Hackett: Top 10 most hated Boston sports figures in history

Jim Hackett
July 12, 2018 - 10:05 am

USA Today Sports

Following all the hatred going towards David Price over the past few weeks, this got us thinking: who are the most hated athletes in Boston sports history? 

Emotionally, I’ve been writing this article for over 30 years and I must say this process is very cathartic. Without further ado, welcome to my twisted mind…

No. 10 – Todd Day 

This is for those who like me, suffered through the forgettable Celtics of the 90’s. It was rough. When the Celtics finally broke through in 2008, radio play-by-play man, Sean Grande really hit the mark when he said, “after a 22 year odyssey the Celtics have regained the throne” because it really was an odyssey, a very miserable one. That 22-year span of futility was never more desperate and empty than during the mid-90’s and nobody defined the sad and frustrating state of the Celtics more than Todd “Jack-em’ up” Day. As long as the ball had passed half court, Day was happy to launch. When you’re playing on a team that is 15-67, that tendency is not a welcomed one. Even the easy going, soft spoken Bob Cousy would scratch his head during the Celtics TV broadcast when Day would go out of his way to just randomly jack up the threes. I clearly remember Cousy sighing one night and saying… “Ya know T [Tommy Heinsohn], I really don’t understand the ahhh…allure of the three." He like me was apparently annoyed with Day and that makes me happy and firmly justifies his place on this list. Cousy, a Hall of Famer, can’t be wrong.

No. 9 – Byron Dafoe and Anson Carter

The early 2000s Bruins were a frustrating group. It was the final decent product that the much maligned Harry Sinden and Mike O’Connell era produced and they like their creators were tough to root for. I link these two players because they played together and each evoked the exact same emotion and frustration for me. For Carter and Dafoe it was never enough. Despite their consistent postseason shortcomings, there was never an upcoming contract they didn’t revel in publicly complainingf about. Dafoe was good not great. Carter was good not great, but each very publicly whined about their contracts seeking big player money and neither was. When they looked around the locker room and deemed they were the best young players in it, they were right, but they weren’t among the league’s top players, nor were each consistent All-Star performers, so their public cries and whines fell very flat. O’Connell was so frustrated by Carter that he admonished him to Edmonton after Carter demanded to be traded someplace warm – true story. The Bruins were absurdly cheap during these years and for decades prior, but when it came to Dafoe and Carter they got it right. Both had to go and I don’t recall many Bruins fan crying about it.

No. 8 – Mike Greenwell

Did you see how fat “The Gator” was at the recent Red Sox Alumni Game? Holy cow! Jaba! Is it terrible that I enjoyed seeing how bloated he’s gotten? Maybe it is, but I honestly did enjoy it. Look, Greenwell was a very good hitter in his day. He could sting the ball all over the field, but he wasn’t likeable. Thinking back, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly where the distaste came from. It’s a combination of things really, the biggest being timing and his team’s unmet expectations. Greenwell supplanted the great Jim Rice. He and outfield mate Ellis Burks in Red Sox fans minds, represented the next wave of great Red Sox outfielders like Rice, Lynn and Evans before them. However, it never quite happened. Add in Greenwell’s altercation with the beloved Mo Vaughn in 1991, his public whining about not winning the league MVP in 1988 (which you could argue he deserved) and his effeminate throwing and running style, Greenwell just couldn’t be embraced, which is too bad because he could play. I just got tired of defending him which always felt like an unnecessary workout.

No. 7 -- Toby Borland 

Only those with a doctrine in Red Sox history need apply for this one. This is the most random entry in this column, but the hate is real, so the rather innocuous Borland makes the list. This is purely a personal vendetta. I saw too much of Borland in 1997. He was a middling, side-winding reliever for a terrible New York Mets team that I had the misfortune of working for at the time. I passionately hated the Mets but worked there to break into the sports business, which was my desperate and lifelong goal. Walking through the inner hallways of Shea Stadium could be a vomit inducing experience for a Boston born, Boston raised and passionate Boston sports fan on its own, but having a loser like Borland pitching before you night after night then traded to your beloved Red Sox midseason was more than enough to qualify for this list. Somehow Borland pitched worse in Boston. Had you seen him at Shea Stadium you wouldn’t believe it could be done. Borland and his 13.50 ERA for the brutal 1997 Red Sox gave me all the ammo I needed. The hate sunk in quickly.

No. 6 – Jimy Williams & Joe Kerrigan 

Just like Dafoe and Carter, these two weirdos are linked. Jimy Williams was a pretty successful manager here in Boston getting the Sox into the postseason in both 1998 and 1999 but he took the joy out of Boston baseball for the fans. Short, snarky and filled with kitschy phrases that always missed the mark, “Jimy with 1 m” worked exceptionally hard at making the message to the fan base as miserable an experience as possible. He did Nomar Garciaparra no favors either, helping to poison his public disposition and the myopic way Williams would craft his batting order made second guessing a nightly exercise. His record was pretty good, but his act was old after the first press conference. The nightly decision making only made you want to dig in your heels even further. As for his pitching coach, Joe Kerrigan could have easily been replaced by an abacus or a calculator, because counting pitches was his greatest talent. The goofy Kerrigan went onto manage the Red Sox for the disastrous remainder of the 2001 season and led them to a 17-26 record.

No. 5 – Jon Casey

When the Bruins traded the great Andy Moog in 1993 straight up for Minnesota North Stars goalie Jon Casey almost all of my soul that was dedicated to the Bruins black and gold died in an instant. I pulled my parents rotary phone right out of the wall as my friend Dougie called with the bad news. Casey was a sieve in Boston and Moog was a rock, he was also my favorite Boston athlete so the hate for this move runs deep. This situation really falls on then head coach Brian Sutter and on Harry for their stupid disputes with Moog the year prior that forced the deal to happen, but Casey was an abject failure in Boston and couldn’t be trusted in a big game. Watching Casey flop all over the crease after viewing the acrobatic and rock solid Moog for year’s prior ruined Bruins hockey for me for a really long time.

No. 4 – Clay Buchholz  

One of the most frustrating Boston athletes in recent memory, Buchholz was the ultimate tease. He threw a no-hitter in his second major league start. I saw him spin a beauty early in his career during a rare weekday day game and like everyone at Fenway that day was mesmerized. However, with Buchholz the lows always out-weighed the highs. This is the classic case of the reality never fulfilling the promise. The injuries and physical fragility became his calling card and to worsen matters often happened when the team needed him the most. In the final years, Buchholz wore the fatigue and dissatisfaction of the fan base all over his face. I actually started to feel bad for him. He looked lost, depressed and resigned to his reality, one that Red Sox fans had long since confirmed after years of disappointment.

No. 3 - Jeremy Jacobs

For lifelong Bruins fans this entry needs no introduction. Excuse me for a moment while I use this space for a little overdue cathartic therapy. Jacobs’ unwillingness to untie the Bruins organization during the decade plus hosting two of the greatest hockey players to ever lace up skates (Ray Bourque and Cam Neely) is an absolute abomination and nothing less. I worked at the FleetCenter for over six years after Neely retired and know this to be true. Multiple Stanley Cup championships were well within grasp during the prime years of Bourque and Neely and the fact that Bourque had to ask out of town to get a real shot at the cup stirs up rage in me to this day. Moreover, after Jacobs finally allowed the hockey personnel minds to operate at full capacity he still found a way to annoy and dare I say offend me. Anyone who knows me or those of you whom have read my columns probably realize I don’t offend easily. However, when Jacobs spoke at the Bruins Stanley Cup championship parade in 2011, his tone deaf jab at Neely not only missed the mark but offended real Bruins fans who very clearly knew the truth, the only thing preventing Neely from winning the cup as a player was the owner who stupidly blurted out those sarcastic words at the parade.

No. 2 – Tony Eason  

I’ve been writing this column in my mind for over 30 years and in every machination until today, Tony Eason has occupied the top spot. Numero-uno-honcho. My true and unbridled hatred for Eason was unparalleled for over 30 years. Eason never saw a potential sack he didn’t want to duck from. Watching him flop like a European soccer player while watching Steve Grogan literally take spine crushing sacks during the same time span remains today as one of the starkest contrasts I’ve ever witnessed in sports. I hated Eason for that and spent every second of his career rooting against him. In 2000, the Patriots held a 40th anniversary pregame celebration at Foxboro Stadium and players from 1960 onward walked onto the field drowned in cheers, except for one, Tony Eason. 

No. 1 – David Price 

Congratulations David, you’ve accomplished another new low. As written above I never thought it was possible to unseat Tony Eason at the top of this dubious list but you’ve done the impossible.

Following a miserable start against the Yankees, Price took his predictable big game performance and surprisingly deployed it against the lowly Kansas City Royals last Saturday night. I’ve written so much about Price of late I’m actually tired of it. Maybe if he can find an out-pitch, a sports psychologist and a public speaking coach telling him what not to say then he can put Tony Eason back where he rightfully belongs at the top of this list. Until then, right now it’s hard for me to dislike anyone more than Price.

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