The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff

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.

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12 thoughts on “Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff

  1. I will watch Field Of Dreams and Eight Men Out every chance I get.

    Yaz- Take away 1967 and you have almost nothing else to talk about with Yaz.

    JFK has an overrated mythic stature.
    And I do not understand the reverence of Ronald Reagan, he is extremely overrated.

    Jeter is only overrated because he’s a Yankee, with all the exposure that comes with it. He is still, easily a Hall Of Famer.
    In Pujols we are watching one of the 10 best players ever. He will always be underrated because the superlatives can’t match his skills.

    Alexander the Great lived up to his name. Napoleon got spanked by Russia.

    I love to listen to some Classical music, but I don’t think it gets enough props to be considered underrated.

    I could barely get through 300, but Gladiator is a classic

    Kevin G

    • Hi Kevin, Yeah, Jeter is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. I agree that Pujols is one of the 10 best ever, and he just turned 30. Anyway, thanks for checking out my blog. My next post will be about Babe Ruth. Cheers, Bill

  2. Great post, although I’m not sure I agree with your first premise (there’s more to life than baseball).

    Love “Field of Dreams”, but then I had problems with my Dad so I probably look at it differently than you. Having said that, “Eight Men Out” is a heck of a movie and much closer to the reality of the 1919 events. Thanks for the shoutout to that flick. Isn’t John Salles a wonderful filmmaker?

    Also thanks for the shoutout to the French and Indian War. Can’t imagine the last time somebody even mentioned it around these blogs.

    I hate to say bad things about “Saint Derek”, but I’ve gotten a little tired of the unstinted praise. He’s a heck of a ballplayer, probably one of the top five shortstops ever, but enough already. This is not Honus Wagner, this is not Cal Ripken. Give it a rest, fellas. Totally agree with you on the ineptness of baseball in failing to market him, though. He’s hot and baseball could use the good vibes. (BTW loved the Jeter/Steinbrenner credit card commercial of a few years back).

    Fun post, enjoyed it.

    • Yeah, I feel as you do about Jeter. He’s the de facto face of baseball these days, but I would like to see baseball do a lot more with Pujols. But what do you expect from Herr Selig? Glad you enjoyed the post, Bill

  3. I am a jazz musician who loves baseball, as do many of my fellow musicians. We even have a musician’s fantasy baseball league.

    Check out my blog and you will find jazz, as well as baseball posts.

  4. bleedred on said:

    Overrated: “Field of Dreams.” – Agreed, good for one watch. Then its a been there seen that.

    Underrated: “Eight Men Out.” – Not seen it, probably because it was underrated.

    Overrated: B.J. Upton – He might have been appropriately rated for 1 year. Might have.

    Underrated: Justin Upton – Hoping he does it soon. His play excites me.

    Overrated: The Revolutionary War – Interesting…

    Underrated: The French and Indian War – We could all be living in Canada right now…

    Overrated: Carl Yastrzemski – Can’t give you a favorite Yaz moment. Born in ’86, too young for this one.

    Underrated: Luis Tiant – Although I rooted for the Big Red Machine in the ’75 Series (someone had to), – Evil.

    Underrated: Dwight D. Eisenhower – Hes a badass.

    Overrated: Derek Jeter – Remember those “Who’s the best shortstop discussions? Nomar, Jeter, Arod? I argued Nomar. The yankees won that arguement.

    Underrated: Albert Pujols – Everyone in baseball knows his name. How he is not a household name (like arod, jeter, tiger) outside of the sport boggles my mind. I wonder if it’s due to his behavior and public interactions or the medias portrayal and coverage of him.

    Overrated: Napoleon – No short man will ever take over the world.

    Underrated: Alexander the Great – One Word: Undefeated – The pats were almost undefeated. 😥

    Overrated: David Wright – I will never forget the play where he was sprinting away from home into the oufield, layed out and caught a ball barehanded that was coming from over his back. Such a forgotten play in a meaningless game. I knew then he was special. Probably still overrated a little, but hes good. No denying that.

    Underrated: Ryan Zimmerman – Still early in his carrer. Better to be underrated early than overrated and fail to meet.

    Overrated: A’s General Manager Billy Beane: Agreed, but he wrote his bit in MLB history. Changing the game is something not many GM’s accomplish.

    Underrated: Braves General Manager John Schuerholz: Meh.

    Overrated: Classical Music – I think to be overrated there needs to be a large segment of the population that overly worships in some way. I love me some classical music, but only on rare occasions. Time and a place.

    Underrated: Jazz Music – Also love me some jazz. I wish I played it better. My jazz sounds like junk.

    Overrated: Roger Clemens – Overroided

    Underrated: Greg Maddux: I wish I had seen more of him earlier in his carrer. I always apreciated his stuff.

    Overrated: Alfonso Soriano – Do people still think he is the same player as he was with the Yankees?

    Underrated: Bobby Abreu – Never liked him. Watched him play in philly. Don’t know why, wasn’t a numbers thing, and I can’t put a finger on it. Something about him made me say, I dont like you.

    Overrated: “300” – Was also good for *one* watch. Preferably in the first few weeks after the release before all the hype.

    Underrated: “Gladiator” – Never. This movie was fantastic. I think people know it.

    • Hey, I enjoyed reading your reply very much. It is a virtual blog-post in its own right. Glad you found mine to be entertaining, but not, of course, to be taken all that seriously. I don’t much like Abreu, either, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers. So you’re a jazz musician? Cool. Thanks as always for reading. Bill

  5. Oh you’re good…damn good. I agreed with 90%.

    I think Mash is better than you do and I don’t think classical music is overrated, even though I am a jazz musician. (jazz is definately underrated!)

    • Hi Keith, You are the second jazz musician to contact me. I love jazz, but I love baseball more (otherwise I’d have a jazz blog.) I appreciate your kind comments. As always, thanks for taking the time to read my blog, Bill

  6. Mike Cornelius on said:

    Very, very clever post, well done! I would disagree with several, but we all have our own opinions. But you are right on target about Billy Beane! So, so overrated.


    • Hi Mike, What! You think the Revolutionary War was important! Just kidding. Yeah, my blog-post was meant somewhat tongue-in-cheek, although I really never did like M.U.S.H. Thanks for reading, Bill

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