Remember last fall, when that recording leaked of Ron Washington delivering a pre-game speech in the World Series? That was a pretty big deal, as irrelevant deals are concerned. The Rangers investigated the matter and said publicizing something like that was "unacceptable." Perfectly understandable response from the Rangers. But the public just ate that recording up. Even though I'm pretty sure every sports fan in America already had a pretty good idea what a pre-game speech before a championship game sounds like, to actually have one, and to be able to listen to it over and over -- that was unfiltered honesty, right from a manager's mouth.
It's terrific when you can hear a manager or a player be honest, because the nuggets of actual honesty are so few and far between. It's not like this is limited to baseball, or sports; you might be surprised by how infrequently you share the whole truth. But baseball people are constantly being asked questions, and they're constantly answering them carefully, because they don't want their answers to come back to them. Generally, they don't want to deal with drama, and generally, they don't want to piss people off.
So when you read a quote on a topic that's even the least bit controversial, far more often than not you'd have been better off not reading the quote at all. You'll seldom gain anything. But if you're looking to get players to be honest, Sports Illustrated has stumbled upon a promising solution -- anonymous polls.
SI has been running players polls for years, and I love them to bits. Not because I come away having learned something extraordinary, but because I come away having learned how players actually feel. It's refreshing, and you can see where your opinions and the players' opinions match up, and where they might differ.
Here's an example of where they might differ. A screenshot from the OCR:
SI surveyed 271 players, sometime recently, and ten percent of those players selected Michael Young as the most underrated position player in baseball. In second is Howie Kendrick, all the way down at four percent.
You have to wonder about the specific wording of the question on the survey. Were players asked to name the most underrated position player in baseball, or were they asked a question in different words? Underrated by whom? We don't know how many details were or were not involved in asking the question.
But even given that, I find it fascinating that there's a prevalent sentiment within the game that Michael Young is underrated. I'm not saying that because I personally think Young is overrated; players were asked about their feelings, and they answered with their feelings. They can't be wrong. But who is it that they think underrates Young? This can't just be about statheads, because statheads have long loved Shin-Soo Choo, who was voted the most underrated player in baseball in a survey a year ago. Do they believe Young is underrated by the media? My own feeling is that Young gets plenty of attention from the media. Perhaps too much of it. He's always been one of the faces of that team, and the community at Lone Star Ball jokingly refers to him as Face.
I don't know why players think that Michael Young is underrated, but a plurality of them does. Choo is evidently considered far less underrated than he was a year ago, but he also had a down season in 2011 and perhaps players are aware of that. I'm guessing that players feel like Young doesn't get enough credit for his consistency, versatility, and leadership. I'm not certain why they feel that way, but the feeling exists and therefore is valid.
As long as we're messing around with SI players polls, there were two other recent ones. Players voted on the most underrated pitcher, and they voted on the most overrated pitcher. It's hard to disagree with the selection of Matt Cain as the most underrated, given that he's long been effective and long been in Tim Lincecum's diminutive shadow. Doug Fister, also, makes plenty of sense at No. 2, and really I don't have a problem with any of the pitchers selected. Don't know how Felix Hernandez could be considered underrated, but by the No. 10 slot we're dealing with very few votes overall.
I do think it's interesting that C.J. Wilson was chosen as the most overrated pitcher. He was excellent out of the bullpen, and he's posted a 144 ERA+ since moving into the rotation in 2010. My feeling is that Wilson is actually underrated, but maybe I feel like Wilson is underrated by different people than the players think overrate him. This is so very subjective, and maybe players just feel like Wilson gets too much attention for being talkative and readily accessible. Maybe players just feel like Wilson is a douche.
John Lackey's a weird overrated pitcher selection at No. 4, since I think people universally consider him terrible now, and I can't even begin to understand Stephen Strasburg at No. 9 since Strasburg is virtually flaweless. Again though, how many votes did Strasburg actually get? Probably very very few, such that it's not worth wondering why he's on the list.
There's not a whole lot to gain from MLB players polls. The results aren't going to change the way you think about baseball. But the anonymous polls provide a rare opportunity for players to share the way they really, truly feel about something, and without those polls, would we know that A.J. Pierzynski is considered the meanest player in the game? I mean, probably, yeah, but it's nice to get confirmation. What a dick.