Let's Declare a Moratorium on Calling People Overrated

It is time to put an end to these meaningless debates

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Another award for A-Rod!

    Somewhere near the top of the long list of discussions that eternally crop up among sports fans is the one centered on whether Player X is overrated or underrated.

    It is also one of the silliest discussions. Given some of the arguments that have left two fans red in the face and spitting mad at one another, that is really saying something.

    There's no universal rating system, of course, and that means that there's no real way for two people to look at a person in the same exact way. There are a multitude of biases, preferences and nitpicks that affect one's assessment of a player and those things will never be the same for two people.

    Not that we really seem to mind. We throw the terms around with the certainty of a researcher who has spent dozens of years in the field even though we are really just revealing whether we like or dislike said player more than the world at large.

    All in all that's not such a big deal because we need something to kill the time between pizza dates between Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. It takes on a different bent when these kinds of silly arguments find their way into print.

    Columnists and pundits are fond of throwing those words around until they create some kind of critical mass that winds up with a player called underrated so often that they have their perceived value blown wildly out of proportion to their actual performance. That brings us to this week's Sports Illustrated.

    In an annual rite, the magazine polled a group of players to find out who they thought were the most overrated players in baseball. The results found three Yankees in the top three spots which is funny because none of the three is actually overrated.

    Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain and Derek Jeter are all some combination of overpaid, overexposed and overhyped, but their actual playing abilities are pretty well represented. You might say that a player's salary represents his rating, but the existence of long-term deals pretty much eliminates that argument. 

    Rodriguez is a slipping but still dangerous hitter while Chamberlain is a middle reliever trying to prove he can be a reliable bridge to Mariano Rivera. No one argues these points, which makes it hard to understand how either guy can be overrated. 

    Even Jeter's most ardent supporters now admit that the player is close to the end of his career. He's still paid like a huge star, but you can't find more than a few people who actually consider him to be one on the field.

    This isn't just a Yankee thing. The other two players in the top five -- Jayson Werth and Jonathan Papelbon -- fit right in alongside the three Yankees. Werth is overpaid and Papelbon is overhyped because he plays in Boston, but no one who pays attention thinks they are anything more than the players they actually are on the field.

    A-Rod and Joba both laughed off the poll results when informed of them after Tuesday's game. Jeter predictably took the shot at his profile a little bit more seriously, but one hopes he doesn't really care about something as silly as this.

    In the end, calling someone overrated or underrated is just a weak shorthand for trying to make a larger point without exposing the biases that provide the underpinning for the opinion. They tell us nothing while people use them as if they explain everything.

    That's problematic and it is probably a good sign that we should all stop using them as soon as possible. 

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.