Sports fans are forever coming up with lists. The top ten hitters of all time. The ten best QB’s of the 1990’s. The worst free agent signings since 1975. The best pizza toppings. On and on it goes. Rankings can be fun, rankings can be boring. The important thing is that each of us has a list and for the most part they are not wrong unless Rey Ordonez was at one time higher on your SS list than Derek Jeter. You are disqualified from this and any future discussions.
This blog will also comprise a list from time to time of a certain topic. Today’s edition will be the first of many posts that may start some debates, end some others and prove once and for all that lists can be a great conversation starter for the shy and socially awkward. Without further adieu, I present the three most underappreciated players of the last 30 years. Why three? Five and Ten are always used and besides, these three guys popped into my head immediately.
3. When baseball fans think of all time great Red Sox players, the name Dwight Evans usually is overlooked. Boy is that a mistake. “Dewey” hit 385 home runs with almost 1,400 RBI’s. He hit 30 or more homers in a season three times and knocked in 100+ runs four seasons. His 256 home runs from 1980-1989 was tops in the American League for that period. In addition to his bat, he also was a stellar Right Fielder with a cannon for an arm. Take a look at his famous catch and throw in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Evans also owns a record that will never be broken. He hit a home run on the very first pitch of the 1986 season. He even had a cameo in the 2011 movie “Hall Pass”. While he is not expected to make the Hall of Fame, Dwight Evans surely was one of the best players of his time.
2. It is stunning that a player who had over 2,700 career hits, was an MVP, finished in the top 5 for MVP four other seasons and earned three Gold Gloves never garnered more than 24% for the Hall of Fame ballot. Yet, that is the case of “The Cobra” Dave Parker. If Willie Stargell was the heart of the 1979 World Champion Pirates, then Parker was its meat and potatoes, batting .310 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI’s one year after winning the National League MVP. That same season he uncorked one of the most famous throws in recent memory at the 1979 All Star game. Later in his career, he helped lead the A’s to the 1989 World Series Championship. Unfortunately, his legacy is tarnished by his involvement in the 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials which spotlighted his heavy cocaine use. It is sad that this incident has hung over the fine 18 year career of Dave Parker.
1. Usually guys that lead their league in a prime offensive category four times during the course of their careers have a certain amount of notoriety. That is not the case of the “Mad Dog”, Bill Madlock. Madlock won the National League batting crown four times (1975, 1976, 1981 and 1983) over the course of a 15 year career. The players that have won more batting titles than Madlock like Ted Williams, Ty Cob and Stan Musial are all legendary names in baseball history. Even Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew are all first ballot Hall of Famers. Madlock nearly won a fifth batting title in 1982 losing out to Al Oliver. Think about it, a guy who finished in the top five in batting average five times and was a three-time All Star only topped out at 4% of the Hall of Fame vote! I get it, his stats are dwarfed by George Brett and Mike Schmidt, perhaps the two greatest third basemen ever who played during his time. I am not stumping for the Mad Dog for Cooperstown but I would like him to be mentioned as one of the best hitters of his generation.
To be continued….