Just as there are certainties in life (death, taxes, et al) there are certainties in sports. Some of the more notable certainties are the die hard fans, heartbreak and the euphoric high of winning a championship. Additionally, with every sports franchise comes the list of current and former players who are irrationally overrated.
By Peter Christian
The inspiration for this post comes from a conversation with a random White Sox fan at a bar near Target Field following a game between the Twins and Sox (the Twins won, of course). Enjoying a beer with Sports Bank CEO, Mr. Banks, we were approached by a duo who were similar to us in that one was a Sox fan (wearing Sox gear, like Banks) and a Twins fan (denoted by his Twins regalia). The Sox fan and Banks lamented over the loss and quickly started complaining about the White Sox’ inability to win against the Twins in recent history.
Then the conversation took a turn that led to an interesting debate (which made this post possible). The young White Sox fan claimed that Mark Buehrle is a Hall of Famer.
I’ll give you a minute to A) read that again and B) contain your laughter.
Ok, so the guy’s argument obviously lacked weight (his reasoning: Buehrle has a no-hitter, a perfect game and a World Series ring. That’s it. For every counter-argument we had, this Sox fan responded with this exact argument and no further case) and I’m not claiming that this one person’s claim is representative of the entire fan base (even Mr. Banks thought that Buehrle’s chances of reaching Cooperstown were less likely than an Eskimo running a marathon in the Sahara), I do think that it is indicative of the fact that every team in the league has a few players that the fan base overrates irrationally.
The reason for overrating could be one of the following: a prolonged term of service, being a crucial part of a championship team, or for doing one thing exceptionally well.
For the White Sox, Mark Buehrle exemplifies all three of those characteristics. He’s been a member of the team for 12 seasons, he’s been the opening day starter for 9 of the last 10 seasons, he was the ace of the staff in 2005 when the team won the World Series and he’s known around the league for being a quick worker on the mound, having an array of excellent pick-off moves and eats up innings like a worm eats dirt.
He’s beloved among White Sox nation for sure (for good reason), but he’s nowhere near being a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher.
I don’t mean to pick on this White Sox fan, however. Instead I’m just using him as an example of how certain fans will throw common sense and logic out the window onto the freeway in front of a dump truck traveling at 65 mph when trying to put their favorite player on their favorite team in historical perspective.
Every team has one or two players currently on the roster or recently retired who were in large part considered to be much better by the fan base than they actually are/were.
The Twins have Brad Radke and Michael Cuddyer (Cuddyer is an interesting case as he is a very divisive player in among Twins fans, people either love him or hate him, no in between), the Brewers had Ben Sheets, the Mariners had Edgar Martinez (or Jay Buhner). The Cubs had Ron Santo (and pretty much the entire 1969 team, except for Jenkins, Banks and Williams) The list goes on and on.
Of course, the irrationality doesn’t necessarily stop with the fans. Often times, the player is also given unnecessary money by the team who employing them to keep them in the same uniform. For example, Buehrle does not have the talent nor skills to be deserving of a $14 million salary, but his status as a fan favorite and continued service to the White Sox has earned him a pay grade of a higher quality player. The same goes for Cuddyer and his $10.5 million salary.
That all being said, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for your team to have one of those players. The players that garner some irrational love will bring people to the stadium and lead people to buy team merchandise. So the inflated contracts aren’t completely wasted money, just part of it.
So, who is your favorite team’s Irrationally Overrated Player?
What other Irrationally Overrated Players on other teams come to mind?