The wonder of being a die-hard baseball fan is the capacity we all seem to have for investing a lot of emotion in the deliciously trivial world. Oil drilling in the Alaskan wilderness? Barry Zito got shelled! Slaughter in the Middle East? Man, Barry Zito got shelled! Massive cerebral hemorrhaging? Goddamn it. I can’t believe Zito got shelled!

Of course, individual players tend to draw a lot of negative emotions, a lot of fan-fire if you will.

The truly disproportionate, embarrassing, and emotional responses are earned by that elite clique of players who are simply despised. I’m talking about guys who get booed by their own team’s fans. Guys for whom a good day at the plate means an awful day for everyone else. Guys for whom it’s a damn shame that they’re athletically gifted because they deserve to be single at 40, drowning in a bottle and scraping for loose change to make their alimony payments.

Instead, they perform amazing acts of coordination and strength, which calls for enough money to revitalize the economy of a mid-sized African nation.

(It’s worth noting that my first instinct when describing these athletes was to say, “I’d like to smack them.” I have avoided this phrasing, however, since I cannot encourage our younger readers to engage in acts of violence against 200 lb., club-wielding, creatine junkies. Here at the Nexus, we care about our community.)

So without further ado, here it is: the Five Baseball Players Most Likely to Make You Foam at the Mouth.

#1: Barry Bonds: Most people hate the way he embarrasses everyone’s favorite pitchers. Though, as a Giants fan, I love the way Bonds rounds first base two-thirds of the time. It’s when he does that head-cocked, teary-eyed schtick after he strikes out that I pray for him to get plastered by a meteorite. You can point to heaven after that one too, big guy.

#2: Jason Giambi: The way he went from the sixth member of Pearl Jam to roadie for Jimmy Buffett makes me hope that the elder Mrs. Giambi will issue a press statement saying, “Jeremy was always my favorite.” Sure, there’s the vanilla-izing force of Steinbrenner, but you’d think the Giambino would have the cojones to say, “I can look homeless and still be an amazing ballplayer.” But no, the former doesn’t apply, and to date, nor does the latter.

#3: Carl Everett: He joins John Rocker in proving that the state of Texas is, in fact, an asshole magnet. Fortunately, he’s been pretty quiet this season due to the torn cartilage in his knee sustained after he grabbed his crotch a little too hard.

#4: Gary Sheffield: When a prima donna like Sheff pops up, I have to wish that his nose would fall off. I mean, yeah, he’ll still whale on the ball, but at least the rest of us will get more girls.

#5: The Rest of the Atlanta Braves. And here’s the funny thing – aside from Sheffield, the Braves seem to be a fairly nice bunch. It’s just that watching them excel kind of draws up the urge to inflict grievous emotional harm upon them. So someone tell Julio Franco to pee before he goes up to bat. And someone tell John Smoltz he looks like a two-bit thug from the Russian Mob. And someone make the Braves have a mediocre 2002 season.

Then maybe I can get on with the rest of my life.