The internet is a wonderful thing. It allows everyone, no matter how limited their scope on topics, an outlet to voice their beliefs. One can peruse the “Web” and locate a number of entries on any random topic. Just type in a keyword into a search engine and numerous sites will display ruminations on your area of interest. That said, some of these ruminations come courtesy outlets of absurdity and should be discarded, or at the least, taken as the belief of a person with the aforementioned “limited scope.” While perusing the web, after typing “Gene Tenace” into a search engine, I came across a rather absurd little post listed at www.bleacherreport.com. (The full article can be found here):
Written by internet scribe Asher Brooks Chancey, his list showcases a clear absence of baseball history and a general dismissal of what the term “underrated” really means. Mr. Chancey is hereby awarded the Absurdity Award for his article, which I shall cover in detail.
Chancey lists Darrell Evans as the 26th most underrated player in baseball history–which gives the reader the impression that either Mr. Chancey can’t count, or has improperly titled his piece. Evans, I must concede, was a decent selection by Mr. Chancey. Most folks scoff at Evans because of his low batting average but Darrell was a power hitter with an exceptional batting eye. Evans was a gifted performer, aptly listed as underrated by Chancey, but he is one of the few players deserving of the list.
Next comes Dick Allen in the 25th slot. Is Dick Allen underrated? I should say not. Allen was widely regarded as a top offensive threat in his day but the Hall of Fame has slighted him over the years for obvious reasons. Simply put, Dick Allen was a sonuvabitch. He was the textbook definition of a clubhouse cancer who reveled in creating clubhouse factions. One baseball executive once said that he wouldn’t pay the waiver price for Allen given the destructive influence he had on a team. Dick Allen does not fit into the “underrated” category, but the same category as Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Steve Howe–the squandered stardom category.
Next we have Bobby Bonds, Barry’s father. Bobby was a gifted five-tool talent who was a strikeout-waiting-to-happen. With a good twist of the arm, I’d say that Bonds is underrated. He was a terrific athlete who could hit 30 dingers and steal 50 bases, but to put him in the top 25–or 26– seems a bit of a stretch. Chancey then follows up with a modern player in Brian Giles. I will say that Giles was underappreciated because he spent his best years in obscurity with Pittsburgh but Giles never led the league in any major offensive category. He was a fine, well-rounded player, but Dwight Evans would have been a much wiser selection.
The the absurdity begins. Mr. Chancey chooses the 22nd spot to begin stockpiling his list with Hall of Famers. His first Hall of Famer is Yankees legend Lefty Gomez. Gomez, underrated? I don’t see how. He is widely regarded as the ace of the Yankees staff during their pre war years–in fact, he was one of the few decent pitchers they had from the beginning of the American League up to the war. Hoyt and Pennock rode coattails while Gomez actually had some talent. But one must ask just how underrated a Hall of Famer can be? These men are immortalized at Cooperstown and future generations will be exposed to them as long as there is baseball. I will concede that there are underrated players in the Hall of Fame, but to litter a list titled “The Top 25 Most Underrated Players in Baseball History” with a bunch of Hall of Famers shows a general lack of research. He composes his list and tosses in well-known names while neglecting names of lesser players that history has cast a clod shoulder to. These men, the recipients of the cold shoulder, are the truly “underrated” and not the immortalized men such as Lefty Gomez.
Chancey continues with Hall of Famers by naming Addie Joss as the 21st most underrated. Addie Joss was a terrific pitcher in his day but he is remembered more for what could have been rather than what he actually accomplished. Why select Joss and not Ray Chapman, Ross Youngs or Austin McHenry (a million dollars says Mr. Chancey has never heard of McHenry), who all were tragic figures in the game’s early days? Joss is the only one immortalized in the Hall of Fame. Looking up the other men would actually require research and it seems Mr. Chancey is adverse to that. He only wants to highlight those players already known. When the spotlight rests on someone, just how obscure, or underrated, can he actually be?
I applaud Mr. Chancey for listing Ted Simmons, but he lists Simba in the 20th spot when he’d fit more easily in the Top Three. At the 19th spot we get the underrated Ken Singleton, but like Brian Giles, his name doesn’t deserve to rest on a Top 25 list. Ken led the league in on-base percentage once–the extent of his league-leading hardware, unless you include more obscure stats (intentional walks) or negative stats (grounding into double plays). In the 18th position comes on-base machine Gene Tenace. How Mr. Chancey chose to list Tenace above Simmons is beyond me. Gene Tenace is indeed underrated but he would fit more easily into a Top 100 list than a Top 25 list–and he’d be at the back-end of a Top 100 list at that.
Chancey selects Dave Stieb in the 17th position. This seems fair since Stieb was a better pitcher than Jack Morris, who for whatever reason (wink! the wins) has received more support than the Toronto guy. Chancey gets one right with Stieb. A case could be made that starting pitchers from the 1980s are generally all underrated. The Hall of Fame is noticeably weak at this position from that decade. Most of the 1980s pitchers in the Hall were greybeards in the 1980s: Sutton, Niekro And Ryan. Then it’s back to absurdity for the 16th position as Chancey lists Carlos Zambrano. I’ll let you all issue a collective sigh. Apparently Mr. Chancey has no concept of time. His list is riddled with players who played during the past four to five decades (apparently his lifetime) as he seems unable to locate anyone who played before the 1960s… unless he was a Hall of Famer. Bob Johnson is the lone exception, but he probably got Indian Bob’s name from some Bill James book.
In the 15th spot comes Dave Concepcion. I will claim that Davey is underrated but there are far more deserving shortstops from the past. Chancey should expose himself to Dick Bartell, Vern Stephens, Jack Glasscock or Bill Dahlen–all guys that he should have been listed before Concepcion. In the 14th spot comes Indian Bob Johnson. Give Mr. Chancey a hand… Johnson is more than deserving. Then Tim Raines is listed in the 13th position. Rock remains on the Hall of Fame ballot. He was a terrific ballplayer, for a short window. He was great until he reached his upper twenties when his legs started to go and then he was just good from there on. Mentioning him in the same breath as Rickey Henderson is a tragic injustice to Rickey.
Then Chancey goes back to the Hall of Fame with Dazzy Vance, a great pitcher but a vacuous selection for a list of underrated ballplayers. Anyone who knows anything about baseball history will tell you that Vance was one of the best, if not the best, pitcher during the Lively Ball Era. How can a guy like that, regarded as a legend, be underrated? You should have selected Urban Shocker or Dolf Luque in Vance’s spot, Asher. Then we have another odd selection in the still active Omar Vizquel. Is Omar underrated? Not by a long shot. He is widely regarded around baseball circles as the heir apparent to Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio. When your name is mentioned in the same breath as the elite players of the game, you’re not underrated, but respected.
Big Frank Howard comes in the 10 spot. Howard was indeed underrated. He was a terrific slugger in a pitcher’s era but his career fits into that Raines/Mattingly mold–he excelled for a short window and was good the rest of the way. Frank essentially had three tremendous seasons and then a handful of pretty good years. Frank was a decent selection but not a wise one. Ron Santo in the number nine spot was an eye-closed selection. Santo makes everyone’s list of underrated players, and rightly so, but he wasn’t much better than Ken Boyer and Boyer is nowhere to be found.
Then it’s back to Cooperstown. Rube Waddell is listed in the 8th spot. Yes, Rube Waddell. The top power pitcher of the Deadball Era, Waddell is regarded by everyone as such unless they wear those New York blinders and give the Pavlovian response of Christy Mathewson. Rube had no peers until Walter Johnson came along. Waddell was a great pitcher and is regarded as such, which makes his selection another foolish one. But just wait folks, the foolery will intensify. In perhaps Chancey’s worst selection, he lists Shoeless Joe Jackson in the 7th spot. I defy you to name any player from the game’s early stages (1871 to 1920) who isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet is more widely known than Jackson. Sure, Jackson isn’t in the Hall and he was an amazing ballplayer, but this is general knowledge. In fact, Shoeless Joe has essentially entered the arena of fable given his mystique courtesy literature and film. If Shoeless Joe is underrated then Paul Bunyan was a pussy.
Edgar Martinez is in the number six slot. This is another head-scratcher. Edgar is listed in every source as the greatest designated hitter in baseball history–whatever that’s worth. Edgar played baseball, not football, where players are expected to play both offense and defense. Had he remained an everyday third baseman he’d be in the Hall of Fame but many writers can’t bring themselves to induct a guy who was so inept in two-thirds of the game (baseball can be broken into thirds: hitting, pitching and defense) which is why he has yet to make Cooperstown. I expect he’ll eventually get in, but it could take a while. Martinez on an all-time Top 25 Underrated list is indeed an absurdity.
But the absurdity continues on into the Top Five. In fact, the absurdity is magnified at an alarming degree. Mike Piazza is named in the #5 slot. Surely Chancey is joking with us. Ask anyone who the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history is and if they’re in the know, they’ll probably say Piazza. I’m sure you’ll get a Bench or Berra here and there, but most people understand that the offensive numbers Piazza put up were legendary, as far as catchers are concerned. That being said, no one, not even Mike’s mother, would claim he was among the top defensive catchers in baseball history. Piazza will make the Hall of Fame. One must ask, can a player who made twelve All-Star games be underrated? Apparently Mr. Chancey would answer yes.
Back to Cooperstown for #4. Chancey lists Bill Dickey in this slot. Bill Dickey is about as underrated as Ted Williams. Generally regarded as the best catcher of his time, Bill wasn’t any better than peers Mickey Cochrane or Gabby Hartnett. In fact, there are more catcher’s in the Hall of Fame from Dickey’s era than any other. Dickey and peers Cochrane, Hartnett, Rick Ferrell, Ernie Lombardi and Al Lopez are all in the Hall of Fame. Dickey didn’t effectively distance himself from either Hartnett or Cochrane but he is generally looked upon more favorably (New York bias at play) than his Hall of Fame peers. Dickey was another terrible selection by Asher.
Chancey stays with the Hall of Fame for numbers four through one, showcasing his hopeless lack of knowledge when it comes to conducting historical research. All he does is peruse the Hall of Fame plaques and discards the truly underrated: those men not immortalized by the Hall of Fame. Tris Speaker–yes, the legendary Mr. Speaker–is listed as the third most underrated player in baseball history. Speaker is widely regarded as the greatest ballhawk of all-time, yet Mr. Chancey feels this is some sort of slight. Tris was a legend in the game’s early days and his legend status has never been tarnished. Sure, he isn’t as well-known as Ty Cobb but there is a reason for this: he wasn’t as good as the Georgia Peach.
The top two picks completely, if it hasn’t already happened, diminish the worth of Mr. Chancey’s list. In the number two position he lists Lefty Grove and at the top of his list rests Mike Schmidt. Hall of Famers Lefty Grove and Mike Schmidt are listed as the two most underrated players in baseball history. Yes, I am convinced, Asher Chancey is the greatest comedian the world has ever known. Many sources list Grove as the single greatest pitcher of all-time (Bill James has him in the two slot behind Walter Johnson in his Historical Abstract) while James erroneously lists Schmidt as the greatest third baseman of all-time. If anything, these two baseball legends are OVERrated.
So in closing, I should implore Mr. Chancey to leave that which he so clearly knows little about, well enough alone. His list wins this years, perhaps this decades, award for Most Absurd Article on Baseball History. Congratulations Mr. Chancey, it’s an award well-earned.