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LEEInks List: Boston athletes who have fallen from grace

07.08.11 at 7:50 am ET
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Remember when Roger Clemens was on top of the Boston sports world? With the Rocket’s perjury case in progress, those days have never felt further away. Whether it’s because of contract disputes, trouble with the law, or locker room drama, plenty of former Beantown sports heroes have fallen out of favor over the past few years. We’ve got 10 that take the cake.

10. Nomar Garciaparra

If you were a Red Sox fan from 1997 to 2004, chances are you had at least one article of clothing with the number five on it. After winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1997, Nomar quickly became the undisputed face of Fenway Park. With two batting titles and five All-Star selections, he was grouped with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as the three most exciting short stops in the league. Garciaparra seemed destined to play out his career in Boston, and perhaps help the Red Sox finally break the curse of the Bambino.

However, when TV cameras caught him sulking in the dugout while sitting out of a 2004 classic against the Yankees (when Jeter dove headfirst into the stands), Red Sox fans did not react well. That incident, combined with general manager Theo Epstein‘s desire for improved defense, led to the shocking trade. Garciaparra had to look on from Chicago as the Red Sox won it all without him with the help of Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. Still, Nomar can expect a much better reception in Boston than most of the athletes on this list, especially because a one-day contract allowed him to retire as a member of the Red Sox.

9. Joe Thornton

Thornton entered the NHL with Boston in 1997 and led the team in scoring for several years, but it was never enough to get the Bruins to the next level. The center faltered under intense scrutiny, especially in the postseason and during his time as captain. After being traded to the Sharks in 2005 for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau, Thornton won the Hart Trophy, making him the only player ever to be named MVP in the same season he was traded.

Thornton didn’t exactly improve his reputation this season when he hinted that the Bruins were not being punished because of B’s winger Greg Campbell being the son of then-NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell. But with Boston winning the 2011 Stanley Cup and Thornton still empty-handed in San Jose, it’s safe to say the Bruins aren’t too concerned about their former star’s opinion.

8. Antoine Walker

The Celtics‘ sixth overall pick out of Kentucky became a fan favorite with his 3-point shooting ability and patented shimmy celebration, but he never quite won over Danny Ainge, who criticized Walker’s shot selection and playing style. Walker was traded to the Mavericks, brought back two years later for an awkward 24-game reunion, then shipped to Miami, where he eventually won an NBA championship.

Despite achieving basketball’s greatest goal, Walker apparently never achieved financial security. In the past three years, Walker has filed for bankruptcy, faced foreclosure, and pleaded guilty to writing bad checks to cover his gambling debt. Here’s a clip of Walker in his better days (back when Tommy Heinsohn did play-by-play for Celtics road games):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UQNOr-8rgc

7. Terry Glenn

Glenn was one of the Patriots’ most talented receiving threats in the late 1990s, but his off-the-field issues would prove too much to handle. Glenn was an integral part of New England’s run to Super Bowl XXXI, as he logged 1,132 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. However, coach Bill Parcells memorably referred to Glenn as “she” because of his questionable attitude coming back from an injury. When it was suspected that Glenn was faking a hamstring injury during the Patriots 2001 Super Bowl season, coach Bill Belichick deactivated his contract, and Glenn never received a championship ring. He’s been out of the league since 2007, and was arrested (not for the first time) earlier this year. On the bright side, he did help Drew Bledsoe complete the longest pass of his career:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMD2L57svBw

6. Ugueth Urbina

Urbina had a decent run through the majors from 1995-2005, including an All-Star appearance with the Red Sox in 2002, when he replaced an injured Pedro Martinez on the American League roster. Urbina had 71 strikeouts and posted a 3.00 ERA that season, but the Red Sox chose not to re-sign him. It turned out to be a smart decision.

You might not expect someone nicknamed “Uggie” to be capable of murder, but in March of 2007, a jury ruled otherwise. Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to murder five workers on his family’s ranch in Venezuela. Urbina ranks 30th on the all-time saves list with 237, but it doesn’t appear he’ll be gaining ground on Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera any time soon.

5. Randy Moss

He caught 250 passes for 3,765 yards and 47 touchdowns in his first three years in New England. He hauled in what could have been the Super Bowl-winning, perfect season-ending touchdown in 2007. That same year, he caught a single-season record 23 touchdowns. But over the past year, he hasn’t been able to hold on to a job.

Moss’ contract wasn’t extended before the start of last season, and he openly complained about it after a Week 1 win over the Bengals (check out the video below). Three weeks later, the Patriots sent him back to Minnesota for a third-round pick. The Vikings waived Moss within a month. After finishing last season with the Titans, the 34-year-old wideout may have a few seasons ahead of him, but Tom Brady doesn’t seem to miss him much at all. When asked to list some of his best teammates over the years, Moss was notably absent from Brady’s response.

4. Carl Everett

Boston brought in Everett in 2000, a year when several media outlets picked the Red Sox to win it all (the Sports Illustrated cover curse was very much in effect). Everett was a notorious head case, but with his early success in Boston, it didn’t really matter. Everett hit .320 with 24 home runs and 69 RBIs during the first half of the season, earning “MVP” chants from the Fenway faithful. He was well on his way to a historic season, but everything changed after a fateful day in July.

Everett head-butted home plate umpire Ron Kulpa while arguing balls and strikes and was suspended for 10 games. The long layoff erased whatever momentum Everett had built up, and he hit just .261 down the stretch. On the positive side, Everett delighted Sox fans everywhere in 2001 when he broke up a Mike Mussina perfect game with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. More recently, however, he had a well-documented run-in with the law.

3. Johnny Damon

The caveman teamed up with Kevin Millar and Boston’s cast of “idiots” in 2004 to lead the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years. With speed in the outfield and an impressive blend of contact and power hitting at the plate, Damon became one of the franchise’s most popular players. Perhaps most memorably, he put the nail in the Yankees‘ coffin in 2004, blasting a grand slam in Game 7 of the ALCS and putting the finishing touches on Boston’s historic comeback.

But in 2005, when push came to shove in free agency, Damon signed with the Yankees, who offered him $12 million more than the Red Sox. As is the custom in the Bronx, Damon had to cut his hair and shave his beard, and then he had to watch his former team win another championship in 2007. His return to Fenway was eventful, to say the least:

2. Manny Ramirez

He powered the Red Sox to two unforgettable World Series runs and was regarded as one of the best hitters in baseball, but eventually Boston grew tired of “Manny being Manny.” What does that term exactly mean? Sox fans were never quite sure, but it involved jogging down the line, flubbing routine fly balls, and allegedly faking injuries.

When Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers in 2009, he claimed, “[The Red Sox] want to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don’t deserve me. I’m not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don’t have peace here.” Ramirez may have found peace of mind in retirement, but for failing an MLB drug test twice, WEEI’s Kirk Minihane dubbed Manny the “Ultimate Idiot.” At least we’ll have the memories:

1. Roger Clemens

Simply put, no Boston athlete climbed as high and fell as far as Clemens. With the Rocket mired in a performance-enhancing drug scandal for the last three years, it’s easy to forget just how impressive he was, regardless of whether or not it was legal. Here’s a quick refresher. In his 24-year career, he won a record seven Cy Young Awards, two pitching triple crowns (leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts) and two World Series. He holds the all-time record for strikeouts in a single game (20) and is third on the all-time strikeouts list behind Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

Of course, Clemens’ list of accomplishments is nearly as long as his list of offenses, especially in the eyes of Red Sox fans. In 1997, Clemens parted ways with the Sox after 12 years, signing a hefty $40 million contract with division rival Toronto. After two 20-win seasons, he was traded to the Yankees, where he won his two championships. Last but not least, he denied multiple allegations that he used steroids and human growth hormone, despite the evidence and testimony stacked against him. With his perjury case finally under way, let’s take a look back at one of the many chances he had to come clean (that is, if he’s guilty):

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