There is more to life than baseball.
Well, perhaps not. But there are other things that fill up our day-to-day lives that, at one time or another, at least some people deem important.
Things such as the Punic Wars. Or the T.V. show, “M.A.S.H.” Or the Industrial Revolution.
Some of these events / people / movies / wars, etc. have been underrated. Some of them have been overrated.
Baseball, of course, has always featured its fair share of underrated players, managers and teams, and their overrated counterparts as well.
In this blog-post, I will combine my all-time (including contemporary) underrated and overrated people and topics regarding baseball, and some of everything else as well. And I do mean everything.
Stay with me on this one, and I think you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Overrated: “Field of Dreams.” This movie becomes increasingly unbearable to watch with each subsequent viewing. It is basically an exercise in Baby-Boomer self-indulgence masquerading as a lesson about “listening to your dreams.” The overwrought Ray character (Kevin Costner vs. The Man) Stays True to Himself and reconnects with his estranged dad (even if he is just a ghost tromping around in a cornfield.)
Baseball is Spiritual!
And there’s something in there about kidnapping an African-American Civil Rights era writer (who ends up being O.K. in the end with having been kidnapped, of course) so that they can go to a baseball game together.
Baseball is Progressive!
Just, please, stop.
Underrated: “Eight Men Out.” Every time I watch this film, I notice something subtle I hadn’t noticed the first time around. Not as graceful as “The Natural,” but not as mawkish, either. And, of course, this movie about the Black Sox Scandal has taken on added irony since Roger Clemens, who has a cameo in this film, has been embroiled in his own scandal as well.
Overrated: B.J. Upton – No, he is not likely to ever become the superstar that baseball fans have been fantasizing about for around three years now.
Underrated: Justin Upton – Yes, he is likely to become the superstar that many people thought his older brother, B.J., would become.
Overrated: The Revolutionary War – Yeah, I know, it’s cool to be an independent nation and all, but the American colonies, over time, would probably have enjoyed an increasingly greater level of self-government vis-à-vis the Brits. And we would have avoided the pointless War of 1812 as well.
Underrated: The French and Indian War – If the French Army, in league with their Canadian trapper and Indian allies, had won this war, the inhabitants of the original English colonies would have eventually faced the choice of sailing back to England, or becoming subjects in the North American realm of King Louis’ French Empire. There wouldn’t have been any Founding Fathers, Constitution, United States as Beacon of Liberty / Spread of Democracy Worldwide, etc. Game. Set. Match.
Overrated: Carl Yastrzemski – O.K., Red Sox fans, name your favorite Carl Yaz moment. You can’t, can you? Perhaps the single most boring superstar of all-time.
Underrated: Luis Tiant – Although I rooted for the Big Red Machine in the ’75 Series (someone had to), I certainly did enjoy watching Tiant pitch against the Reds in that series. What a character. Tiant’s dad, by the way, once pitched against a St. Louis Cardinals team barnstorming through pre-Castro Cuba.
Overrated: John F. Kennedy / Ronald Reagan – Given the fact that St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, I probably shouldn’t point out that people of Irish ancestry routinely deify their heroes, whether they’re dead or not. Bono, for example, has already surpassed James Joyce as the Emerald Isles wordiest artist-in-search-of-immortality.
Underrated: Dwight D. Eisenhower – Supreme Allied Commander during WW II, two-term President of the United States, responsible for America’s interstate highway system, sent the 101st Airborne into Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school integration, and warned us (presciently, as it turned out) about the dangers posed by the Military-Industrial Complex in his Farewell Address.
Overrated: Derek Jeter – Not as a player, but given the sorry state of baseball’s “marketing” campaign, as the de facto “Face” of baseball. Um, like it or not, yes he is.
Underrated: Albert Pujols – Not as a player, but as a symbol of the Latino community’s continual, and unjustifiable, second-class status as Americans. There is no reason why Pujols, the greatest player in the game today, should not be as recognizable to the average American as Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, or (ahem) Tiger Woods.
Overrated: Napoleon – One Word: Waterloo
Underrated: Alexander the Great – One Word: Undefeated
Overrated: David Wright – A very good baseball player, perhaps a future Hall-of-Famer.
Underrated: Ryan Zimmerman – A very good baseball player, perhaps a future Hall-of-Famer.
Overrated: “Tarzan and Jane” movies, 1950’s. Their bodies were safely covered up like Mainers in the Summer, wary of that sudden, impending chill off the lake.
Underrated: “Tarzan and Jane” movies, 1930’s. In the heady days before Hollywood went off the deep end with its puritanical rating system, Jane is obviously, sumptuously nude while swimming in the water of an African river. Good stuff.
Overrated: A’s General Manager Billy Beane: Yes, I know, he always has a limited budget to work with. But didn’t he give a huge contract extension to Eric (maybe I’ll play tomorrow) Chavez? Like it or not, a G.M. still has to win something once in a while to stay credible.
Underrated: Braves General Manager John Schuerholz: Does anyone remember the last time the Braves had a string of truly awful seasons? You would have to go back to the late 1980’s, culminating in the 65-97 record of 1990. That’s back when a country called the U.S.S.R. still existed. Since 1991, the Braves have enjoyed 13 ninety-plus win seasons in 20 years. In a football crazy region, with a medium-level payroll, Schuerholz usually (but not always) avoids big mistakes, gambles effectively, and promotes discipline and balance throughout the Braves system.
Overrated: Classical Music – Before you snub your nose at me and laugh at my blue-collar, Bridgeport, CT, roots, let me tell you that, yes, over the years I have listened to, studied, and even purchased classical music, so I believe I do have a healthy appreciation of this art-form. Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and Aaron Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring” are some of my favorites.
But I also have no doubt that if an 18th century audience heard Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” in a live performance down the hall, they would have wet their collective bloomers in astonishment and excitement, and stampeded towards that remarkable sound.
Underrated: Jazz Music – The purest and greatest of all American art-forms. It is simply impossible to imagine America without Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Billie Holliday, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, or Miles Davis. America without Jazz music would be like watching a film in a movie theater with the sound turned off; you could still enjoy the spectacle, and figure out the basic premise, but you’d miss the mood, tone, and soul of the film.
Overrated: Roger Clemens – America loves the image of the lone Texas gunslinger riding into town, wrestling control of the situation through violence, or the threat of high-heat, and riding off mysteriously into the sunset. Nolan Ryan may have been baseball’s original Clint Eastwood-Anti-Hero archetype, but Clemens played it to the hilt. Clemens, however, (even before the steroid scandal broke), more accurately fit the Shape-Shifter archetype. The defining trait of this archetype is Uncertain Loyalties. To whom was Clemens ever loyal? He was more like a soldier-of-fortune. Rooting for him was pointless. He existed to fulfill his own ambitions.
Underrated: Greg Maddux: He actually did all the things that a Western gunslinger is supposed to do, but he did them without the self-preening drama carefully orchestrated by Clemens. During the 1990’s, in the Era of The Hitter, Maddux posted a period of seven consecutive years of ERA’s beyond comprehension. From 1992-98, his annual ERA’s were as follows: 2.18, 2.36, 1.56, 1.63, 2.72 (Oh, My!), 2.20, and 2.22. These are ERA’s right out of the Dead Ball Era. Well, it’s just too bad he wasn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, because strikeouts are sexy.
Oh, really? Maddux finished tenth all-time in career strikeouts with 3,371. Who is just ahead of him in ninth place? None other than Walter Johnson.
Maddux, by the way, also won 18 consecutive gold gloves.
Lastly, Maddux broke the immortal Cy Young’s record of 15 consecutive seasons of 15 or more wins, having reached that total in seventeen consecutive years. Maybe the Cy Young award should be renamed the Greg Maddux award.
Oh, yeah, and one more thing. Greg Maddux was born in San Angelo, Texas.
Overrated: T.V. Show, “M.A.S.H.” – For too many years, this preachy message-driven drivel (War is Bad!) was imposed on a Vietnam Era audience (although it uses the Korean War as its backdrop.) It turns out that even in the face of an odious, unjust conflict, American boys (and a girl or two) could crack jokes, shower together, and drip sincerity between commercial breaks. Who knew? The way Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) looked during his nervous breakdown in the Final Episode was the way I felt through most of the other episodes I ever bothered to sit through.
Underrated: T.V. Show, “The Shield.” - How do you survive and do the job that needs to be done when no one around you (including your boss) wants you to? Hidden dangers, both from without and within, lurk everywhere. There is enough betrayal, passion, cruelty and nobility in this show to make Shakespeare envious. And beyond that, it was never predictable or dull.
Overrated: Alfonso Soriano - Usually leads the league, or is among the league-leaders, in Outs Made. Even during his best seasons, his baseball instincts have always been poor. Now he is older and injury-prone. Good luck, Cubbies!
Underrated: Bobby Abreu – Eight 20 / 20 seasons (homers / steals). Eight seasons of at least 100 runs scored, and eight seasons of at least 100 RBI’s. His career Adjusted OPS+ is 132, higher than Hall-of-Fame outfielders Roberto Clemente, Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Carl Yaz, Goose Goslin, and Jim Rice.
Overrated: “300” – Plays like an S&M / Bondage primer masquerading as a modern, historical epic. The Spartans, mind you, really did practice enforced homosexual relations within their ranks. Perhaps this film isn’t such a stretch after all.
Underrated: “Gladiator” – Russell Crowe’s best film. Fantastic performances, excellent dramatic tension, great battle scenes. “A people should know when they are conquered.”
Let’s leave it at that for today. I hope you enjoyed this blog-post. Agree / Disagree with any (all) of my underrated / overrated items? Let me know. Again, thanks for reading.