barbecues.
But we at The Good Phight hated Rowand. He was everything that was awful about Philadelphia fandom. He was all hustle and effort and very mediocre (at best) production. His first year with the Phillies was particularly horrible, as he posted an 86 OPS+ and an 88 wRC+. His fielding wasn't even that good that year by most advanced metrics.
What was worse, though, was that he held back an up-and-coming star and forced the departure of a beloved hero. Because the Phillies were committed to Rowand and the fan base quickly fell in love with him, the team would not remove him from the lineup, even though they had a better alternative — a young Shane Victorino. Victorino had spent some time with the Phillies in 2005 and then the entire year with the team in 2006. When he played, it was clear he was a better defender than Rowand and had more plate discipline than him as well (it's hard not to have more plate discipline than Rowand, who drew a walk in just 4% of his plate appearances in 2006). Victorino had speed and power potential. He was cheap and young. In other words, he needed playing time, but he was blocked by Rowand.
The Phillies eventually figured out what to do about this problem at the trade deadline. Rather than trading Rowand, though, they traded Bobby Abreu. Now, it's hard to overstate how important Abreu is to The Good Phight. Without Abreu and his awesomeness and the casual Philadelphia fan's hatred of him, The Good Phight might not have started. In fact, it is Abreu who was a large inspiration for this blog's name. We are The Good Phight because we are fighting the good fight in favor of the Bobby Abreus of the world. And against the Aaron Rowands of the world.
But back to how Rowand resulted in trading Abreu. Because the Phillies wanted to get playing time for Victorino but wouldn't budge on playing Rowand, they traded Abreu to the Yankees for a bag of baseballs so Rowand and Victorino could play together in the outfield. Actually, a bag of baseballs would be more valuable than what the Phillies received in exchange for Abreu. In other words, the Phillies traded one of the best Phillies of all time for nothing all to keep Aaron Rowand as their everyday center fielder.
For this, Aaron Rowand is the most despised, hated, horrible player the Phillies have ever had in the history of time and always will be forever. It doesn't matter that he was better in 2007, posting a 6.0 fWAR, a 126 wRC+, and a 124 OPS+. The deal was sealed, and Rowand was hated.
When the Giants signed him to an absurd five-year, $60 million contract in the 2007 offseason, we here at TGP breathed a huge sigh of relief and let out several loud laughs. But he will never be forgotten for blocking Victorino and forcing Abreu out of the red pinstripes he should have worn for his entire (post-Astros-cup-of-coffee) career.
—David S. Cohen
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For the Braves, the most irrationally hated player is Melky Cabrera, and it isn’t a contest. Moreover, you could take his actual on-field performance out of the equation entirely and I would still feel this way. Aside from the fact that he decided to have the worst year of his career in 2010, his lone year as a Brave, it was his conduct and attitude, before, during, and after his Braves tenure, that soured many on Melky, maybe forever.
Forget the well-documented recollections of him showing up to spring training morbidly out-of-shape, and likewise forget the predictably poor performance that resulted; the fact that he acted as if he simply didn’t care was the most infuriating thing about Cabrera. When Melky was predictably non-tendered after his abysmal 2010 season, it was then he decided to back into shape, and with a little bit of help from some performance-enhancing drugs, put together two of the biggest seasons of his career for the Royals and Giants.
Given the nature of the topic here, this explanation might be a little too rational; but I can assure you that the choice of words and the emotions that swirled in my head at the sight of Melky Cabrera in 2010 and beyond were anything but.
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Washington Nationals — Daniel Cabrera
There isn't anyone off the top of my head who drew our ire as fans for reasons completely unrelated to performance, but there is one player who spent so little time here that the residual anger seems over-the-top. Then-D.C. general manager Jim Bowden signed Daniel Cabrera to a one-year, $2.6 million deal in the winter of 2008 after he'd pitched for five years for the Baltimore Orioles. The control-challenged right-hander walked more than five batter per nine innings and frustrated everyone with a complete lack of control of his high-90s heater. Bowden resigned that Spring, just three months after the signing. With Mike Rizzo as the interim GM, Cabrera lasted all of nine appearances, one in relief, in which he walked 35 (7.87 BB/9) and struck out 16 (3.60 K/9) while going 0-5 with a 5.85 ERA in 40 innings.
Toward the end of his time with the organization the Nationals discovered that Cabrera had never learned to pitch off a mound correctly. (He stood on top of the rubber rather than pushing off it.) How did all of those scouts never notice this? The Nationals ended up just taking Cabrera off the roster, designating him for assignment, and eating the rest of his contract with Rizzo explaining to reporters at the time, "I was tired of watching him." Cabrera spent so short a period here it's hard to believe the anger that still surrounds his signing, but to pay him what they did and have the reasons for his issues be so absurd really stuck with me and a lot of other Nats fans.
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Florida Marlins — Greg Dobbs
I despise everything about Greg Dobbs. Maybe it is not just Greg Dobbs. On his own, he is a perfectly acceptable bench player. Many teams have a backup first baseman whose primary role is to come in and pinch hit, so Dobbs himself is not a special player to despise.
The problem is not even necessarily Dobbs, but the Marlins organization's reverence of Dobbs and the pinch-hit specialist as a whole. Greg Dobbs is fine, but when you hear others speak of Greg Dobbs's play, they sound like they are revering a future Hall-of-Famer. Dobbs does "all the little things right," which usually means he makes productive outs more often than not. Mysteriously, no one seems to bother asking why he is making so many outs in the first place. Dobbs's contact hitting allowed him to post a superficially decent .285 batting average in 2012, and many who cover the Marlins fall over themselves to celebrate such a "good" season. Yet, Dobbs's lack of power and plate discipline render that batting average hollow and his season utterly pedestrian.
I don't hate Greg Dobbs; I hate the idea that he's good. He isn't.
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