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.
The "unrelated to performance" clause makes this one a little tricky, because the first answer that springs to mind is Armando Benitez. The second is Neifi Perez. Both of those players were disliked for a few reasons, but the overriding reason was performance.
A good middle would be A.J. Pierzynski, who was disliked for a) setting a team record for double plays, b) kneeing his trainer in the crotch, and c) being involved in one of the most lopsided trades of the last 20 years. The 2004 Giants missed the playoffs partly because of a miserable bullpen, and Joe Nathan would have helped that. Instead, we got Ol' Crotchknees, grounding into his 39th double play of the week. He was so disliked, so poisonous, he wasn't even offered arbitration.
Then, of course, he goes somewhere else and becomes a franchise icon. Just loathsome.
Looking back, though, he was a catcher who hit .272/.319/.410 with passable defense. That's not bad! The double plays sucked the value right out of it, but that was a bit of a fluke, in retrospect.
Still, he's pretty much the worst human being to ever live.
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Los Angeles Dodgers — Jeff Kent
Shane Victorino, the longtime Phillie who did very little to help after joining the Dodgers on August 1, is a tempting choice, but the term “hated Dodger” in the dictionary is likely accompanied by a picture of Jeff Kent (yes, my dictionary has pictures). Kent was a productive player in Los Angeles, hitting .291/.367/.479 in four seasons, though he devolved into more of an immobile statue at second base in the final years of his career.
Kent had two major flaws, and one was the taint of being a longtime Giant. Kent was also notoriously prickly toward young players in the Dodgers' clubhouse, unhappy that Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, et al were becoming the best players on the team. Kent once famously moved a trash can from in front of his locker in the cramped Dodger Stadium locker room to in front of Kemp’s locker, a bizarre gasp at mentoring. In 2007, after Kent ranted at the commitment of the team’s young players, his status was perhaps best stated by James Loney, then in his second season. “Who said he was a leader?” ">Loney asked.
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Well, excepting some of the obvious guys like Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, the guy that immediately comes to mind when thinking about hated players is Ty Wigginton. The Rockies brought him on in 2011 on a two-year contract to be a super-utility guy so we could actually have someone not named Troy Tulowitzki who could hit left-handed pitching and provide some good situational at-bats. While Wigginton did hit lefties pretty well, his 85 OPS+ for the season left a lot to be desired, especially when you consider his .495 OPS with runners in scoring position and the fact that he was practically a guaranteed double play in tight situations from the month of July onward. Also, I think the Rockies were like 1-14 in games where he hit a homer.
He wasn’t a bad guy or anything like that, but he drew a lot of fan ire and was pretty much blamed for everything that went wrong in 2011.
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Eric Byrnes was a walking YOLO hashtag before either word had entered the public consciousness. I should probably point out that near the end, most sane Diamondback fans did not particularly care for Byrnes, but for a few years he became the face of the franchise. Well, “became” is probably the wrong word; “was forced down our throats” is more accurate. That didn't sit well with me.
What really set me off was the fact that everybody else absolutely loved him. It was like, “OMG BYRNSIE HE'S SO COOL WAI, HE LIKES TO DIVE AND STUFF.” To me, it felt like the beginning sequence of A Hard Day's Night, except the horde of girls was chasing Creed.
And his TV show. Yes, Fox Sports Arizona decided to give him a TV show where he just... did stuff. It was only tangentially baseball-related (in the sense that a baseball player was hosting it). I guess they thought that his dynamic personality would carry him through doing wacky stuff, but it was just upsetting. Of course, people ate it up.
(As a side note, he had a contest on one episode to find an “Eric Byrnes Look-Alike.” The winner was the brother of a friend of mine from college. I feel sorry for him.)
You may think my hatred for Byrnes was a knee-jerk and contrarian reaction. I say: This isn't supposed to be rational, and I was quite irrational about my feelings for him, before they became completely rational for everyone else.
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It's probably easy to rationalize now, but I remember hating Sean Burroughs all the way back when he was in the Little League World Series talking about how he wanted to be a vagina doctor when he grew up. This was a guy who was primed every which way to play baseball, given every opportunity, forced two separate All-Stars out of position to make room for him, was the son of an MVP and somehow still ran and swung the bat like a five-year-old, relying on his ability to move fat and a chop-chop motion with his arms to demonstrate "hustle".
It eventually got to the point where I'm pretty sure GM Kevin Towers, manager Bruce Bochy, and all of the coaches hated Sean Burroughs, too. It was almost as if they realized much too late that maybe Sean Burroughs wasn't Jeff Burroughs and even then, Sean (not Jeff) Burroughs would have to be Jeff (not Sean) Burroughs circa 1974 to be worth anything. Now that I think about it, my hatred is totally rational, but I truly believe that if Sean Burroughs ever amounted to anything, I very likely still would've hated him, thereby justifying my would-be unjustifiable hatred.
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