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.
Detroit Tigers — Bobby Higginson
When the topic of a Tigers fan's most hated player comes up, there’s one problem. For over two decades, there was far more apathy than hate for anyone who played for a franchise which had bottomed out in the standings. But there was one Tiger who spent his entire career in Detroit, arriving as a beloved blue-collar athlete, leaving as a despised poster boy for bad long-term contracts: Bobby Higginson.
In 2001, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, wary of backlash should the team lose a fan favorite to free agency, gave the 30-year-old Higginson a four-year contract extension worth $35 million. There was fan backlash anyway, but it was because Higginson stayed.
Now a millionaire many times over, the fans no longer thought of Higginson as blue-collar, turning on him instead of embracing him as they once did. To make matters worse, Higginson would never come close to replicating the numbers he posted in the late 90s. The Tigers' fan base, struggling in bad economic times, would never, ever let him forget.
Higginson’s onerous (for its era) contract was always offered as a principal cause of the Tigers' payroll challenges and, consequentially, a significant talent shortfall. The team couldn’t unload a player who was in serious decline, yet making over $11 million a season in the mid-point of the deal, infuriating fans to the point of distraction.
In 2005, Higginson’s career came to an inglorious end, having never played for a winning Tigers team and more frequently remembered for his awful contract than any on-field accomplishment. Once a shining star, Higginson now serves as a cautionary tale — with a few profanities added in for good measure.
For more Tigers coverage, please visit SB Nation's Bless You Boys.
Chicago White Sox — Wilson Betemit
It's easy to dislike players who don't deliver, but Wilson Betemit stands out for the circumstances under which he spectacularly failed. He systematically demolished all hope of adequacy when there were actual expectations, and in the process, ensured the Nick Swisher trade would be the worst move Kenny Williams ever made. Betemit came to the Sox from the New York Yankees as the most proven piece in return for the panic trade of Nick Swisher — the White Sox advertised Betemit as a solid switch-hitter who could play all the infield positions.
One by one, these myths fell. In his first game at shortstop in spring training, he committed two errors. When the Sox tried him at third, he botched four of eight chances. At least his bat held up — until he went 0-for-17 over his second month of action. That would also turn out to be his final month, as the White Sox designated him for assignment to make room for Gordon Beckham, and he spent the rest of the year at Triple-A. His final line: .200/.280/.311 and a .500 fielding percentage at third base. The goggles, they did nothing.
The Sox subsequently released Betemit, and he went on to play for two fellow AL Central teams, the Royals and the Tigers. At press time, Wilson Betemit is a career 344/.391/.641 against the White Sox.
For more White Sox coverage, please visit SB Nation's South Side Sox.
There were some Indians players that I hated for rational reasons (see Rocker, John), but probably the one player I hated irrationally (as a player) was Casey Blake. If Blake has never played for your team, you wouldn’t understand the hate, but he hit ugly, if that’s possible. He would work counts well, but they would end in strikeouts, and it seemed that he never got a hit with runners on.
My irrational hate, especially towards the end, also had a lot to do with his association with Eric Wedge. Blake and Wedge had arrived in Cleveland the same year, and really seemed to hit it off. Their grittiness was almost endearing at the beginning of their tenures, but towards the end, it was, well, grating.
Last winter we ranked the Top 100 Indians, and Blake showed up near the bottom of the list. But even though Blake was a very deserving of inclusion, and even though he’s the reason the Indians now have Carlos Santana, I still had to struggle to write nice things about him (again, as a player).
For more Indians coverage, please visit SB Nation's Let's Go Tribe.
Kansas City Royals — Kevin McReynolds
I couldn't stand Kevin McReynolds. It might have been because he arrived in Kansas City as part of the package that sent Bret Saberhagen to the Mets. More likely, however, is that it was because the guy just didn't seem to give a damn. About anything. He lacked hustle, fire, passion... and probably didn't have a soul either.
I was around McReynolds as an accredited member of the media in 1993 and on more than one occasion, I would hear comments about how he just didn't like baseball. That was amazing to me. Didn't like baseball? Sure enough, a year after the Royals shipped him back to the Mets (this time for Vince Coleman... I'm sensing a trend here) he hung up his spikes. Good riddance.
For more Royals coverage, please visit SB Nation's Royals Review.
Luis Rivas epitomized everything that makes me cringe, not just as a fan of baseball or of the Twins, but as a good Midwestern young man. He had so much talent; in particular, his speed was most enviable, leading to some impressive stolen base totals in the minor leagues. Too, we heard rumors of a flashy glove and solid all-around defense. When Rivas reached the Majors, however, his otherwise pedestrian offensive numbers as a minor leaguer caught up to him when he was faced with more talented opposition.
Oh, that and laziness. His lack of concentration and consistency offended me as a baseball fan. He let his tools go to waste, which offended me as a Minnesotan. And his creepy mustache offended me as a non-creepy guy.
For more Twins coverage, please visit SB Nation's Twinkie Town.