The time-honored “Knucksie” Niekro was known for his unorthodox knuckleball pitch. And he utilized it for a very, very long time. Niekro ultimately played 24 seasons in MLB. He appeared in five All-Star games and took home five Gold Glove awards as well. He led the MLB in ERA in 1967 and in strikeouts in 1977. His longevity was truly a marvel and one of the main reasons he reached 318 total wins in his career. Niekro even won 121 games after the age of 40, still an MLB record.
However, he also lost 274 games as well, putting his career win percentage at barely over .500. Putting that in further perspective, he only lost fewer than double-digit games three times throughout his career of 24 years. Simply put, he’s overrated.
On paper, Strawberry had some incredibly strong seasons with the Mets early in his career. He won a World Series title in 1986 and became one of the most popular players in baseball. He’s an eight-time All-Star whose numbers were decent enough, as he hit 335 home runs with 1,000 RBI.
Based on his talent, however, Strawberry could’ve accomplished much more. He was known as a confrontational player who often argued with managers and/or other players. It got to the point he would even threaten to physically assault them. Perhaps that was a symptom of Strawberry’s cocaine use, which was considered to hinder his career significantly. The 1988 National League home run leader went through a down period in the early 1990s playing for the Dodgers and Giants.
He was unable to put together full seasons of solid production. Although Strawberry had a late-career resurgence with the New York Yankees where he won three World Series titles, his overall body of work could have been so much better. He was once rated as one of the best, yet much of that was squandered.
Clark was a big-time slugger who could do little else. He did smash 340 home runs and 1,180 RBI in his career but only hit .267. He played 18 seasons but only made the All-Star Game four times in that span, a testament to the inconsistent nature of his career.
Clark had a few huge seasons for the Giants early on. His best years were with the Cardinals from 1985-1987. Clark then moved on to the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, and Boston Red Sox. He was never even close to able to recreate the sparse few good years he had.
Dunn is another power slugger who was often regarded as one of the most fearsome home run hitters of his era. Indeed, he belted 462 homers with 1,168 RBI during his 14-year career. However, he has a ridiculous .237 career batting average. Dunn was only a two-time All-Star in those 14 seasons as well.
Dunn owns the single-season record for most strikeouts with 222. When he retired in 2014, was third in total strikeouts in MLB history. A one-trick pony if there ever was one. Dunn’s reputation as a power slugger may have been surpassed by his reputation as a strikeout machine.
McLain is a unique case from a throwback era. He was once one of the most effective pitchers in all of baseball. He was so good, in fact, that he won 31 games during the 1968 season, leading his Detroit Tigers to the World Series title. McLain was not surprisingly their MVP. The wins are a number that may not be reached ever again by an MLB starting pitcher.
However, his career soon went off the rails in more ways than one. McLain became embroiled in a host of legal troubles MLB suspended him for being in league with nefarious gamblers, and he was later convicted of racketeering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. When he came back from his suspension he was nowhere near the player he once was. He went 10-22 as a starter in 1970 as proof. Another waste of talent despite his Cy Young-winning 1968 season. He had the talent to be great, but let off-the-field troubles sap that from him.
Giambi was a five-time All-Star who reached his peak when he won the 2000 American League MVP. That year, he hit .333 with 43 homers and 137 RBI. The following year he posted similar numbers but only narrowly failed to win the MVP award. Giambi was one of the hottest names in baseball at that time. He parlayed that popularity into a massive seven-year deal with the New York Yankees.
As has become a trend with several big Yankees signings, Giambi seemed to become injury prone when he joined the club. Despite a hot start, his averages soon took a dive off a cliff. He was later named in the infamous BALCO scandal involving trainer Greg Anderson. Giambi testified in front of a grand jury, where he admitted he had used many steroids and PEDS including HGH. In doing so, Giambi immediately became overrated like many steroid abusers on this list.
Another famous Yankee to make this list, Mattingly, or “Donnie Baseball,” put up some solid numbers in his career. He hit .307 with 22 home runs and 1,099 RBI, ending with 2,153 total hits. He had some great years early in his career with the Yankees.
Overall, his offensive prowess just didn’t translate to on-field success for those Yankees teams. For a franchise known for winning World Series titles, that just wasn’t even close to the results they were looking for. New York did love Mattingly, but his late career was marred by inconsistency and his single trip to the playoffs. A very solid Yankee no doubt, but not the legend that some rank him as.
Sure, “Mr. October” delivered when it counted in the postseason. For that, he deserves his spot in baseball lore. His World Series performances were truly the stuff of legends. Jackson had some decent counting stats in his career, with 2,584 hits, 563 home runs, and 1,702 RBI. But it took him 21 years to get all of those, and he only hit a paltry .262.
In those 21 seasons, he had 100 or more strikeouts 19 times. On the flip side, Jackson somehow only eclipsed 100 runs in a single season one time in his entire career. In the field, he wasn’t respected as one of the most effective, to say the least. Jackson was a World Series slugger unlike any other we’ve ever seen. He’s also an overrated player who benefited mainly from isolated postseason accomplishments nonetheless.
Some, perhaps even many, revere Ryan as one of the most powerful, fire-balling strikeout artists to ever set foot on the mound. And it’s hard to doubt that opinion, as he still holds the record for most strikeouts in MLB history with 5,714.
Ryan played an unreal 27 seasons to get them. But like many others on this list before him, he was somewhat one-dimensional as a pitcher. His 324-292 overall record resulted in a somewhat lackluster .524 winning percentage. His career ERA was 3.19, not bad, but not the stuff of legends. Ryan is certainly considered to be up in that status. He led the league in strikeouts 11 times but somehow never won a Cy Young award. It’s kind of surprising to learn that Ryan only made 8 All-Star Games in 27 years. He is the all-time leader in no-hitters with seven. So while he could mow down batters at insane clips, Ryan was a bit paradoxical as a pitcher. He probably could have won quite a few more games and is overrated as a result.
Carter enjoyed a 16-season career with five teams where he hit 396 home runs and drove in 1,445 runs. He had 2,184 total hits, not an amazing number but certainly not bad. But he only hit .259 overall, not exactly a Hall of Fame batting average.
Some baseball metrics claim Carter is the most overrated player in MLB history. While those stats may or may not hold weight, the fact of the matter is that Carter was largely remembered for one single home run. He won a second straight World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 with a walk-off homer, immediately cementing his place in baseball history. Carter was certainly a big part of those impressive runs for Toronto, and they were great. But overall, he’s more well-known for that one huge hit than his entire career of achievement.
McGwire was a monstrous presence who captivated the nation throughout his legendary chase of Roger Maris’ home run record during the fateful summer of 1998. He ultimately broke the record of 61 by hitting 70 that season. It was a record that would stand for a mere three years. All told, McGwire hit 583 home runs and batted in 1,414 runs throughout his career. “Big Mac” also owns the Major League Baseball record for the best at-bats per home run ratio with 10.61. By comparison, Babe Ruth, the closest player, hit a home run every 11.76 at-bats.
But it is largely all for naught. McGwire ultimately admitted to using steroids for a large part of his career in 2010. He became one of the most pointed-at figures during the PED scandals that put an asterisk on essentially that entire era of baseball. McGwire has not been yet been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite being the fastest player to hit 500 home runs. It’s unknown if he ever will. Overall, you just can’t respect his stats as legitimate.
Zito came out smoking hot when the Oakland Athletics drafted him out of the University of Southern California in 1999. He picked up the MLB game quickly, going an astonishing 23-5 in 2002 to win the American League Cy Young.
He made the All-Star team again in 2003 and a third time in 2006, persuading the San Francisco Giants to reward him with a seven-year contract worth $126 million. There’s not much else to say other than Zito’s play dropped off a cliff after that. He ended his career with a subpar 165-143 record and a lofty 4.04 ERA. Zito did help the Giants win the 2012 World Series, but he is still one of the most overrated – and overpaid – starting pitchers in MLB history.
Maris held one of baseball’s most hallowed records for many years with his 61 round-trips in 1961. He was the AL MVP that year and the previous year of 1960. Other than that, however, other players on the New York Yankees largely overshadowed him.
Maris was a career .260 hitter, not a number that matches his legendary status. He led the American League in home runs in 1961, of course, and in RBI in both 1960 and 1961. Outside of those two magical years, Maris failed to put many relevant numbers on paper. Injuries slowed him during multiple seasons as well. Maris did make seven All-Star Games and win three World Series titles. He ended his career with 275 home runs and 850 RBI. Not bad at all, but definitely underwhelming based on how much Maris is talked about as another legendary Yankee.