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Three of the most opinionated scouts in America are sitting at the back of the press box in a waterlogged ballpark in South Philadelphia. With nothing but rain-delay time to kill, they do what they do best:
"Who's the best player in the Phillies lineup?" one of them asks, with that edge in his voice that suggests he knows the answer—and none of these other lunkheads will get it.
"Chase Utley," says Scout No. 2, confidently.
"Chase Utley?" laughs Scout No. 1. "C'monnnnnn. He can't throw the ball from me to you."
"Okay, Bobby Abreu," says the third scout, bracing for the onslaught that's coming any second.
"Nope," says Scout No. 1, shaking his head as if he can't believe he's even hanging out with these knuckleheads. "You're both wrong. It's Jimmy Rollins."
"Jimmy Rollins?" gulps Scout No. 2. "No way. Overrated."
"Oh, no, he isn't," says Scout No. 1. "Underrated."
I present this slice of rain-delay life because, if you're reading this book, I'm betting you have been here. I'm betting you have done this. I'm betting you have found yourself sucked into this very debate. By a friend. By a talk-show host. Possibly even by one paragraph in a newspaper. It's a game that's practically as much fun as Game 7 of the World Series, a game just as popular as anything you can play on an Xbox.
It's the old underrated-overrated game. If you haven't played it, you're not breathing.
You don't have to work in baseball to play it. You don't have to be a season-ticket holder to play it. You don't need to be any particular race, creed, gender, mammal, amphibian, or extra-terrestrial to play it. You just need to care enough about baseball to have an opinion. On who can play and who can't. On who's great and who stinks. On who makes way, way, way too much money and who's the biggest bargain since the 99-cent quesadilla.
This, friends, is the essence of sports, the essence of why we love sports, the essence of why we especially love this sport. We know it. We get it. We feel it.
We argue about it.
Overrated? Underrated? Toss out a name. Just about any name. From A-Rod to Pete Rose. From Hank Aaron to Todd Zeile. Overrated? Underrated? If you can't find somebody on a bar stool near you with an opinion on this, there's a good chance your stool is located in a bar that closed about three hours ago. If you can't find a radio station that's playing this game every day of every year, you've been listening to way too much hip-hop.
"Overrated-underrated is the foundation of sports-talk radio," says my friend Soren Petro, a sports-talker on WHB radio in Kansas City. "You can't beat it, because there's no right answer. So it gives people a chance to do what they love—talk about sports and argue about it. Are the Braves overrated or underrated? Are they overrated because they've only won one World Series? Or are they underrated because they've finished first so many times and they've accomplished something no one else has? If I can't get through an hour talking about that, there's something wrong."
But overrated-underrated is the foundation of more than just slow-news-day radio-thonning. In its own way, overrated-underrated is also the foundation of the real-life decisions baseball's beleaguered general managers make every day. The only difference between what they do and what we do is that, when a GM is making these kinds of calls, this is no little happy-hour game anymore. This is bigger than bases loaded, with nobody out in the ninth.
"In our market, I can never get caught up in overrated," says Cleveland Indians GM Mark Shapiro, a man working with the sixth-lowest payroll in baseball in 2006. "But I'm looking for underrated a lot. I guess another way to say it is, we're looking for value—minimizing risk and finding value. Maybe we're looking for that guy who's a little more dependable, with far less upside."
But remember, this is a general manager with a $56 million payroll talking. You think the Yankees care how overrated some talk-show host thinks a player is? Heck, Boss Steinbrenner loves signing those overrated guys—if only because at least half of them used to play for the Mets or Red Sox. He loves them, at least until they play for him—and make the mistake of not hitting .879 or something.
"In New York, they make baseball-card signings," says one GM who couldn't see a $200 million payroll with the Hubble Telescope. "They can go out and get a guy for one year, and if he doesn't do it the next year, so what? They can afford to get someone else."
So in those executive offices, the folks in charge play a very different, real-life edition of the overrated-underrated game. But meanwhile, down there on the fields below them, the overrated-underrated debate swirls around the men who wear the uniforms—from the moment they become anything more than a "Who's-that-guy?" kind of player. That debate thunders on every day of their careers, while the players in the middle of it just try to figure out how the heck they got overrated or underrated in the first place.
"Everyone starts out underrated, because nobody knows you," says Mets closer Billy Wagner. "The longer you play, the easier it is to get overrated. By the time I'm done, I'll be so overrated, you'll wonder why I'm still playing."
Ah, but this just in: a player doesn't have to get stuck in that either/or quicksand. It is possible to avoid being overrated or underrated. If you play your career strategy just right, it might actually be possible to float along in the haze of the elusive Unrated Zone, where the talk-show radar never quite detects your existence.
"I always tried to stay away from even being rated," chuckles Astros broadcaster Jim Deshaies, who pitched 12 as-anonymous-as-possible years in the big leagues (1984-95). "As soon as somebody says, 'That guy's a hell of a pitcher,' you know somebody else is saying, 'Nah, he's overrated.' So I always wanted to be the guy where everybody said, 'He's still here?' I'd rather be that than be: 'I can't believe that guy has this kind of stuff and he can't get people out.'"
So Deshaies's sweat glands still pump like an oil well every time he thinks back on how close he once came to being sucked into the dreaded rating game. On September 23, 1986, to the shock of just about everyone (especially himself), he kicked off a start against the Dodgers by striking out the first eight hitters in a row. That was more than merely a modern major league record. It terrified Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda into pinch hitting for his pitcher in the third inning.
"After I did that, I was probably flirting there with moving into overrated," Deshaies says, two decades later. "If people saw that, there may have been a level of expectation. Then they'd have started describing me as a strikeout pitcher. And then I'm overrated. But I don't think I ever got there. It happened near the end of the season, and Mike Scott saved me. He threw a no-hitter. We clinched first place. And I never quite made it to overrated."
But some players don't get off that easy. Sometimes events can conspire to hurtle a guy into the overrated shooting gallery even when he can't recall doing anything to influence those events whatsoever. Take the case of long-time relief pitcher Larry Andersen. There he was in 1990, innocently slideballing his way through his 13th big-league season, when the Red Sox had to go destroy his life forever by trading for him. All because the prospect they dealt away to get him turned out to be Jeff Bagwell.
"At the time the trade happened, I'm pretty sure I was underrated," Andersen says. "But after Bagwell became the Rookie of the Year and the MVP, I became vastly overrated. Just nobody knew at the time how overrated I was. I'm a victim of revisionist overrating."
So all these years later, Andersen is still trying to convince people he should be restored to his proper place in underratedhood.
"I've got to believe I'm pretty underrated," he says. "How many other people can say they played 17 years in professional baseball and they couldn't hit, couldn't field, couldn't intentionally walk a hitter, couldn't throw pitchouts and only threw one pitch [a slider]? I know some people would say if I couldn't do any of that, I must be overrated. But I think it proves I was underrated. So, see, there are all kinds of twists and turns."
Now think about this for a second. This is a grown-up human being who hasn't played a baseball game in over a decade. Yet he still gets frothed up over whether he once deserved to be overrated or underrated. So no wonder the world needs a book on this topic. It invokes so much passion, it's amazing no one has ever tried to run for president on the old I-represent-the-vast-underrated-minions platform.
It's clear to all the lab-coated scientists who have studied this subject that nobody wants to be overrated—especially the guys who are pretty sure that's what they are. So if this book is going to make any sort of serious impact on mankind, it needs to do more than simply rank a bunch of players. It needs to provide some genuine public service for the millions of concerned American ballplayers who walk the streets every day, wondering: "What can I do to become more underrated?"
"What people really need," says former Cubs and Phillies center fielder Doug Glanville, "is a self-help book—some sort of 10-step program on how to be underrated, or how to go from overrated to underrated. Then you'd need some kind of infomercial, something that says: 'Are you feeling like everyone notices every mistake you make? Do you feel like 40,000 fans are booing your every move? Then act now. Order this book and order these DVDs. And in just 10 easy steps, you can be the most underrated player around.' Then you just need a couple of people to endorse it—Dr. Phil, maybe Mark Loretta—saying: 'This really works.' And you've got a bestseller on your hands."
Whoa. A bestseller, huh? Well, if all we need is a 10-step program, then by gosh, we'll give you a 10-step program. Do you want to be underrated? Then just memorize these 10 simple tips.
1. BOOK A CRUISE EVERY OCTOBER.
Winning is beautiful. We won't deny that. But the more you show up in those games in October, the better the odds that you might accidentally do something that will cause people to say, "Boy, how overrated is that guy." On the other hand, if you're always a prominent name on those annual lists of "Most Games, Homers, Wins, Root Canals, or Unpaid Speeding Tickets Without Ever Playing a Postseason Game," the world is much more likely to feel like you've gotten screwed all your career. And that's precisely the feeling we're after here at How to Be Underrated headquarters.
2. BEG FOR A PAY CUT.
Now that he has made it to the exalted rank of "overpaid free agent," Billy Wagner says he has figured out how this overrated-underrated stuff works. "People characterize underrated or overrated by your paycheck," Wagner says. "So I guess I'm overrated, because you're never as good as what your paycheck says you are." But those guys on the All-Bargain Team—nobody ever calls them overrated. So our advice is: whatever your team is willing to offer you, ask for less. And don't settle for more, whatever you do.
3. LEARN TO SPELL "INTANGIBLE."
The number one quality we look for in underratedness is the ability to make people say: "Numbers can't measure what this guy's all about." Now it would be ideal if you were hitting .392 at the time people say that. But that's not always possible. So if you're hitting closer to .192, you're going to need to take emergency intangible training. Get your shirt as dirty as possible (www.fakedirt.com). Make every takeout slide as if you're trying to get signed by the Green Bay Packers. And watch every pitch of every game from the top step of the dugout—preferably next to either the manager, the starting pitcher, or the cleanup hitter—in order to rack up those all-important unsung-leadership points. After all, no one is quite sure what an intangible is. So use that to your advantage.
4. CLAIM TO BE 5'7".
The bigger you are, the more likely you are to be able to hit a ball 498 feet. And even if you can't, everyone will expect you to anyway. Little guys, on the other hand, just look like overachievers. "I've always been underrated, ever since I turned 13," says 5'8" Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. "Then everyone else kept growing. I stayed the same. After that, I was just That Little Guy." We'd advise you to shrink, but that's way too painful. So the next-best thing would be: lie about your height. Never admit you're taller than 5'7", and you're guaranteed to be underrated all your life. Or until somebody finds a ruler, anyhow.
5. SPEND YOUR CAREER IN THE CENTRAL OR MOUNTAIN TIME ZONES.
Does anybody ever accuse Mike Sweeney or Todd Helton of being overrated? How about Roy Oswalt or Michael Young? Never. Ever. Hey, sounds like a trend to us. Steering your career away from those major media megalopolises to the east and west can be hazardous to your endorsement income. But that's not important now. If you're going to immerse yourself in underratedhood, you need to dodge those high-visibility time zones. Oh, it's not impossible to be underrated if you play in New York. But it's way trickier. So our advice is: set your clocks back, join the CST/MST Underrated-Player Protection Program, and you're all set.
6. LIVE IN THE SHADOWS.
Another great secret to underrated bliss: it's serious ammunition to be able to claim you were overshadowed by all the Hall of Famers on your team. Alongside every Ernie Banks there's a Ron Santo. Alongside every Joe Morgan there's a Dave Concepcion. So feel free to ride those coattails all the way to underratedness. Go ahead. It's a tradition more time-honored than the seventh-inning stretch.
7. TAKE BOREDOM LESSONS.
One thing we've noticed is: it's very difficult to make a case that nobody ever notices you if every time people turn on SportsCenter, you're yukking it up in the Budweiser Hot Seat. We would never openly suggest that anybody enroll in the Manny Ramirez School of Media Relations, you understand. But if your quest to get more underrated ever reaches the crisis stage, you're going to need to find some way to lower your profile. So work on your boredom skills. Suppress that urge to be witty, incisive, or media-friendly, and you'll be amazed by how fast the press can stampede away from your locker. Next thing you know, voilà—you're underrated.
8. DEMAND TO BE TRADED TO THE ROYALS.
There has never been an overrated Royal. Look it up. Go ahead. It's true. Dan Quisenberry. Frank White. Jeff Montgomery. Buddy Biancalana. They're a veritable Who's Who of Underratedness. Not that there aren't other teams like this. The Devil Rays would work, for instance. But you want people to say: he was a great player, except nobody ever noticed because he played on all those el-stinko teams (in the central time zone).
9. WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T GET ELECTED TO THE HALL OF FAME.
It's always tough to claim you're underrated when the logical response is: "Oh, yeah? Then what about that plaque in Cooperstown?" Sure, there are some underrated Hall of Famers. There are even some in this book. But it's better to have your best friend sending out emails to 500 sportswriters every November that start: "Joe Fobblegoop is the best player not in the Hall of Fame. It's time to right this grievous injustice." Nothing stokes the underrated meter like mass sympathy. Remember that.
10. STAR IN I LOVE THE 80s.
Radar guns might be the most dangerous technological innovation in the history of underrated people. Why? Because if you ever make the mistake of throwing a baseball, say, 99 miles per hour, there's a pretty good chance you'll be considered a flop unless you go 28-1 every year. But if you're only throwing 89, those expectations will start dropping faster than the value of your 401(k). Don't forget now, every pitcher's favorite synonym for underrated is "crafty."
So there. See how simple this can be? For many of you out there, there's still plenty of time to perfect your underratedness. Simply follow these 10 easy steps, and you're just about guaranteed to star in the sequel to this book. (Author's note: The phrase, "just about," means no requests for your money back, either for this book or any subsequent sequels, will be granted.)
For some of you, however, it's too late. You are what you are, and it's too late to rewrite history. (Author's note: The phrase, "it's too late," means your name could already have rolled off our printing presses. Thus, no appeals of overratedness will be granted.)
So it's time to plow ahead and reveal exactly who the main characters in this opus really are—the most overrated and underrated players in the history of baseball. I should let you know up front that these ratings are completely arbitrary. No team of computer geniuses was employed to write a program that identified who was what. Yes, numbers were used in this process. But no specific methodology of any kind was involved. My old friend Larry Andersen taught me once about the principle that governs this entire book: make the stats work for you. So I did. For all 60,000 words.
Oh, sure. I could have gone by some strict mathematical formulas—but everybody knows those mathematical formulas are overrated.
This excerpt is printed with permission of Triumph Books / www.triumphbooks.com.
Posted March 12, 2013
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"Are you ready, Jaypaw?" Redpool asked her. Jaypaw answered back with a quick nod. "Okay. You will train with Snowpaw and Whitpaw and their mentors because we all are learning the same thing. Icepaw will be learning something else." Redpool explained. "Wow, Redpool. I didn't know you're good at remembering that." Talonfeather commented while Tigerstripe begin the training for the three apprentices. "This move is called the belly rake." He explained and signal one of the mentors with his tail. Talonfeather pads over to him. Suddenly, they both wrestle each other in front of the apprentices. Moments later, Tigerstripe flipped Talonfeather to the ground. Talonfeather just lay there on his back, pretending to try to get up. "Now," Tigerstripe explained. "Once you got your opponent to the ground, they will try to get up, just as Talonfeather is trying to do." Tigerstripe stepped in front of Talonfeather and quickly jam his paws on his belly, claws sheathed. "If this was a real battle, I would had already killed him with unsheathed claws." Tigerstripe mewed. "But since is training, we don't want any spilled blood." Talonfeather warned. "Now, let's practice." Redpool finally spoke. "Snowpaw and Whitepaw, you two try to do the belly rake, claws sheathed. Jaypaw, you will try to do the belly rake with Talonfeather, claws sheathed." Jaypaw got into her position and narrowed her amber eyes on Talonfeather and his golden-like fur. Tigerstripe and Redpool stand next to each other. "Begin." Tigerstripe ordered. Talonfeather immediently got to the ground on his back so Jaypaw will try to do the belly rake. Jaypaw pounded her paws on his belly but Talonfeather whispered, "not yet." Jaypaw just watch Snowpaw and Whitepaw struggle against each other. Then Whitepaw fell to the ground on her back. Snowpaw immediently ran to her to jam his paws on her belly, but something is wrong. 'He has his claws unsheathed!' Jaypaw thought and ran to Whitepaw to help her up. "Stop." Tigerstripe ordered and Snowpaw stand still, his claws still unsheathed. "Jaypaw," Redpool called to her. "Why are you helping Whitepaw get up?" Jaypaw looked at Snowpaw's unsheathed claws and replied, "Snowpaw has his claws unsheathed." Talonfeather came up to him. "Were you trying to hurt your sister?" He asked his apprentice impatiently. "I'm sorry." Snowpaw apoligizes. 'If it weren't for me,' Jaypaw realized. 'My sister will be in serious pain right now.' END OF PART FIVE!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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