Title: The Stark Truth – The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History
Author: Jayson Stark
Ever since the beginning of baseball, there has always been “The Argument.” Fans have plopped themselves into seats at stadiums for years and debated. On barstools, they have squabbled for hours upon end. It may be the most important thing in all of sports: determining just who is overrated and just who is underrated.
As the topic of his first book, ESPN baseball expert Jayson Stark chose a lofty goal: an attempt to name the most overrated and most underrated players of all time. After countless hours of research and soul searching, it seems as if he has done an excellent job of picking the right names.
Stark begins with a huge name: the most overrated right handed pitcher of all time, Nolan Ryan. It may seem a little odd for someone to argue that a man who pitched until he was 62 with seven no hitters, a large number of strikeouts, and a blazing fastball is overrated, but Stark backs up his claim. Ryan never fared well in Cy Young balloting, walked way too many hitters, and his teams rarely fared better in games not started by him. It makes sense to rank him there.
His discussion of Atlanta Braves center fielder Andruw Jones as the most overrated player at his position makes tons of sense, even for a Braves fan. Jones strikes out way too much, has lost a step or two in the outfield, and does not run particularly well on the bases anymore. If superagent Scott Boras is expecting $20 million a year for his client, then I feel sorry for whatever team gives it to him. Talk about buyer’s remorse.
Of course, Stark also put Derek Jeter as the second-most underrated shortstop of all time. There are people out there who rate the New York Yankees captain as someone who covers more ground than Lamborghini Diablo. That’s obviously false, and the stats back it up. Jeter never produces much at the plate, except for batting average and on-base percentage. Those are valuable, but he won’t ever hit 25 home runs. There are selections some people may disagree with, but for the most part, readers will concur with Stark.
Then there is Stark’s writing style. If you’re not familiar with it, he tends to use hyperbole and tries to be funny. It is definitely a worthy addition in Stark’s articles, but for 200-plus pages, not so much. He spends a lot of time beating around the bush, rather than just getting to the point. This can be seen in the discussion of Duke Snyder. He also fudges with the statistics, bringing up Sandy Koufax’s six bad years, as well as his six spectacular seasons. That’s nice if you’re going to do it all the time. However, Stark uses Babe Ruth’s few seasons as a left-handed starting pitcher to rank him first all time there. That does not seem right.
All in all, I give this book two balls. It’s nice to have around, nice to read at least once, but it’s not something that absolutely needs to be on your bookshelf.
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