The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff – Part III

fairytale of new york

Image by late night movie via Flickr

Back in March, and again in April, I did a couple of posts that I had intended to turn into a regular series called “Underrated / Overrated – Baseball and Other Stuff.”

For better or worse, other blog-post topics relegated this idea to the bench for several months.

But I am here today to tell you that we are back in business.

The idea was to combine in each post people and things in baseball that are either overrated / underrated along with something or someone from the wider world outside of baseball that is overrated / underrated.

Thus, the prior pair of posts went something like this:

Overrated:  Field of Dreams

Underrated:  Eight Men Out

Overrated:  The Revolutionary War

Underrated:  The French and Indian War

Overrated:  David Wright

Underrated:  Ryan Zimmerman

And so on and so forth.

The first two posts in this series were well-received and have generated continuous traffic to my website during the course of this year.  Apparently, people like to measure their likes and dislikes against those of others.  It’s always prime fodder for a debate.

So here begins the third chapter in Underrated / Overrated – Baseball and Other Stuff. Hope you enjoy it.

Overrated:  Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First” is the best schtick they ever performed.  For many years, I got a kick out of this one.  Then one day, it just stopped being funny.  And it occurred to me, hey, maybe these guys just aren’t that funny after all.

Underrated:  Elvis Costello – One of the most consistently creative talents in Rock music for over 30 years now.  You don’t think he can still knock you down and stomp all over you?  Listen to this 30-second clip from a song called “Needle Time” from an excellent album called “Delivery Man.”  Buy it.  Download it.  Play it loud.  You WON’T be able to sit still.

Overrated:  Lou Brock – His 75% career success rate as a base-stealer is decent, but unspectacular.  He stole 939 bases in his career, but he was thrown out over 300 times.  That’s 300 needless outs he made, possibly costing his team run-scoring opportunities.  In fact, he led the N.L. in  caught stealing seven times.  He also struck out at least a hundred times in a season nine times.  His career OPS (.753) and OPS+ (109) are decidedly unspectacular.  Career WAR:  39.1

Underrated:  Tim Raines His career stolen base success rate was an excellent 84%.  The Rock stole over 800 bases in his career, but was caught just 146 times.  He never once lead the league in times caught stealing.  He also never struck out even 90 times in any one season.  His career OPS (.810) and OPS+ (123) are obviously better than Brock’s marks.  Career WAR:  64.6

Overrated:  Friday Nights – Every one gets home from work tired and cranky after a long week.  You rush around on the way home getting last-minute errands done, the traffic is heavy, and you still don’t even know what you’re going to do about dinner.  You badly want to relax and unwind, but the kids are fighting and the dog needs to go out for a walk.  And, oh fuck, it just started raining out.

Underrated:  Sunday Mornings – There is a fleeting moment early Sunday mornings when you are drinking your coffee, reading your newspaper (or a baseball blog), and the kids are miraculously quiet.  Maybe you’ll go to the park later.  Maybe you’ll sort through some old baseball magazines in the garage.  You might even wash and wax the car.  You feel nearly whole and human again, before the Monday morning American grind pulverizes you for another week.

Overrated Christmas Song:  The Little Drummer Boy – Not even David Bowie and Bing Crosby could rescue this damned slow death-march of a song.  Cloying, boring and melodramatic all at the same time,  like a Russian poet standing in front of a Tsarist firing squad, the end can’t come soon enough.

Underrated Christmas Song:  Fairytale of New York (The Pogues) – The most cynical,  unusual, and unabashedly romantic Christmas song you’ll ever hear.  Pogues front-man Shane McGowan‘s duet with the late Kirsty MacColl is one for the ages.  If you’ve ever been to NYC with someone you love at Christmastime, you’ll be able to feel the cold, the wind, and the delicious warmth of possibility in this one.  Hold your cursor over the above pic, and join us at the bar.

Overrated: The Babe Ruth Yankees – The Yankees won four World Championships in the fifteen seasons Ruth wore pinstripes:  1923, ’27, ’28, and ’32.  Good, certainly, but by way of contrast, Mickey Mantle’s Yanks won seven world series.  But I would never call The Mick’s Yanks underrated, so…

Underrated:  The Joe Rudi / Sal Bando Oakland A’s – This team won three consecutive World Series:  1972-74, but they also had to win the A.L. Championship series each time.  Ruth’s Yanks never had to go through that extra round of playoffs.  Also, Ruth’s teams played before baseball was integrated, so the degree of competition was watered down in his era.  Finally, there were more teams competing for the World Championship in the 1970’s (24), than there were in Ruth’s day (16.)

Overrated:  New Year’s Eve – The shrimp ring has gotten rather soggy and warm by the time that damn crystal ball finally descends into the throng of frozen drunks in Times Square.  There are about four cops and 12 security cameras for every poor bastard who just paid eight dollars for a glass of sparkling wine at the bar in lobby of the local three-star hotel .  Meanwhile, you are already half asleep on the couch, zoning in and out of the Dick Clark Pantomime Zombie show.

Underrated:  Labor Day – No, this is NOT a day that was intended to celebrate all Americans who happen to be employed.  It was specifically intended to recognize the legacy of Organized Labor, meaning the trade unions.  There was a time when working class Americans were overwhelmingly Democrats, and the Labor Unions ensured these men and women a livable wage for a hard days work.  The American working class can trace its hard, precipitous decline to the undermining of Labor Unions which began in the early ’80’s, and has continued unabated on a downward trajectory ever since.  Both major political parties are to blame.

Overrated:  Andy Pettitte‘s Playoff Performances – In his career, Pettitte has posted a 19-10 record in the playoffs, with a 3.83 ERA, and a 1.304 WHIP.  In 265 innings, he has surrendered 271 hits, has struck out 173 batters, and has averaged 5.9 K’s per nine innings.  Solid performance, but not as good as…

Underrated:  John Smoltz‘s Playoff Performances – In his career, Smoltz has posted a 15-4 record in the playoffs, with a 2.67 ERA, and a 1.144 WHIP.  In 209 innings, he has surrendered just 172 hits while striking out 199 batters.  He has averaged 8.6 K’s per nine innings.  He also has four saves to his credit.  Few pitchers in history can match those playoff numbers.

Overrated:  Climate-Controlled Offices – You get to breath recycled air all day.  The hum of the machinery supplies the white noise that is the dull, mind-numbing soundtrack of corporate America.

Underrated:  Screens – You get to enjoy the fresh air while keeping the bugs out.  Great invention.

Overrated:  Willie Stargell – Everyone loves Pops Stargell.  I love Pops Stargell.  Here are Stargell’s career numbers:

475 home runs, 1,540 RBI, 2,232 hits, .282 batting average, .889 OPS, 1,195 runs scored, two home run titles, five 100 RBI seasons.  Career WAR:  57.5. First ballot Hall of Famer, 1988.  Fine, his numbers merit HOF induction.  But how are they substantially different from, say…

Underrated:  Fred McGriff – It is becoming increasingly apparent that Crime Dog will have to pay for a ticket to the Hall out of his own pocket if he wants to get in the door.  Yet, here are his career numbers:

493 home runs, 1,550 RBI, 2,490 hits, .284 batting average, .886 OPS, 1,349 runs scored, two home run titles, eight 100 RBI seasons.  Career WAR:  50.5. I suppose Stargell was a little better than McGriff overall, but not by much.  So where’s the love for Fred McGriff?

Overrated:  Grace Slick – Former lead “singer” for Jefferson Airplane / Starship.  Bellowed out her vocals like a foghorn in heat.  Stoned baby-boomers mistook her cat-wailing for aggressive sexiness.  As artistically satisfying as listening to a domestic disturbance in the kitchen of your neighbors apartment.

Underrated:  Chrissie Hynde – The Pretenders lead singer / songwriter set the standard for confident, strong-yet-vulnerable sexiness among female Rock stars.  Her band, the Pretenders, exemplified the energy of the post-punk New Wave sound of the early ’80’s, the most underrated period in Rock n’ Roll history.  Several of Hynde’s songs have become classics of Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio.  And they are as listenable today as they were a generation ago.

Well, my friends, that completes the third edition of Underrated / Overrated.  I hope you found it entertaining.  I look forward to reading your comments.  Thanks for having a look, Bill


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15 thoughts on “Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff – Part III

  1. The Baseball Idiot on said:

    There’s an eighth circle of hell for people who mock ‘The Little Drummer Boy’.

    • Hey, I don’t mind languishing in that eighth circle of hell (I’ve had bleacher seats at Fenway), as long as they don’t play that damned song while I’m down there. Thanks for reading, Bill
      P.S. What’s your URL? I’d like to check out your blog / website, if you have one.

      • The Baseball Idiot on said:


        Its a work in progress. Not sure if I’m actually going to do anything with it. It all depends on time. I have a few things to post, so if it works, I’ll be going up around New Years.

        I’ll let you know.


  2. I agreed with almost every point except one: Don’t be dissing Pops! Stargell was my favorite player as a kid and was an integral part of the ’79 Pirates defeat over the Baltimore.


    Xmas songs

    Overrated: Paul McCartney (whatever it’s called…you know the one.) It’s sappy and syruppy, like much of Sir Paul’s solo output. The fact that it’s a Christmas song makes it even worse.

    Underrated: “Christmas Time is Here.” From the Peanuts X-Mas special. Jazz musicians love this song.

    • Hey Man! Wasn’t dissing Pops! I said I love the guy. But I just don’t understand why he goes into The Hall in the first round, while McGriff languishes in baseball purgatory. Numbers just aren’t all that different. Thanks for reading, my man. Best Regards, Bill
      Think you mean, “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time.” Hate that song. Hate almost all of Sir Paul’s Post-Beatle’s work. Meanwhile, sad anniversary today…

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  4. Lee Hauser on said:

    I have no opinion on these except for the Grace Slick/Chrissie Hynde thing. I think Grace has one of the finest four or five female voices in rock music. I also think Chrissie has one of the finest four or five female voices in rock music (Anne Wilson occupies at least one of the remaining two or three spots, with Melissa Etheridge taking up whatever’s left over). I guess I’ll have to settle for agreeing with the Chrissie part but disagreeing with the Grace part…

    • Hi Lee, Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. That’s why I like doing this Underrated / Overrated thing. I never know who is going to be reading them. Sorry, man. Just can’t take Grace Slick’s voice, but hey, we all have our own taste in style. Best Regards, Bill

  5. You can never overrate Lou Brock, Andy Pettitte, or the Yankees, they transcend the sport. Alright that may be an overstatement.
    The Little Drummer Boy is not a very good carol, and Bowie and Crosby only make it worse. Elvis Costello is a prominent presence on my ipod. I love Watching the Detectives.
    Nice post, Kevin

    • Hi Kevin, There have been a handful of random moments in my life when I wished I was a Yankees fan to share in the glory. But I could never live with myself if I went down that road.
      When I was a kid, I used to watch Mets catcher Jerry Grote consistently gun down Brock trying to steal, so I used to wonder what all the fuss was about Lou Brock.
      Glad to hear you like Elvis. A true artist.
      Thanks for reading and leaving the comment, Bill

  6. Eric Kline on said:

    Elvis Costello — check out Dan Bern, one of my all time favorites, and he counts Costello among his mentors.

    Underrated — Soviet Union in WWII, particularly against the Japanese right at the end. They won some significant battles.

    Unions — The unions helped screw labor when they allowed corruption to destroy them. Union workers didn’t demand honesty from their leaders and should have policed their own ranks to run out the slackers. Solidarity doesn’t mean you have to put up with slackers in your union.

    I still like Friday nights better than Sundays. It’s where you’re going, not where you are, that affects my mood the most. The last day of work before vacation is as much fun as the last day of vacation, but I get your point, and maybe I need to live in the moment more.

    Chrissie Hynde — come visit Chris and me in Akron, and we can go to Chrissie’s vegan restaurant. It’s really quite good, even if you dig meat. She’s periodically spotted there.

    • Hi Eric, I’d forgotten that you and Chrissie Hynde had Akron in common. She was always one of my favorites.
      Regarding Unions, wherever large sums of money pool together, corruption is rampant. True in churches, corporations, unions, etc. But at least while unions were strong, wages and benefits for blue collar workers generally increased.
      I’ll have to check out Dan Bern.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment, Bill

  7. Joe Magennis on said:

    Bill! This had me laughing out loud, nodding my head in total agreement & rocking out all at the same time.

    Pretenders are so underrated .. punk attitude with a female presence. I never tire of hearing them. And I’ll tell you an Elvis Costello experience for me and @CoolPapaC some time ..

    Next quiet Sunday morning with my iPad and Chrissie in the speakers, I’ll raise a hot cup of coffee toast!

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