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The Most Underrated Ballplayers Since 1990

The Most Underrated Ballplayers Since 1990

Today our esteemed panel of Chris Baud, Sam Fels and Jesse Spector ramble on while choosing the Deadspin Underrated MLB Team of the past 30 years.

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Just like yesterday’s overrated squad, we discussed candidates at each position, guided loosely by a staff-wide vote.

Other semi-relevant topics discussed: Cool Rickey Henderson stories; East Coast vs. Midwest biases; Dick Allen and racist Philly fans; and Sam would rather walk his dog than talk about closers. Go read every word!

CATCHER

CHRIS BAUD: Sam do you want to talk about your pick at catcher to start things off.

SAM FELS: You mean Miguel Montero? He’s underrated simply because the players he hated on the Diamondbacks were Trevor Bauer and Adam Eaton, who have proven to be dickbags so he’s clearly an astute judge of character.

He also happened to hit one of the biggest homers in Cubs history, so there.

JESSE SPECTOR: Trevor Bauer has been weirdly correct about a lot of stuff lately, and I’m very uncomfortable with agreeing with him so often.

SF: Well, if you want to tell the people that you go right ahead.

JS: He’s been solid on not wanting to reopen too early, although more for the financial aspects, but still.

I’m looking at Montero’s stats now, and I’m surprised that he’s never had a 20-homer season. I think of him as a guy who would get to that pretty routinely. So I don’t think he’s underrated.

SF: Like I said, tremendous judge of character.

JS: But I’ll definitely shout out one of my childhood faves, Mickey Tettleton. I know nothing about him as a judge of character, but he’s a great judge of breakfast cereals. Back when he had a huge start to one season, he gave all the credit to Froot Loops.

SF: Yes, I also agree that crediting Fruit Loops puts him on this list, along with a truly weird batting stance.

CB: Not a great catcher but he was actually a tremendous hitter

JS: The not-great defensive catchers get overly dinged for it because it’s super visible. You can hide bad defense at other positions a lot better.

CB: Those Sparky Anderson teams were fun, lots of power, no pitching.

SF: Also great defensive catchers get overhyped for calling a great game, when it’s the pitcher actually throwing the thing.

CB: It’s always been hard to quantify those things about catchers. There are probably a few who are really good at it. I’m convinced Yogi Berra had exceptional defensive skills that aren’t captured in any stats.

JS: Oh, it’s crazy hard with the guys from before regularly televised games.

CB: If this was most underrated players of the past 70 years, I’d nominate Berra.

Jesse, do you want to talk about your choice, Jason Kendall.

JS: Tettleton threw out 29% of base stealers in his career, and league average was 33%. So, below average, but not like a joke.

CB: Not Piazza level (23%).

Illustration for article titled The Most Underrated Ballplayers Since 1990

JS: Yeah, Kendall didn’t get enough credit in his prime because he was on truly awful Pirates teams. But he could really hit, and he could run a bit, and he was a solid defender. Not a Hall of Famer or anything, but he was damn good and just got generally forgotten.

SF: He was incredibly fast for a catcher before his ankle went absurdist.

CB: I wish Carlos Delgado had stayed at catcher. He was a monster prospect.

JS: Kendall’s caught stealing numbers get dinged by his rookie year and the year his shoulder (I think it was his shoulder) was messed up. He came back and threw out 41 of 96 in 2008, best rate in the league.

The Delgado rookie card is kind of mind bending.

CB: There’s a story to be told about how the Blue Jays wasted tons of talent in the post-strike years.

FIRST BASE 

CB: Which leads us to ... first base ... John Olerud! First off, the story about him and Rickey is amazing, even if it’s not true.

JS: Heck, you could say Delgado, too. Play first base for the Blue Jays and Mets, and you, too, can be underrated!

CB: Yeah, fair.

JS: The Rickey thing is wild, because there are so many great Rickey stories without making one up.

CB: But it should be true!

SF: I just choose to believe the Rickey and Olerud thing is true, whatever the facts. Baseball is better with it.

JS: But yeah, Olerud forever.

CB: I swear that Cito Gaston messed him up a few years, like why do you bother messing with a guy with the most perfect swing ever, who hit .363.

JS: He should’ve been MVP in 1993, and him getting hurt doesn’t get talked about enough as part of the reason the Yankees lost the 2004 ALCS.

CB: Does Olerud have the highest batting average in Mets history, single season? (.354)

JS: He was only 2-for-12 in the games he played, but he added a threat in the lineup where Tony Clark just didn’t as a one-dimensional bat. .354 in 1998.

SF: I didn’t even realize he had two 8-WAR seasons. For a 1st baseman that’s insane.

CB: .354 in Shea is a tremendous achievement.

JS: And he took the subway!

CB: Yeah, it helps that he was a good fielder. I didn’t know that. So he’s the anti-John Rocker too! Who else do we have votes for at first base?

SF: Helton got a couple. Bill Buckner is an obvious choice too.

JS: Buckner doesn’t fit the timeframe.

SF: Buckner was a remarkable hitter and finally we’ve all moved past that one play.

CB: I don’t think Buckner even qualifies for 30 years. Todd Helton!

JS: Todd Helton belongs in the Hall of Fame. I’m willing to reserve judgement on whether he’s underrated until he gets there. Or doesn’t get there.

CB: The Hall of Fame voters have unfairly dismissed him due to overstating the Coors effect, amirite.

JS: Of course, but maybe that changes with Larry Walker getting in. We’ll see.

SF: Helton Had a 121 career wRC+ on the road, along with a wOBA of .363. And now what we know about the adjustments from high altitude to normal, that’s even more impressive.

JS: The thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is the effect of coming down from the altitude on the body. Rockies hitters are generally even worse on the road than their “true” talent.

CB: Yeah, I think it’s a widely misunderstood thing about home-road splits. If someone does exceptionally well in their home park, that creates extra wins that you can’t just adjust away. Koufax is probably the best example of this. Maybe Boggs in Fenway Park. I am good with Helton here but Derrek Lee is worth mentioning though.

JS: Derrek Lee was a very reliable fantasy option to grab in the late rounds at a loaded position back in the day. That’s my main memory of him.

CB: I had Pujols for like 5 years or something.

JS: He was okay.

SF: Lee was a personal choice, because he’s certainly underrated by the locals here but his ’05 and ’09 seasons are ridiculous. He was the only reason either of those teams came close to contending.

CB: Who is the first baseman on the all-time Cubs team? Mark Grace?

JS: Rizzo.

SF: Rizzo or Hack.

CB: Stan Hack? Hack Wilson?

SF: Wilson. Though he’s listed as an OF.

CB: I was waiting for you to say Derrek Lee but nvm.

JS: Derrek Lee might be underrated, but that doesn’t mean he’s better than Rizzo.

SF: I’m not taking Lee over Rizzo. That would be insane.

Ben Zobrist
Ben Zobrist
Photo: Getty

SECOND BASE

CB: OK, fair enough. I think the talk about the second basemen will be fun.

SF: I picked Zobrist not only for home team bias but his Tampa days he was something of the leading sabermetric hero. His under-the-radar numbers were the first talked about, though a lot of that had to do with his versatility.

JS: Plugs self from 10 years ago.

CB: Yeah we mentioned it somewhere before but Jesse wrote about this way back when. See ^^

SF: Happy to pump Jesse’s tires…just this once.

JS: I need to shout out Lou Whitaker for how insane it is that he’s not only not in the Hall but got bumped after one ballot.

CB: I’ll concede that my pick doesn’t cut it because Chase Utley isn’t underrated, he’s just AWESOME.

SF: He has an MVP to his name so I think he’s fine.

JS: I think “Always Sunny” ended any chance Utley had of being underrated as a legacy.

CB: No, Rollins and Howard have MVPs, not Utley.

JS: Also, just for all the Mets fans out there, fuck that guy. Utley’s standing as METS TORMENTOR after Chipper cuts away at his chance to be underrated because there’s so much Mets out there.

CB: I’m sympathetic to the case for Whitaker because the narrative was always that he and Trammell had about the same stats. And Trammell got in the HOF. Whitaker actually surpassed him in career numbers at the end.

JS: Yeah, like I said, it’s insane.

CB: Chipper named his kid Shea, that’s gotta hurt.

JS: But also, everyone now kinda knows that Whitaker belongs because it’s been talked about a lot in recent years.

CB: I would actually make the case that Whitaker doesn’t have enough BIG YEARS, or any big years really. But I’m not married to it. He has to be the best AL second baseman for much of his career.

JS: Him and Willie Randolph, who also deserved better from HOF voters.

CB: Randolph was criminally underrated, with the Yankees no less.

THIRD BASE

SF: All right, well let’s toss Jesse a bone here… David Wright….

JS: That’s tossing me a bone? I picked Beltre.

CB: I picked David Wright to troll the Mets fans who said he’s overrated. I feel like it’s hard to criticize Wright, he kind of did everything well. The clear winner though at 3B is Adrian Beltre.

SF: It’s hard to say completely that Beltre is underrated when he’s going into the Hall, but he has a case for like, best 3B of all-time.

JS: And I was guilty of underrating him for a long time. I’m glad I woke up and appreciated him late in his career, but I missed a hell of a third baseman for a while because I laughed at that one season in Seattle.

CB: I feel like I woke up one day and he had 93 WAR. Where did that come from?

SF: It’s him and Brooks Robinson for best defensive 3rd baseman, and Beltre was a superior offensive player by a distance.

CB: I’m here for anyone who makes it easy to say Scott Rolen wasn’t the best third baseman of that era.

SF: I think everyone knows he was great and hilarious, but not how great.

JS: 43 WAR from age 31-37... just bonkers. So, like, I appreciated him late, but it was also late that he was really the best version of himself. That’s so rare.

CB: Most third basemen don’t age well. I think it’s because they’re mostly not as good as the athletes who play center field, with a few rare exceptions, like Mike Schmidt and George Brett. And Beltre. Your Tim Wallach-, Gary Gaetti-type guys are basically washed up at age 33.

SF: A lot of them are bigger too, and get injuries from bending over all the time.

JS: Fun Gary Gaetti fact is that he was briefly the only player allowed a helmet with no ear flaps — the Craig MacTavish of baseball, kind of — but then Tim Raines came back the year after Gaetti retired and Raines became the last guy with a no-flap lid.

Like noted third baseman Jim Thome?

CB: It’s hard to remember that Thome played third base. Weird visual.

JS: And wore the “Major League” era Cleveland uniform. Along with Manny.

Tony Fernandez
Tony Fernandez
Photo: Getty

SHORTSTOP

CB: We can get back to Cleveland in a minute. How about shortstops.

JS: Yeah, we should get back to Cleveland in a minute, because we’re sure as hell not talking about Omar Vizquel here.

CB: Well, if Vizquel was as good as Ozzie (Smith) defensively, I’m all for putting him in the Hall of Fame. But he wasn’t.

JS: Indeed.

SF: I see Tony Fernandez got a few votes here and that’s a good call. Lost behind Carter and Alomar and Olerud offensively but was a good hitter and a great defender.

CB: Fernandez, when he came up, was compared to Ozzie defensively and Rod Carew at the plate. He wasn’t either, but you can see the resemblance.

JS: Yeah, I didn’t think of him for this because he’s more ‘80s Blue Jays to me, even though he was with the ‘95 Yankees and it was his injury for two weeks that led to Derek Jeter’s major league debut.

CB: Yeah he’s probably more ’80s than ’90s. But he was a terrific player and he died recently so let’s say nice things about him. Roberto Alomar is one of my top 5 favorite players easily.

JS: Yes, Tony Fernandez was great! And overshadowed on those teams by Bell and Barfield and Moseby. Man, that was an outfield.

SF: I like that one person said Alex Rodriguez, which is true in the sense that it absolutely should have been Jeter who moved off short.

JS: It should’ve been! But I said Nomar for this ... who could also be called overrated.

CB: I remember when the Yankees were planning on promoting A-Rod as the clean guy who would break the home run record!

JS: I remember going with a couple of NYDN compadres to a game and yelling about how people were booing A-Rod, the clean player, while cheering for Giambi. Weird memory!

SF: Jason Giambi, the ultimate sell out symbol. And we should know!

CB: I know he doesn’t have the career length but I’m all for shortstops who hit .370 with power in the Hall of Fame. Nomar, I saw him play in AA in Trenton. I thought he was going to be a Tony Fernandez type.

JS: SOME-thing happened.

CB: Indeed.

JS: Maybe.

CB: I thought you were going to say Mia Hamm inspired him!

SF: Yeah he got the red bursting crotch dots.

JS: Haha.

I just watched his walkoff for the Dodgers in the back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers in the ninth game... I had forgotten that the Dodgers fell behind in the 10th and that Nomar’s was a two-run shot.

CB: There are a lot of votes for Miguel Tejada, which I’m OK with.

JS: Anyway, he was a fantastic ballplayer. Better than a guy who got one vote shy of unanimous for the Hall of Fame. But his body broke. Tejada’s kind of in the same boat.

Can we acknowledge that Jeter was the worst of the Big Three Shortstops, and will be the only one in the Hall? Wild. Not that Jeter doesn’t belong, but goddam.

CB: Mystique and Aura.

JS: Appearing nightly.

CB: I think A-Rod will get in eventually.

SF: Fuck it, I’ll go ahead and say Jeter doesn’t belong. Hall of Very Good, for a long time.

JS: He should’ve been MVP that year Morneau won. So, I’ll say it, Derek Jeter was underrated.

SF: BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

CB: I’m not sure we can allow Jesse to live now. But no, Jeter is a legit Hall of Famer. 3,000 hits is good enough for anyone to get in. He’s Paul Molitor but at shortstop.

SF: Meh, somewhat a product of the Yankees being unable to move him off short and getting to play longer.

JS: Especially as a shortstop, and he gets crapped on for his defense because of undeserved Gold Gloves, but he was actually good earlier in his career.

CB: There was a guy on Baseball Think Factory whose handle was “Pasta Diving Jeter.” That always made me laugh.

JS: I miss checking out that site. Twitter kinda killed it.

CB: It was heated in the steroid era. Are we picking Nomar or Tejada here?

JS: I mean, I say Nomar. Since I said him on my initial ballot.

CB: Something I like pointing out about Tejada: Moneyball was a terrific book but Tejada was the AL MVP that season and he is treated with barely disguised contempt.

JS: Yeah, fuck him for breaking the A’s mold by being Actually Good.

CB: There’s like 100X more positive stuff written about that fat catcher who didn’t make it, Jeremy Brown. (Was that his name?)

SF: Tejada’s MVP year was hardly his best, and really wasn’t that great. He was good but hardly an MVP. He got notice because of the 20-game streak.

CB: OK I guess we’re going with Nomar at SS.

SF: Fuck, Eric Chavez was even better on that team.

CB: Yeah, Billy Beane gushed about Chavez, in Moneyball.

Eric Davis
Eric Davis
Photo: Getty

CENTER FIELD

SF: Moving to the outfield there’s one name I want to get to here and that’s Eric Davis, who was Bonds before Bonds.

CB: Let’s start with left fielders. I love Eric Davis though.

Fine, let’s do center fielders. Davis in the first two months of 1987 is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. Let me pull up some stats ...

SF: He hit 27 homers while stealing 80 bases. In just 132 games.

JS: His comeback was incredible, too.

CB: First two months in ’87: .346 19 HRs 20 steals. Slugging .786. And he was like stealing home runs seemingly every other game. Davis might have been the fastest player I’ve seen on a baseball field.

SF: Yeah, he was just like the best athlete out there by miles.

CB: I really like Kenny Lofton though and I stole that pick from Jesse.

SF: If you remove like the last five years of Lofton’s numbers they’re pretty incredible.

JS: Lofton is another HOF snub.

SF: Though he only has a couple really superb offensive years. He got on base enough but with zero pop.

JS: Even late in his career, when he was bouncing around, he was bouncing around from good team to good team because he still had a lot to offer.

CB: Lofton is one of the greatest leadoff hitter/center fielders in the history of the game.

JS: How good are those Astros teams with Biggio and Bagwell if they don’t trade Lofton for Ed Taubensee?

SF: I can’t believe I have to do this, but Bernie Williams seems to be the one who gets burned by all the Jeter love. But he was probably the best all-around player on those teams.

JS: They did heist Bagwell for Larry Andersen, so it all evens out, but damn.

CB: You would think that’s a common combination but it’s really not. There’s Richie Ashburn, Brett Butler. Willie Wilson, who’s a low OBP guy. Really, Lofton is probably the best combo of great leadoff skills and CF defense in history.

Rickey and Raines were left fielders and not really in Lofton’s class as a defensive player.

Ichiro could have played center, if he wanted to ....

JS: Bernie gets burned not only by Jeter, but by all the Core Four stuff, like he wasn’t homegrown too.

Ichiro’s arm was made for right field, though. (I get your joke, just needed to say.)

SF: Ichiro could have done a lot of things if he wanted to, at least that’s what everyone says.

CB: Yeah. Ichiro is like literally the only real stolen base threat among the great right fielders. I’m surprised Ichiro didn’t get any overrated votes.

JS: He was that good.

CB: Yeah he was good.

SF: Ichiro’s defense alone pretty much keeps that from happening. You can’t hang people up for what they were at 37 or 38 or 74 when Ichiro retired.

CB: You guys should check out those Mariners history YouTube videos.

SF: I hear they’re great.

LEFT FIELD

CB: Yeah they’re terrific. Alright left fielders.

Rickey says Rickey is not underrated, he is the greatest.

SF: Rickey is underrated in that he’s not president.

JS: I had Albert Belle here. But here’s the best Rickey story.

Another Reason Why Rickey Is the Greatest

CB: That’s a cool story. Jesse, do you support Dick Allen for the Hall of Fame? I always viewed Belle as the Dick Allen of the 1990s. Allen had a better career and had to overcome more obstacles I think. But similar players.

JS: Allen is borderline as a Hall case, but I’d lean yes.

SF: Both played for the White Sox, so no.

CB: Ha.

JS: Imagine using energy to hate the White Sox.

SF: I don’t. They’ve been good like five years out of the last hundred. I’m just prodding any who might stumble across this.

CB: I think people tend to think that Jackie Robinson came around and all of a sudden baseball was integrated. It took a long time for a lot of teams. It wasn’t easy being the first black superstar in Philadelphia.

JS: And he basically got run out of town! I’d say Belle’s stuff was more of his own doing, but not as entirely as it’s made out to be. It’s possible to both be a dick and be treated badly.

CB: Yeah, he got into a fight with Frank Thomas (the old white guy) and was seen to have cost Gene Mauch his job, so he had to go. Philly media and fans wouldn’t forgive him for that.

JS: Philly is also sneaky racist, then and now.

CB: Scribbling “Boo” in the dirt is really tame stuff if you think about it.

SF: Sneaky? I thought their racism is quite out front.

JS: Not as much as, say, Boston, as northeast cities go, but... this is a whole other discussion, really.

CB: There have been a lot of sports issues in Philly that have been split along racial lines.

JS: DoNoVaN McNaBb.

SF: Yeah exactly. And McNabb is just about one of the most genuine people to be in the NFL.

CB: Allen Iverson was BELOVED but there was still a segment of people who didn’t like him, because.

JS: And you can tell exactly what neighborhoods those people live in. So, left fielders!

CB: My guy Carl Crawford got a few votes. He was a spectacular player if only for a few seasons.

JS: Crawford was underrated, then sucked so bad once he got the big contract he couldn’t even be overrated.

SF: I remember going to a game in Cleveland when they were playing that first good Rays team with Crawford in left and Upton Jr. in center, and someone hit a liner to left-center and the guy behind me screamed, “That’s in the gap!” Then Crawford and Upton closed on it like piranhas and I turned around and said, “There’s no gap there.”

JS: In Boston, as a black guy with a huge contract, on a team that completely collapsed. Horror story. He did have one kind of rebound year in LA, but still, yuck.

SF: A lot of the Tampa guys just don’t do well after. Zobrist did. But Longoria has been meh. Upton Jr. hasn’t done much since.

CB: He hit .300 with 15 homers a year, led the league in steals and triples, played great defense, give me that guy.

JS: Longoria was already dipping when the Rays traded him... and wasn’t all that great to begin with... and went to the worst possible ballpark for a righty power hitter.

CB: Longoria is a poor man’s David Wright.

SF: Really poor now.

CB: But his name is almost Eva Longoria, so that’s cool

JS: Wright was a galactically better defender and runner.

CB: And someone voted for Bonds. And someone voted for Michael Brantley. Discuss?

JS: I can see Bonds being underrated because he really was that good in Pittsburgh and before PEDs.

SF: Bonds would be a Hall player on just his Pittsburgh days.

JS: Brantley is a good ballplayer and rated correctly as such, in my eyes.

SF: I think I just threw Brantley on there because when healthy he’s been a great hitter.

CB: People don’t like to hear this but Bonds was better than Griffey Jr. before any talk of PEDs.

SF: Oh for sure.

CB: Not a knock on Griffey, but Bonds was sick.

JS: He went 40/40! With San Francisco, but still when he was... uh... slim.

SF: If only he had thrown out Sid Bream. Which shouldn’t have been that hard.

CB: Man, I cannot believe Bream made it. Still.

JS: Neither can Bream.

RIGHT FIELD

CB: So in RF we have a legit superstar who might be so good he’s still underrated in Mookie Betts. Sam?

SF: Yeah, I mean Betts has two or three Trout-quality seasons and is at worst the second-best player in the game and I feel like all anyone knows is that he was traded.

JS: I think you’ve got to get out of your Midwest bubble and talk to some Real People on the coasts.

SF: Here we go with this again…

JS: I’m just sick of being lumped in as someone in a Fly-To state.

SF: So persecuted. I’ll go along with both of your Bobby Abreu nominations and move on.

CB: Oh ok.

JS: Maybe I consume too much Red Sox-related stuff, but I’m gobsmacked by the idea that Betts isn’t appreciated.

CB: I wanted to shit-talk Jose Canseco first but fine.

SF: Maybe you need to get out of your East Coast bubble and see how the rest of the world looks.

CB: Also, Abreu was kind of infuriating to watch but a really effective player.

SF: Career came a little too early. His high OBP ways would play much better now.

JS: He controlled his at-bats in such an effective way.

CB: Power, speed, great OBP. His Gold Glove was kind of a joke IMO but still.

JS: It resulted in a lot of walks and the high OBP, but his presence in a lineup had an effect on pitchers throughout the game.

CB: Hey, I’m a Midwest guy now! I’m going to go with Sam and pick Betts! Screw more Phillies/Yankees dudes.

JS: Typical sellout, going to the Windy City and turning your back on the authenticity of the East Coast. Next you’re going to tell us that deep dish is really pizza. Before you do, let’s talk pitchers.

CB: OK.

Kyle Hendricks
Kyle Hendricks
Photo: Getty

RIGHTY STARTER

SF: Is this where I talk about KYLE GODDAMN HENDRICKS?

CB: Yes.

JS: And then we pick the real answer?

SF: Top 10 in ERA the past four seasons. 14th in fWAR.

JS: And he’s well known as one of the top starters in the game?

SF: Thank you for your time. I doubt you’d find anyone who would think of him as a top-20 pitcher in baseball. Because he throws 87. And looks like he listens to Steely Dan.

CB: I don’t really spend much time thinking about Kyle Hendricks so maybe he’s underrated. You know I’m so old that I remember when not every pitcher in the league struck out a batter per inning?

JS: He just got a nice new contract and all of the coverage of it was, “Hey, he’s really good.”

CB: Don’t you think Kevin Brown is underrated because he was so unpleasant?

JS: Yes. And because his very best work was with the Marlins and Padres.

CB: He was really unpleasant. It’s funny how many great pitchers come to the Yankees, don’t do as well as they have for other teams, and the New York press just shits all over them.

JS: Him and Randy Johnson on the same team. And Brown was still the more unpleasant one!

CB: Brown was devastating. Dominant sinkerballer who also got strikeouts.

JS: And he was outstanding for a couple of years in Texas before he got to that otherworldly level.

CB: He’s about as good as Smoltz or Schilling without the posteason heroics. Granted, Smoltz and Schilling were REALLY GOOD postseason pitchers.

JS: How many guys have led the league in ERA and WHIP twice, and never won a Cy?

CB: Lefty Grove. Trick answer!

JS: Okay, okay.

Brown was lousy in his World Series, but was a huge part of both the ‘97 Marlins and ‘98 Padres getting there.

CB: Did Sam die.

JS: Maybe he’s just mad about Kyle Hendricks being appropriately rated.

SF: Oh I’m still here. I have no Kevin Brown thoughts other than he had the loudest pitches I’ve ever heard.

JS: So, you’re just mad.

CB: I like Roy Oswalt.

JS: Yeah, me too.He’s underrated because Mike Francesa never ever ever learned how to pronounce his name.

CB: The Astros had this thing where they signed a lot of short (6 feet and under) right-handed pitchers for a while, because short right-handed pitchers get no respect unless you’re Pedro, and Oswalt was the best of them. Good job on cornering that market inefficiency, Astros.

SF: Does anyone think Oswalt isn’t properly rated? Couple Cy finalist appearances. I’ll play your game.

CB: Well he got top 5 Cy Young consideration 5 times and didn’t win one. He’d probably have a bigger rep if he did.

SF: (Got an impatient dog here so let’s try and get to the end soon)

CB: Yeah, sure.

JS: Can we point to one he should’ve won? I dunno.

CB: Off the top of my head, leading the league in ERA and having the best K/W ratio should make you a legit contender in any year, but I’m fine with moving on.

JS: Fair. I’m good with him or Brown.

SF: He pitched at the same time as Johnson in AZ so it’s hard to say he should have won any of them.

Johan Santana
Johan Santana
Photo: Getty

LEFTY STARTER

CB: So lefties, Johan Santana is somewhere between Ron Guidry and Sandy Koufax in the pantheon of dominant, short career guys.

JS: Yeah, I’m with Johan on this.

SF: Well he’s got two Cys, so again, how underrated can he be?

CB: Says the guy who voted for Kershaw!

SF: And he somehow finished behind Colon and Rivera for a third. Which is…curious.

JS: Because 2.4% on the HOF ballot.

SF: I only wrote Kershaw because I feel his playoff rep is overshadowing what he’s been in the regular season.

CB: That’s a fair point and Jesse and I talked about this in the overrated thread. Randy Johnson had a bad playoff rep too right?

JS: Not to the same extent.

SF: Johan does have that five-year stretch with a WHIP of 1.0 or under, which is silly, but when he got two Cy Youngs and probably should have got a third.

Illustration for article titled The Most Underrated Ballplayers Since 1990

CB: I wrote something for the Hardball Times about how Santana was a lock for the HOF when he went to the Mets. oops.

SF: METS

JS: He was that good, to the point that the lack of longevity shouldn’t have kept him out, but it did.

CLOSER

CB: Hey I have to handle a little fire here but talk about closers and we’re done.

SF: Every closer ever is overrated because the position itself is overrated. Thank you.

CB: Agreed!

SF: Good. Walking the dog now.

JS: Great, so it’s Billy Wagner. Better than Trevor Hoffman, didn’t get as much of the silly counting stat, didn’t get the Hall.

CB: Not John Smoltz? I think Smoltz is a somewhat silly selection as a closer anyway.

JS: He was a closer for like four years and is in the Hall.

Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.

Sorry to all the other Jesse Spectors for ruining your Google results.

Have you ever looked at a dollar bill, man?

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