Michael Young

Players think a considerably overrated player is the most underrated in baseball

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Michael Young is the absolute king of overrated players. That does not mean he’s bad. In fact he’s been quite good over the course of his career. But he has been considered far better than he really is — has been lauded for his game-changing intangibles, leadership and MVP-worthiness despite there being scant evidence of any of those things — since almost the first day of his major league career.

So of course when Sports Illustrated polled 228 major league players about who the most underrated of their ranks is, they chose Michael Young. I’d laugh if I wasn’t on the verge of tears.

What is the source of Young’s svengali-like power? I can get how people close to him — journalists, other players — can like the guy a whole hell of a lot, but why does it render them unable to view him objectively? Other players apart from maybe Derek Jeter don’t have this problem. Journalists and players who surround them see their strengths and weaknesses and assess them more or less fairly. But not Young. Woe be unto the person who dares suggest that Young is not one of the best players in the game and one of the best leaders to ever wear a uniform. If you say that Young is merely very good and has, at times, not been an ideal leader, you’re a hater.

The response will clearly be that I don’t get it. But really, I’m begging someone, anyone, to tell me what it is I don’t understand. What does Michael Young actually provide that causes a guy who gets MVP votes and kudos in total disproportion to his measurable accomplishments to be underrated? If it’s just leadership, why is he considered a leader when other players who have acted in exactly the same way he has (i.e. having little tantrums when asked to move off a position for a better player) considered selfish?

I honestly do not understand. And I apparently never will.

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!

Bo Jackson is not gonna change kids’ minds

1989:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals practices his swing as he prepares to bat during a game in the 1989 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.

You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.

Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.

The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”

Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.

This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.