Reggie Smith in . . . The Nagging Question

March 3, 2008

A few weeks ago on this site, during the conversations about the best everyday player of the 1970s (see Pete Rose for the posing of the question and Joe Morgan for the consensus answer), there was some pondering about who was the most underrated player of that decade. Among the players mentioned were Ken Singleton, Bobby Murcer, Ted Simmons, and Reggie Smith. Bobby Grich and Darrell Evans also probably deserve to be part of the discussion, though a significant part of their quietly effective work was done in the 1980s. 

My own opinion on who was the most underrated player of the 1970s may seem to be telegraphed by the card featured today. The truth is, I’m not sure. (I almost went with the card of Ted Simmons, who I believe—mainly because of the position he played—has a stronger Hall of Fame argument than Singleton, Smith, or Murcer.) Of course, “underrated” is a shadowy concept, as it not only judges performance but also judges recognition of that performance. With that in mind, here’s my case for Reggie Smith:

1. He was a great player.

  1. He was an outstanding hitter. He hit for power and average and drew a lot of walks, posting lifetime batting/on-base/slugging averages of .287/.366/.489, strong numbers that are even stronger when you consider that he spent the prime of his career in pitcher’s ballparks, and all of his career during a pitcher-friendly era. His lifetime OPS+ was 137, better than the career marks not only of Singleton, Simmons, and Murcer, but also of Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and Carl Yastrzemski, to name four Hall of Famers from Reggie Smith’s era.
  2. He was an outstanding fielder. Murcer also gets points in this area, and though Simmons wasn’t considered a strong defensive catcher he rates special mention for manning that demanding and vital defensive position while still anchoring his team’s offense. The slow-footed Singleton, on the other hand, could not compare to Smith as a fielder. Smith was a Gold Glove-winning centerfielder early in his career, and was an excellent rightfielder throughout his prime. Singleton is very close to Smith as a hitter, and you could argue that he has an edge in offensive contribution to his team simply because he was able to appear in more of his team’s games than Smith, who often struggled with injuries. But Smith’s fielding, in my mind, at least brings him even with Singleton as a player.

2. He is an underrated player.

  1. He was always in the shadows, even on his own teams. When he first came up to the majors, with the Red Sox, he was in Carl Yastrzemski’s shadow, and during his prime on the Dodgers I don’t think he was ever considered the star of the team. I know when I was a kid I would have named Steve Garvey and Ron Cey ahead of him, Garvey because he was among the four or five biggest stars in the game, and Cey because he had a gigantic April one year that was featured in Sports Illustrated. Plus he had that nickname, The Penguin. Reggie Smith’s only nickname, as far as I knew, was “The Other Reggie.”
  2. My guess is that, unless you are a Cardinals fan, you may have been a little surprised by the card featured today, either not knowing or forgetting that Reggie Smith was ever on the Cardinals. In fact, he played well for them for more than two seasons (the only time he ever drove in 100 runs in a season was with the Cardinals). I guess my point is that recognized superstars don’t generally have forgotten stops in the middle of their careers.
  3. His own general managers didn’t really recognize his worth. He was traded twice in his career. The first trade was by the Red Sox, who sent him and a cooked Ken Tatum to the Cardinals for Rick Wise and Bernie Carbo. It wasn’t a terrible trade—Wise was a decent starting pitcher, and Bernie Carbo offered a facsimile of Smith’s offensive output, at least against righthanders—but it doesn’t reflect that Smith was a player with elite skills. The second trade was worse: the Cardinals handed Smith to the Dodgers for decent catcher Joe Ferguson and two career minor leaguers named Bob Detherage and Fred Tisdale.
  4. He was the “Other Reggie.” I know I’ve already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. No matter what he did, he could never become more than a whisper beside the constant neon scream that was the guy simply known as Reggie. I believe you could make a case that the Two Reggies were close to equal as players, and that there were facets of the game in which The Other Reggie was clearly superior, but I know that when I was a kid, i.e., when I was immediately and passionately involved with the baseball era in question, I would have ranked The Other Reggie far below Reggie in the hierarchy of baseball stars. I saw him as an echo of the real thing.
  5. His page on baseball-reference.com is not sponsored. This is not the case with any of the other players mentioned above. 

I wonder if this last part is due in part to the fact that he moved around during his career. Maybe he never quite belonged to any particular fan base, so no one is around to sing his praises. So I’m singing his praises. Whose praises would you like to sing? In other words, the Nagging Question:

Who is the most underrated player of the 1970s?


  1. 1.  Quick report at Baseball Reference shows the top OPS+ players in the 70’s with at least 750 games.


    Looking at the list I’d have to say that Gene Tenance or Andre Thornton would have to be part of the discussion of under rated.

    We all know the greatness of the non-hof players like Allen, Rice, Lynn, Parker, Reggie, and Foster but it was a shock to me to see Tenance, Thornton, Hargrove, Madlock, and Watson in the top 25. Does anyone even remember how good Andre Thornton was? He didn’t garner a whole lot of at bats but he sure produced when he got them.
    Gene Tenace was a walking machine, with excellent power for his day. He grades out as much better then Simmons as an offensive catcher.

    I’m going to vote for Gene Tenace.

  2. 2.  I wouldn’t call him the most underrated player of the 1970s, but someone worthy of mention, who never gets mentioned, is Ralph Garr.


  3. 3.  2
    Did you ever see Ralph Garr play the outfield?

    It was not for the faint of heart.

  4. 4.  2
    Wasn’t Ralph Garr the Juan Pierre of the 70’s.

  5. 5.  Reggie Smith was always my favorite Dodger, so I have to go for him.

  6. 6.  A good players I used to like seeing as a kid but never hear about today.

    Cecil Cooper 1B – solid power, great average, good OB%, great field
    Jorge Orta 2B/OF – hit a ton for a 2B, behind only Morgan and Grich
    Ralph Garr OF – good hit, no walk, no K, along with Orta modeled ChiSox 70s unis best
    Al Oliver OF/1B – one of most consistent good hitters of 70s
    Bill Madlock 3B – career .305/.365/.442, even better in the 70s

  7. 7.  1 : Good call on Tenace. On top of his career production, he also has “World Series hero” on his resume. Thirty-six years later, the mere mention of his name still causes expletives to fly from the mouth of my father-in-law, a Reds fan.

    For some reason, I always associate a particular slang term for home run, “tater,” with Andre Thornton. He hit a lot of taters, did Andre Thornton.

    2 : I have a feeling I’m going to agree with every name mentioned. In a way, the whole premise of this site is that every major league baseball player from the 1970s is currently underrated and needs to be praised at great length.

  8. 8.  6 ; Cooooooop is now back in the public eye, sort of, having been recently handed the keys to the sputtering Houston Astros.

    Madlock was a pretty huge star at the time but has faded in the ensuing years.

    Orta, at least according to my experience with Strat-O-Matic (and also evidenced by the fact that he logged a lot of time as a DH), was a fairly putrid fielder at second base.

  9. 9.  1 7 We can debate the merits of Clay Davenport’s fielding system another day, but I prefer WARP3 to OPS+, because it neutralizes everything across every season ever played, and includes defense.

    Looking at 1970-1979, Singleton actually out WARP3ed Smith, 65.2 to 63.5. Murcer is at 57.2. Tenace is at 60. Watson is at 53.6. The other guys you mention, ToyCannon, (Thornton, Hargrove, Madlock) suffer because they didn’t play in every year of the 70s.

    Oh, and Ted Simmons? He paces the field at 69 WARP3 for 1970-1979. I’d call him the most underrated.

    (BTW – if there are any errors in my calculations (no sortable stats page has WARP3, so this was all by hand, err, Excel), my apologies.)

  10. 10.  I met Reggie in 1985 or thereabouts in LA. He was running an office supply business and doing his own sales calls. He was much more slender than I’d expected him to be from seeing him play, and a lot more effusive (hey, sales…).

  11. 11.  One other thing that I remember about Reggie Smith from back then: at the time, he was second in career HR by a switch-hitter. It was a great trivia question, becuase no one would think of the Other Reggie. Underrated.

    Andre Thornton was a terrific hitter for a few years. I wouldn’t put him in the same category as most of the other guys mentioned here.

  12. 12.  9
    Sure but since BP has a pathetic database search system it is easier to use OPS+ for quick results. Until BP makes is easy to do report sorting on WARP3 or EQA I’ll continue to use OPS+ when doing comparison shopping.
    For all the interns that BP has, they sure don’t make much of an effort to put together a useful state of the art interface between their database and their users.

  13. 13.  9 : That’s an interesting piece of data on Simmons. I have to confess that I don’t understand how WARP is tabulated. Does Simmons gain in that stat because he played a position generally manned by weak hitters?

  14. 14.  But is Simmons underrated? Everyone acknowledges he was a great offensive player. When was the last time someone said Gene Tenace was a great offensive player?

  15. 15.  “I guess my point is that recognized superstars don’t generally have forgotten stops in the middle of their careers.”

    Perhaps its simply endemic to the first name, since both Reggies definitely had one of these.

    Could it be possible that the answer to the last nagging question is also the answer to this one — Joe Morgan? He did, of course, win two MVPs, but his extraordinary greatness is always understated and underrecognized today, as it probably also was (to a certain extent) while he was active.

    But instead of Morgan, and instead of The Other Reggie (who is a fine choice), I’m going to offer up Jimmy Wynn.

  16. 16.  Obviously I like that choice but Jimmy was done after 1976. Can 1/2 a decade count when 73 and 75 were not exactly banner years and 76 was only interesting because of the crazy walks as Josh has written about.

  17. 17.  Jimmy Wynn’s almost certainly more underrated than any of the others. He had the misfortune to play most of his career in a pitchers era and in the most extreme pitcher’s parks in the majors. The decade thing is inconvenient for him, though.

    Are we talking about who’s underrated now, or who was underrated then?

    If we’re talking about then, one factor to consider is exposure. For most of the country, the playoffs, the World Series, and the Game of the Week were the only way to see teams from the other league, and often out-of-town teams in general. The GOTW, in particular, was extremely important, and tended to show the same teams as in the postseason (for obvious reasons). So the Reds, Dodgers, Pirates, Orioles and A’s were very familiar nationally; later in the decade, the Yankees, Red Sox, Royals and Phillies joined in.

    Morgan was definitely not underrated; no one on the Big Red Machine was, and he had those back-to-back MVPs. Madlock wasn’t underrated, either, and Tenace was pretty well known. Simmons wasn’t on TV nearly as much, but it’s my (possibly faulty) recollection that he was known as a damn good hitter.

    To me, Smith and Singleton stand out because they were on TV all the time and still managed to be underrated. I lean towards Smith, probably because I’m a Yankee fan, so I knew all too well how good Singleton was.

    Morgan was definitely not underrated then; no one on the Big Red Machine was, plus Morgan had those back-to-back MVPs. Madlock certainly wasn’t underrated then, either.

    One important factor to consider when talking about that era: the Game of the Week. For most of the country, that was the main exposure to teams from the other league, and often to out-of-town teams in general. The Reds and Dodgers were on the GOTW constantly, and the O’s and A’s were on a lot. (Obviously, they were also all in the postseason a lot.)

    It’s my recollection (which could be faulty) that Simmons was generally acknowledged as a damn good hitter. He did suffer from not being on the Game of the Week as often as some of the others, since the Cardinals were a comfortable middle-of-the-pack sort of team. Don’t underestimate the importan

  18. 18.  Aaargggghhhhh. Sorry for the inexcusable lack of editing.

  19. 19.  Ignore the last three paragraphs. Please please please.

  20. 20.  I remember Reggie as being ambidextrous and he would boast he could throw extremely well lefthanded. Seems there was a story that when he hurt his right arm he was going to play the field and throw left handed. It never happened but for some reason I was very excited about the possibility.

  21. 21.  “Maybe he never quite belonged to any particular fan base, so no one is around to sing his praises.”

    I always think of Reggie Smith as a Dodger, and had conveniently forgotten where he had been before. This can be attributed to the fact that my earliest memory of baseball is Carlton Fisk’s 1975 home run, but I wouldn’t really have a solid knowledge of the members of a team until 1977, when Reggie was a fixture in Right for the Dodgers.

    I think the issue is precisely your point in #2A. When I think of that Dodgers team, I think of the persistent infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey. I think of Yeager and Baker and Smith next. Then Rick Monday or Ken Landreaux… Or I wander over to the pitchers, to Bob Welch, Rick Rhoden, Don Sutton. Smith just isn’t the first guy who comes to mind.

    He wasn’t my favorite on the team, but I certainly favored him over players from other teams. Why that is, I don’t really know.

  22. 22.  17 : “Are we talking about who’s underrated now, or who was underrated then?
    If we’re talking about then, one factor to consider is exposure.”

    That’s a good question. I guess I’m leaning toward “now,” but I definitely factored in how I thought about Reggie Smith when I was a kid (i.e., “then”) into the equation. And I agree, TV exposure was a big part of how players were viewed, but I think magazines, specifically SI, had a larger impact on public perception then than they do now. I knew about Garvey from SI as much as anything else, and I don’t recall hearing that much about Reggie Smith from that source. Also, I spent A LOT of time perusing the Sunday averages, and since I was fixated, per the custom of the times, on batting average, RBI, home runs, and hits, I was more apt to notice Steve Garvey’s .300 average, 200 hits, and 100 RBIs than Reggie Smith’s (usually) lesser totals in all those areas. On that note, I was much more aware of Ken Singleton at that time than Reggie Smith, and not really so much because he was on a rival of my team but rather because he sometimes managed to edge into the very upper echelon of the American League Sunday averages, which were ranked according to batting average.

  23. 23.  13 I’m not sure of the exact calculations; here is something (http://tinyurl.com/2vf2lw – free article to boot) that gives a bit of detail. I thought there was something else, but my quick search efforts didn’t find it.

    That Simmons hit so well for a C, especially in an era where most Cs didn’t hit at all, helps him. From my perspective, all I’ve ever heard about Simmons was how great his bat was. But to beat out Smith and Singleton in terms of WARP3 means his glove must have been at least OK.

    12 BP does have a ways to go in terms of putting a more usable interface on all the DT stuff. For just a handful of players though, I don’t mind doing the math. Can’t blame you for using a more easily sorted tool.

  24. 24.  21 : Yeah, likewise I have no memories of Smith as a Red Sox, but I think older Red Sox fans claim him to some extent because of his presence on the 1967 team, which up until 2004 was the most golden of Red Sox teams.

    He figures in some memorable episodes in Bil Lee’s The Wrong Stuff. He and Lee did not get along, not at all, and Lee describes him as acutely sensitive, tightly wound, and prone to aping the mannerisms and opinions of Yaz, who (according to Lee) Smith revered. He also says something about how Smith was the most talented baseball player he’d ever seen. The tension between them erupted during a game in which the opposing pitcher drilled Doug Griffin. Smith demanded that Lee retaliate, and Lee replied that he was going to wait until the Red Sox got a lead. When they did, he plunked Ellie Rodriguez (who also had a long history with Lee) and Smith confronted him in the dugout, accusing him of being racist for neglecting to bean a white guy. Smith ended up attacking Lee, then later in the clubhouse attacking him again.

    Not to say this is what produced that confrontation, but it must have been difficult for Smith in Boston. He and George Scott were the first black regulars in the history of a team (and town) with a spotty reputation in that regard.

  25. 25.  22 Good point about SI, and about the list of batting averages on Sunday. But in SI, also, the Dodgers got a ton of coverage – while Smith still stayed under the radar.

    Btw, I’d say the single most influential difference that sabermetrics has made is that batters are now universally described by BA/OBP/SA. Back then the only was to describe a hitter was BA, HR, RBI.

  26. 26.  Reggie Smith is an excellent choice. When the I think of the 1970s Dodgers, I think of the infield, Mike Marshall, Don Sutton, Steve Yeager/Joe Ferguson, but for some reason Smith is always way down the list.

    He is almost certainly the most underrated Giants fan beater upper of the 1980s as well!

  27. 27.  Tater was a Boomer Scottism, if memory serves.

    This isn’t the endall and beall, but the top 5 guys by Win Shares in the ’70s were three HOFers, a guy who would have been in if he didn’t gamble, and Bobby Bonds. Bonds had 249. Murcer had 240. Otis had 237. Singleton had 231 and The Other Reggie had 224 (as did Simba.) I’ll stop now, but the other guys who had as many are HOFers or pariahs.

  28. 28.  26 : I wonder if there was ever a more balanced excellent team than the 1970s Dodgers. Because of Reggie’s underratedness (and factoring in what many now understand as Steve Garvey’s overratedness) they were without a superstar. They were a really strong pitching team, but they didn’t have any superstars there either, unless I’m forgetting someone obvious.

    27 : Bobby Bonds is a good addition to the discussion, and I think Amos Otis is a great addition. I know Bill James is a fan of the guy, but I think there are still few whose minds jump to Amos Otis when the subject of excellent players of the 1970s comes up.

  29. 29.  28 I loved Amos Otis – loved that Royals team, even though they were the Yankees’ toughest opponents. Otis did everything well, absolutely everything, but I think he just falls short. He was a wonderful ballplayer too watch, though, as was Brett.

    On the other hand, I freakin’ hated that Dodger team. Hated, hated, hated. Pompous, self-righteous, holier than thou, thought their shit didn’t stink. It started at the top, with Lasorda and that “bleeding Dodger blue” bullshit, went on through the sanctimonious (and virtually sanctified) Steve Garvey, and straight on down through Bill Russell whining about getting their butts kicked. Combine that with the “Boys of Summer” hazy nostalgic “Noble Loser” nonsense that was peaking around then…and I’d say I dislike the Dodgers even more than the Red Sox.

  30. 30.  In a backhanded way I think Cesar Cedeno was terribly underrated. He had his best years at age 21 and 22, and thus became (I believe) the First Next Willie Mays.

    It didn’t happen, and he was thought of as a dog in some circles because of how he went about his business, but go take a look at what he was doing in the Astrodome for the entire decade. Despite punishing home/road splits, he hovered around 130+ OPS every year, won the Gold Glove every year, and stole 50 bases every year. He did everything but appear at your seat with a silk handtowel draped over his arm. Yet I’ll bet his Q rating is lower than just about everyone else mentioned. Viva Cesar!

  31. 31.  30 Good call on Cedeno. I think the whole killing-his-girlfriend thing kind of hurt his image back then.

  32. 32.  Eric Davis was singing the praises of Reggie Smith’s approach as a hitting coach in an interview with Rob Dibble and Kevin Kennedy just this afternoon.

    As mentioned above, it’s hard to call players who got MVP votes playing on the best teams of the 70’s. I do think Greg Luzinski belongs on the list though. Toby Harrah was a good player. Hal McRae, Gary Mathews.

  33. 33.  An excellent and interesting discussion.

    I think I’d have to go with Ted Simmons. It’s still amazing to me that he didn’t receive five per cent of the vote in his one year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Tenace is tempting, but he had some real problems throwing from time to time, which made him a liability behind the plate. Simmons was no Gold Glover, but he threw better than Steamboat and lasted longer as a catcher.

    A few other players worthy of mention:

    *Sal Bando
    *Ron Cey
    *The Evans (Darrell and Dwight)
    *Rusty Staub
    *Kenny Holtzman
    *Sparky Lyle

  34. 34.  I have nothing to add to his great conversation except that I’m really enjoying it.

  35. 35.  I am way too young for this conversation, but I’ve read/heard Jeff Burroughs was a pretty good ball player in the 70’s. Underrated? I’m not sure I can say that, just wanted to throw his name out there. Your post about him is really cool too.

  36. 36.  33 Rusty Staub played a lot of baseball. He’s 12th all-time in games played behind 10 Hall of Famers and Barry Bonds.

    Question: Staub was a full-time DH in ’77 (156 games) and ’78 (162 games) for Detroit. Had there been another player to be an every day DH before Staub? How about a DH who played every game for his team as Staub did in ’78?

  37. 37.  Wasn’t the big fight that Don Sutton and Steve Garvey had in the dugout about the fact that Sutton had said Reggie Smith was the best player on the Dodgers, not Garvey? Even then, Smith was underrated (and Garvey was a publicity hound to the point of fisticuffs).

  38. 38.  joejoejoe: In 1975 Willie Horton was Tigers DH in 159 games. Horton played all 162 as DH for the Mariners in ’79.

  39. 39.  33 : “It’s still amazing to me that he didn’t receive five per cent of the vote in his one year on the Hall of Fame ballot.”

    I knew Simmons had fallen off the ballot prematurely, but I’d forgotten his lack of support had been so extreme. I wonder if it’s because at the time he appeared on the ballot the more recent memories of him as a (good but not great) designated hitter for the Brewers obscured his prolonged time with the Cardinals as one of the best catchers in the game.

    37 : I remember that fight, but I’d forgotten what it had been about. While digging around for stuff on Garvey recently, I came across something somewhere that claimed that fight caused some to lose respect for Garvey, which would make sense if he was indeed taking swings at a teammate for saying he wasn’t the best player on the team.

  40. 40.  I just checked Simmons stats, and I found that my own memory was playing tricks on me. I’d thought he was primarily a DH on the Brewers, but for much of his time there he spent more time behind the plate than anywhere else. Overall he logged 1771 games as a catcher (more than Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Bill Dickey), 279 as a DH, 195 as a first baseman, and 29 as a third baseman.

  41. 41.  Just for the hell of it, here’s where my mind wandered today while thinking about Ted Simmons and Reggie Smith (and Ken Singleton)…

    The off-the-top-of-my-head all-time switch-hitters team:

    C-Ted Simmons
    1B-Eddie Murray
    2B-Roberto Alomar
    SS-Ozzie Smith
    3B-Pete Rose
    LF-Tim Raines
    CF-Mickey Mantle
    RF-Reggie Smith
    DH-Ken Singleton

    Now that would be a fun team to watch. Am I missing anybody huge?

  42. 42.  While doing some research I forgot about how good Davey Lopes looks these days. Since he played a premium defensive position I have to recommend him as the 2nd baseman for the under rated team of the 70’s for the NL team.

  43. 43.  41
    Bill Sudakis

  44. 44.  41 You could argue about Frisch v. Alomar at 2B, and Chipper v. Rose at 3B. Me, I’d play Chipper and make Rose the supersub – but I loathe Pete Rose, always have.

  45. 45.  41
    Possible altenatives:
    1st – Lance Berkman

    4th outfielder – Bernie Williams
    BackUp catcher – Mickey Tettleton

    I agree with 44 in that I’d put Chipper Jones at 3rd base and move Rose to supersub since he could play 2nd, 3rd, LF, or RF.

  46. 46.  Just for quick clarification, Lance Berkman is currently carrying a 320 EQA compared to Eddie’s 301. However as Lance hits his decline years it is possible that will drop closer to 301 but as of right now I think he is a possible choice for 1st.

    Of course with all the hitting on the team they might want Wes Parker for defensive purposes, and he could actually hit a little when his career is put into the context of his times.

  47. 47.  I found the Sutton quote that upset Garvey and led to the fight (http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/teammatefeuds/031103.html):

    “All you hear about on our team is Steve Garvey the All-American boy. But Reggie Smith was the real MVP. We all know it … (Smith) has carried us the last two years. He is not a facade. He does not have the Madison Avenue image.”

  48. 48.  Poor Bert can’t even get his due when talking about underrated players. I’ll take Blyleven. This guy is a (should be) center ring hall of famer, and he appeared in 2 all star games. Two! (1 in the 70s)

  49. 49.  44 , 46 : My mind wandered a little farther still and I came up with an all-time right-handed hitting team and an all-time left-handed hitting team, and the one phase of the game that the switchies might have an edge on the other teams is with fielding, and that’s even without Wes Parker (though Eddie Murray was no slouch–he won three gold gloves). As for second base, Frisch was great, but I love the idea of Alomar and Ozzie Smith patrolling the middle of the infield.

    Good calls on Berkman and Chipper Jones. Bernie Williams, too. I’m farsighted when it comes to baseball and often forget about current or near-current guys.

    48 : You know, I never stated this (part of my all-around murky guidelines for this discussion), but in my own mind I was building this underrated discussion on the Best Everyday Player of the 1970s discussion of a few weeks ago, so I was sort of leaving pitchers out of it. No disrespect intended for Holland’s Greatest; Bert’s certainly at the top of the pitchers’ list for sure.

  50. 50.  49 You know the lefty team is a monster when Shoeless Joe can’t make the starting lineup.

  51. 51.  50 : Right. On that note, here are my choices (it’s one of those mind-wandering days)…

    C-Josh Gibson
    LF-Rickey Henderson

    SS-Pop Lloyd
    DH-Ted Williams

  52. 52.  What is this DH crap.

  53. 53.  A few years ago my friend and I hung around the players’ parking lot after a Dodger game to see who drove what. While we were waiting, a stadium employee walked out with a man I didn’t recognize in the darkness. The employee yelled out “Line for Reggie Smith autographs starts here!” and pointed at me. I’ve never really understood autographs, so I instead gave Reggie Smith, then a coach, a two-fingered handshake through the chain-link fence. It was the most underrated handshake of my life.

  54. 54.  A few years ago my friend and I hung around the players’ parking lot after a Dodger game to see who drove what. While we were waiting, a stadium employee walked out with a man I didn’t recognize in the darkness. The employee yelled out “Line for Reggie Smith autographs starts here!” and pointed at me. I’ve never really understood autographs, so I instead gave Reggie Smith, then a coach, a two-fingered handshake through the chain-link fence. It was the most underrated handshake of my life.

  55. 55.  It only happened once, in spite of my double post.

  56. 56.  47 : Thanks for finding that quote. That’s great.

    52 : Ha! I’d vote for the DH being abolished, but I use it in these kinds of lists purely as a way to avoid making tough choices, such as choosing between Raines and Singleton (I’d go Raines, though) or between Cobb and Williams (I’ve been thinking about it my whole life and I can’t decide).

    54 : Beautiful.

  57. 57.  I always liked Manny Sanguillen back then. Looking back, it seems he didn’t enjoy walking too much, but he had one really good year (1975) amongst a lot of pretty good years.

    But, that’s probably pretty much the definition of not being under rated. He was probably just-right rated.

  58. 58.  56 Maybe we can come up with an all DH team? Just kidding.

  59. 59.  56 Between Cobb and Williams? Much as I love Tris Speaker – and he’s a longtime favorite – he’d make a great 4th outfielder after Williams, Cobb and Ruth.

  60. 60.  57 Also, Sanguillen was no secret. The Pirates got plenty of exposure in the 70s.

  61. 61.  59 : I guess Cobb played a lot of centerfield, and in fact he’s listed in the HOF as a centerfielder, but for some reason I’ve always thought of him more as a corner outfielder. Anyway, I’ve revised my Lefty team–Speaker’s out and Oscar Charleston’s in.

    58 : Ask and ye shall receive…

    C: Ted Simmons
    1B: Frank Thomas
    2B: Jorge Orta
    SS: Paul Molitor
    3B: Edgar Martinez
    LF: Hal McRae
    CF: Chili Davis
    RF: Harold Baines
    DH: Dick Stuart

  62. 62.  61 Damn, that is impressive that you were able to pull that one off. The impressive thing about Paul Molitor was(is) his ability to play all the infield positions and in the outfield as well. Did Frank Thomas retire?

  63. 63.  62 : No, Frank Thomas is still active. He has to be the best “DH who used to be a first basemen” of all-time, though Ortiz may enter the picture if he keeps chugging along for a few more years.

    I cheated a little to get Molitor in there; he’s the only guy on the all-DH team who wasn’t really ever a regular at the position listed, but he did play some games at shortstop early in his career. I couldn’t think of anyone who was both a regular DH and a one-time regular shortstop. Maybe someday Derek Jeter will limp the last long miles to Pete Rose’s hit record while playing DH.

  64. 64.  63 I was wondering about David Ortiz especially in your case of being a Red Sox fan. I think in his brief, but now starting to become long, tenure as the absolute most feared hitter in the league, he has earned that right at first base. Thomas had a few years as intimidating as Ortiz, but without the late game heroics, Ortiz gets it for me.

    I remembered that The Big Hurt was doing the pre-game, post-game show for the playoffs this last year, so I assumed that he may have retired.

    I wouldn’t call what you did with Molitor as cheating….more along the lines of being creative. He did come up as a shortstop, so it makes sense.

  65. 65.  Here’s a link to a discussion on Baseball Think Factory today regarding a Tom Verducci article on Ortiz:


    As much as I love Ortiz, if he starts tailing off soon–and I wouldn’t be stunned if he did, given his huge, ungainly frame–he’ll fall short of Frank Thomas, who throughout the ’90s was putting up numbers that Jimmie Foxx would have been proud of.

  66. 66.  65 I think I would compare Ortiz to Sandy Koufax as far as HOF talk goes after reading the discussion you linked. Over the long haul, his numbers aren’t all that astounding until you look at the individual seasons and the accomplishments of those seasons. I think the fact that both of those players had these brief zenith moments while on World Series winning teams is what makes them so “feared.”

  67. 67.  I would think that Ortiz is closing in the greatest career by a player who was released, unless of couse Carlos Pena decides to follow suit.
    So Josh, can you come up with the greatest team of players who were released before they went on to become feared?
    May be a book in here somewhere
    1. Greatest team who served in Vietnam
    2. Greatest team who flew airplanes
    3. Greatest team to never win a world championship
    4. Greatest Steroid team – good luck with that.

    Anyway you get the picture.

  68. 68.  ToyCannon: Johnny Unitas

  69. 69.  Just reading through all the comments here – great stuff. Of course I have to point out that in addition to being teammates on Josh’s all-time switch hitting team in 41 , Ozzie and Eddie were teammates in high school.

  70. 70.  Toy Cannon, that’s a great question about players who were released before becoming great. One who comes to mind is Orlando Cepeda. He was released as a minor league player before eventually making his way up the Giants’ ladder.

    There must be a few others who qualify, as well.

  71. 71.  Another one is Luis Tiant, who was great both before and after being released (by the Braves, I believe).

  72. 72.  Dave Stewart:
    May 9, 1986: Released by the Philadelphia Phillies.
    May 23, 1986: Signed as a Free Agent with the Oakland Athletics.

  73. 73.  I agree that that is a great question about released guys. Nobody comes to mind, but there has to be more guys like that out there. I do seem to recall that Wade Boggs, during his long tenure in the minors, was put on waivers at one point, where he could have been claimed by any other team for a pittance.

  74. 74.  73 That’s sort of akin to Roberto Clemente being a Rule 5 pick. (Johan Santana, too, of course. I still rank Clemente ahead of Johan at this point in his career.)

  75. 75.  Does Eckstein count? Ducks

    I guess if we count rule 5 players then we can start with Johan Santana and Roberto Clemente and build one heck of a club from there. Won’t hurt to have a two time world champion starting SS on the team doing gut checks.

  76. 76.  72
    I always thought we’d traded Dave Stewart to Oakland. I have no recollection of his Philly career. He was one of my favorite Dodgers because of the awesome glare and the squeaky voice. Then he’d beat Roger in head to head battles for the A’s when I detested Roger.

    Now he speaks up for Kemp against Kent.

    Yup, Dave Stewart is still the man.

  77. 77.  Dazzy Vance was released by the Yankees at the end of 1919 (they had sent him down a year earlier). At that point he was a 28-year-old with a sore arm and zero major-league wins. In 1922 he resurfaced with the Dodgers and pitched his way into the Hall of Fame.

  78. 78.  I don’t know how I could have spaced on this one, but for some reason the Dazzy Vance story jogged my memory: Tim Wakefield was released by the Pirates in 1995; 154 major league wins and 2 world series rings later, and the knuckleball is still a-flutterin’.

  79. 79.  It’s not the same thing as being released, but the White Sox drafted a girl in the 43rd round of the 1993 draft. Six rounds later, they drafted Placido Polanco, who’s having a nice career.

  80. 80.  Most underrated player? Gene Pentz, obviously.

  81. 81.  I met Tommy Lasorda once and he told me that Reggie Smith was the most talented player he ever coached. I remember him saying that he was a real 5 tool player.

  82. I noticed several comments, nos. 33 and 70, were made by Bruce Markusen, the author of “Baseball’s Last Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Oakland A’s”. This is one of the best baseball books ever written especially for anyone in love with 1970’s baseball. Great stories on Catfish, Rollie, Vida, Reggie, and the rest of that successful and entertaining team.

    Also, this discussion was great. Almost every player mentioned as underrated brings to mind a decade’s worth of great memories, with the exception of the legendary Bill Sudakis.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: