Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 Underrated Sports Players Who Play Sports

The summer of boring continues, which is why we're back with another list. I gots five underrated peoples's for you, and the following sentences should make for slightly entertaining reading. Start.

Dave Kingman

Over the course of Adam Dunn's eight years with the Reds his detractors often compared him to 70's and 80's slugger Dave Kingman. And every time it was meant in a derogatory fashion. But it was ridiculous, for two reasons:

1. It's true Dunn and Kingman hit a bunch of home runs and struck out constantly, but that's where the comparison ends; Dunn walked all the time, while Kingman had a Willy Taverasesque .302 career OBP. So, Dunn was a far more valuable ball player. But...

2. Kingman was hardly a slouch. And again, I only bring this up because -- for the better part of this decade -- Kingman's name was only mentioned negatively in Cincinnati, as if he were a hack ballplayer who simply fell into a bunch of home runs.

It takes an awful lot of talent to hit home runs, and Kingman hit 448 of them, good for 35th all time.

Right now the Reds would kill -- absolutely kill -- to have a right-handed slugger like Kingman in the middle of the lineup. And by kill, I mean murder. Murder = dead.


Scott Mitchell, 1995

Okay, say what you want about Scott Mitchell from 91-94, and from 96-01, but he'll always have 1995. He was a monster in '95. A monster. 4,338 passing yards; 36 total touchdowns (4 rushing); 12 interceptions. And he led the 10-6 Detroit Lions to the playoffs. I get the feeling that Scott Mitchell gets made fun of a lot (he just looks like the kind of guy who endures a ton of crap), but if I were Mitchell, I would always remind people about the fall and winter of 1995, when I posted better numbers than just about any quarterback not named Brett Favre.


Albert Belle

Was he an ass? Wait, allow me to rephrase...was he the worst person in the history of worst people? Maybe. Was he on the juice? My guess would be probably. But he never failed a wiz test. Anyway, nobody talks about Albert Belle anymore. I mean, ever. And when I look at Belle's Baseball-Reference page, the fact that he's already misremembered kind of pisses me off.

He played ten full seasons in the bigs (1991-2000) and was a devastating force at the plate from the time he entered the league until a hip injury forced him out of the game he dominated. Even his last season, 2000 in Baltimore, Belle still managed to drive in 103 runs.

That dude should be in the Hall of Fame, and yet he'll never sniff inclusion. The lesson: You can act like a jerk all you want if you've pocketed $100 million in your career.


Eric Davis, 1987

E.D.'s career is littered with what-ifs; this especially applies to his best season, 1987. In '87, Eric Davis hit 37 HRs, drove in 100 runs and stole 50 bases, while only being caught six times. (Note: He also won a gold glove in centerfield, but my argument is focused solely on his hitting prowess). He put up such strong numbers -- in an era where 37 HRs was a big deal -- despite playing in only 129 games.

129 games.

Eric Davis missed 33 games in '87 and it still kills me. He was notoriously fragile throughout his 17-year career, but what if...what if he could have put together one full season? Jose Canseco became baseball's first 40-40 guy the following year (in 158 games, of course), but Davis would've had a legitimate shot at 50-70, an accomplishment unlikely to ever be broken (sluggers just don't steal bases anymore).

But it didn't happen. Probably because it would've allowed people in this miserable city to smile for a few consecutive minutes. Either way, Eric Davis is mostly forgotten (even locally, for some reason), but that wouldn't be the case had he been the first member of baseball's 40-40 club, and the only member in the 50-70 club.


Corey Dillon, the Bengal years (1997-2003)

Most stupid idiots will tell you Dillon's best season in the National Football League was 2004, his first with the New England Patriots. They tell you this after taking a gander at his statistics. He rushed for 1,635 yards, and did so in only fifteen games. The Patriots defeated the Eagles in the '04 professional championship (which is sometimes called the Super Bowl), and I have a hard time believing they could have accomplished such a feat without Corey James Dillon.

Because he was really good that season...and perhaps great.

But not as great as his '99 season (1,200 yards, 5 TD) or his '02 season (1,311 yards, 7 TD) or his...pick a season. Trust me, I watched the dude in his prime, and Bengals Corey Dillon was noticeably superior to Patriots Corey Dillon. He was fast and mean and unlucky. He was a brilliant runner on those Bengals squads, but he was stuck receiving handoffs from, among others, Neil O'Donnell, Akili Smith, Gus Frerotte, Scott Mitchell (twice in one column!) and Jon Kitna. In other words, opposing defenses weren't exactly terrified of being beaten by the forward pass.

And whenever I argue whether a human being belongs in the Hall of Fame or not (something I love a little too much, by the way), Corey Dillon's name always makes an appearance. If Dillon makes it to Canton, it will be on the strength of his numbers-friendly 2004 in New England, which is somewhat ridiculous.

Cincinnati folk probably understand how great Dillon was in stripes, but I get the feeling national folk don't have a friggin' clue. That's how one gets labeled underrated.


End of words.

-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)


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