50 MLB Superstars Who Weren't That Super
Becoming a superstar is not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be a title reserved for the very few players who are the best in baseball.
Whether due to longevity, steroids, postseason heroics or even because the media hyped a player up, there have been numerous times throughout Major League Baseball's history where a player gets way too much credit for his accomplishments.
In one way or another, every player on this list is overrated. They were thrust into super-stardom even though many of them had no business even being regarded as a star.
Here are 50 MLB superstars who weren't that super.
50. Charles Nagy
Charles Nagy went 129-103 during his 13 years as the staff ace of some very solid Cleveland Indians squads, which undoubtedly thrust his name into the spotlight.
During the Indians' reign of the AL Central in the mid to late '90s, Nagy won between 15 and 17 games each season. Of course, he also had one of the most potent offenses in the league to back up his career 4.51 ERA.
Nagy was nothing more than an average pitcher who pitched in front of a powerful offense.
49. Dock Ellis
Anyone who can pitch a no-hitter while tripping on LSD is definitely gifted, but that's the only reason Dock Ellis is even mentioned these days.
Ellis wasn't the superstar in which that one game made him out to be. He only made one All-Star appearance and averaged only 14 wins per season to go with his fairly average ERA-plus of 104.
48. Kosuke Fukodome
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Kosuke Fukodome immediately became Major League Baseball's next big thing after the Cubs paid him $48 million to come over from Japan.
He even hit a game-tying home run at Wrigley Field on opening day that season, making true believers out of Cubs fans.
That was the peak moment of Fukodome's tenure with the Cubs, hitting .262 with 37 home runs in 513 games with the team.
47. Joe Charboneau
We're always left wondering what could have been when we think of Joe Charboneau.
He blasted his way to stardom during his rookie season in 1980, hitting 23 long balls with 87 RBI to easily bring home Rookie of the Year honors.
Charboneau never even had the chance to have a sophomore slump, as a freak back injury ultimately ended his career the following spring.
What makes him overrated is the speculation as to how good he could have been if he hadn't been injured. We will never know, so we can bring his stardom down a notch.
46. Jason Bay
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Not only is Jason Bay one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball, but he can't hit for average and he was always the good player on a bad team until joining the Red Sox midway through the 2008 season.
Bay exploded in 2009, hitting 36 home runs with 119 RBI before testing free agency for the first time. Soon after, in a move they will long regret, the Mets made yet another horrible move by inking Bay to a massive deal.
45. Steve Avery
From 1991-93, Steve Avery more than held his own as the No. 4 starter behind Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in the Atlanta Braves rotation.
Since that trio was so dominant and the Braves were a contending team, Avery was tossed into the limelight with his teammates.
Outside of those three seasons, Avery was a less than mediocre pitcher with around a 5.00 ERA and an ERA-plus around 90.
44. Aaron Rowand
Aaron Rowand became a sensation after dozens of SportsCenter re-runs showed him breaking his face while snagging fly balls in center field.
It was no surprise that he signed a $60 million deal with the Giants after hitting .309 with 27 home runs with the Phillies in 2007. At the time, he was regarded as a late-blooming star ready to reach his peak.
Unfortunately for the Giants, that was not the case and they can't get their money back.
43. Lew Burdette
Aside from a few good seasons scattered throughout his 18-year career, Lew Burdette was really not even an average pitcher.
A stellar performance for the Braves during the 1957 World Series ultimately led to Burdette being overrated over the final 11 years of his career.
Burdette ended his career with a 3.66 ERA and a 99 ERA-plus. While he didn't walk many batters, he was always among the league leaders in hits allowed.
42. Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson was one of the best pure athletes in sports history, yet the aura surrounding his baseball accomplishments make him seem more like a baseball legend.
Jackson was famous for playing in both MLB and the NFL, which instantaneously gave him superstar status.
The fact is, all he was able to do on the diamond was muscle the ball out of the park whenever he actually made contact with the baseball. His strikeout rate was absurd and his batting average sat at only .250 for his career.
41. Ron Swoboda
Ron Swoboda was very highly regarded coming into his rookie season with the Mets in 1965, even hitting 19 home runs to look the part.
After a couple of dormant years that followed, Swoboda became an overnight hero for driving in the winning run in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series.
To this day, that is all he is known for. Of course, it's not a bad thing to be known as a World Series hero, but he was by no means the star he was made out to be.
40. J.D. Drew
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While Red Sox fans may try to convince themselves that J.D. is every bit of the superstar they thought they were getting when the team inked him to a five-year deal worth $70 million, the rest of the baseball world knows better.
The "superstar" has hit .264 with 80 home runs and only 285 RBI during those five seasons.
I guess $14 million per season is the going rate for a player who will give you 16 home runs and 48 RBI each year.
39. Ron Darling
Ron Darling was one of the most hyped pitching prospects of his time, almost like a Stephen Strasburg of the 1980s.
Darling never really panned out, but because of a stellar performance for the New York Mets during the 1986 World Series, the hype surrounding him never died.
He only lasted 13 years in Major League Baseball, ending his career with a dismal 95 ERA-plus.
38. Frank Tanana
People tend to look at Frank Tanana's 240 career wins in deciding he was a great pitcher without bothering to look at the loss column next to it that says 236.
Tanana made three All-Star appearances early in his career before spending the next 15 years wearing out the hype of the pitcher he used to be.
In 21 seasons, Tanana led the league in ERA once while retiring with a less than stellar 106 ERA-plus.
37. Mike Hampton
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Mike Hampton turned two good seasons into a massive free-agent deal with the Colorado Rockies, a deal that the Rockies sorely regret.
Hampton lasted only two seasons in Colorado before being shipped off to the Braves, where Hampton would fall victim to every injury known to mankind.
When it was all said and done, Hampton ended his career with a 4.06 ERA and 1.442 WHIP.
36. Orel Hershiser
After dominating opposing hitters from 1984-89—winning a Cy Young and going to three All-Star Games in the process—Orel Hershiser was nothing but an average pitcher at best.
He spent the next 11 seasons being completely mediocre, yet he never lost his status as a superstar.
35. David Wells
If throwing a perfect game while hungover makes someone a superstar, then David Wells fits the bill without question.
Other than that, Wells pitched to a 4.13 ERA over his 21-year career and made only three All-Star appearances.
Wells did manage to garner 20 wins on one occasion, but even then he had a 4.11 ERA.
34. Tim Wakefield
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I was shocked to see Red Sox fans trying to make a case for Tim Wakefield being a Hall of Famer earlier this season. That immediately speaks volumes as to how over-hyped he is as a pitcher.
Wakefield has less than a handful of stellar seasons during his 19-year career, boasting an ERA of 4.41 and an ERA-plus of just 105.
33. Gaylord Perry
There is no denying that Gaylord Perry was an above-average pitcher, but there isn't a whole lot of fact to backup all the praise he receives.
Perry reached 314 wins over his 22-year career, which happened to be at a time when pitchers would make 40-plus starts and pitch 300-plus innings every year.
The fact that Perry still only averaged 15 wins per season despite the extra workload has to tell ya something, doesn't it?
32. Kirk Gibson
Not to take credit away from some of the great moments he's cemented into baseball history, but Kirk Gibson was by no means a superstar-caliber player.
Gibson hit 255 home runs and batted .268 over a 17-year career, but he really only made noise in the playoffs.
It's easy to argue that his 1988 NL MVP Award wasn't even deserved, considering he led the league in no categories and posted only 25 home runs, 76 RBI and a .290 average.
31. Jack Morris
While something has to be said for a player who is consistently good over an 18-year career, Jack Morris was never great and therefore has no business being perceived as a superstar.
Morris averaged a 16-12 record with a 3.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in his career to settle in with an ERA-plus of only 105.
Anyone who thinks Morris deserves to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame clearly hasn't looked at his overall numbers.
30. Doug Drabek
After winning the Cy Young Award during the 1990 season, Doug Drabek was thought of as a Cy Young-caliber pitcher for the rest of his career.
First of all, the fact that he even took home the award is questionable at best and was in large part due to the presence of Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla in the Pirates lineup to provide him run support.
If you take that season away, Drabek turns into a guy who would give you 12 wins and a 3.90 ERA each season, not to mention his career ERA-plus stood at only 102.
29. Todd Helton
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I've always held Todd Helton in high regard, as he's stuck with the Colorado Rockies through just about everything.
It's undeniable, however, that Helton's career numbers have been inflated by playing his home games at the ultimate hitter-friendly park in Colorado.
His career slash-line at home is .354/.451/.620 along with 212 home runs, but on the road he's been a completely different player with a slash-line of .291/.391/.478 with 135 home runs.
I'm not saying he wouldn't have been an All-Star-caliber player on a different team, but he surely would never have achieved superstar status.
28. Chuck Finley
Chuck Finley became a star because he was always able to dominate on the biggest regular season stage in baseball—against the Yankees.
Finley only had two great seasons overall—1989 and 1990—but other than that he was the equivalent of a good No. 3 starter to most teams in baseball.
For some reason, however, he was always at his best when facing the Yankees, so naturally the New York media made him out to be better than he really was.
27. Phil Niekro
Bringing the knuckleball to Major League Baseball has garnered Phil Niekro way too much stardom.
Sure, he won 318 games during his career, but over a 24-year career that's only 14 wins per season. He also lost 274 games.
While Niekro won 20-plus games on three occasions, but he also lost that many twice and led the league in losses four times.
26. Joe Niekro
Just as his brother Phil, Joe Niekro was highly overrated if you consider his production on the mound. The duo have been the beneficiaries of being recognized as the best siblings to play the game.
On paper, however, Joe won 13 games per season over his 22-year career and made only one All-Star appearance. Even more telling is his career ERA-plus of 98.
25. Jason Giambi
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Jason Giambi is another huge product of baseball's steroid era, yet there's no denying he was one of the premier hitters in the league during a portion of his career.
After getting called-out for juicing early on with the Yankees, Giambi lost all ability to hit for a decent average. Without steroids, Giambi became a .250 hitter who strikes out a ton.
That's no superstar in my eyes, although I do respect him for coming clean, unlike most of the other players who were caught up.
24. Sammy Sosa
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Sammy Sosa may end up being the only member of the 600-home-run club to miss out on the Hall of Fame.
Sosa struggled to latch on anywhere from 1989-92, a time at which scouts thought he may be able to reach the 20-home-run plateau.
Then he moved to Wrigley where he averaged 30-35 home runs from 1993-97. An obvious spike, no doubt, but he could have gotten away with it had he stayed on that pace for the remainder of his career.
The next season, however, saw another large spike in Sosa's production when he began his streak of three 60-plus homer seasons in four years.
Without the juice and the home runs, Sosa was a .273 career hitter with more than 2,300 strikeouts.
23. Jose Canseco
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For pretty much claiming to have single-handedly juiced baseball, I'd expect a little bit more career production from Jose Canseco.
All he produced in return for shriveled up testes were three 40-home-run seasons and six seasons of 100-plus RBI. He also batted a paltry .266 over his 17-year career.
Canseco is the furthest thing from a superstar the game has ever seen, although that's partially because hindsight is 20/20.
22. Mark McGwire
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We can't have Jose Canseco on the list without having his Bash Brother alongside him.
Mark McGwire was horrible defensively at first base, he struck-out a lot and he hit only .263 throughout his career.
The one thing he could do was hit home runs, which McGwire did better than anyone during four of his 16 seasons in baseball. If McGwire didn't have steroids to thank for much of his success, he would be a true superstar.
21. Dave Stewart
Dave Stewart spent the first seven seasons of his career bouncing around from team to team while struggling to catch on.
Then, out of nowhere, Stewart won 20 or more games during each season from 1987-90 before falling off again for the last five seasons of his career.
How, exactly, does a career 100 ERA-plus while being a good pitcher during 25 percent of his time in the league make Stewart a superstar? It's simple—it doesn't.
20. Jorge Posada
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There is no denying that Jorge Posada had some good years in pinstripes, but most Yankees fans will talk about Jorge Posada like he was God's gift to the catching position. And really, just because every player in New York ends up being labeled a superstar, doesn't mean they deserve to be.
Posada has never been great defensively and he has been dreadful through 120 games in the postseason.
In reality, he is a .273 career-hitter who averaged about 16 home runs and 65 RBI per season.
19. Jason Varitek
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In no way am I undervaluing what Jason Varitek has meant to the Boston Red Sox's return to glory, because without a doubt he's been an integral part to their resurgence as a franchise.
However, Varitek was valuable to the Red Sox as a clubhouse leader and has been made into a superstar by his adoring fans.
Somewhere along the way, this made him a so called "superstar" in every baseball city west of Boston. Varitek has hit .256 for his career with less than 200 home runs and has never had more than 85 RBI in a season.
In fact, his career 98 OPS-plus and -0.7dWAR say he has been below average on both sides of the ball.
18. Joe Carter
Believe it or not, there is a reason Joe Carter is not in the Hall of Fame.
Yes, he hit one of the greatest home runs in Major League Baseball history to win the World Series for the Blue Jays in 1993. Other than that, Carter was your prototypical power-hitter with 25-30 home runs and a .259 average.
While his home run will live on forever, his superstar status should not.
17. Barry Zito
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Barry Zito turned one great Cy Young season into arguably the worst contract in Major League Baseball history.
After going 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 2002, Zito's performance took a drastic fall. He managed to get his ERA back down to the 3.80 range during his final seasons in Oakland, but for some ungodly reason the Giants thought he was worth a $126 million deal.
Zito has yet to reach a sub-4.00 ERA with San Francisco and wasn't even a part of the Giants' World Series run last season.
16. Alfonso Soriano
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As recently as last season, you could hear Cubs fans claiming that Alfonso Soriano was a 40-home-run, 40-stolen-base threat.
Talk about living in the past.
How smart of a move was it by the Yankees to trade away Soriano after his breakout seasons in 2002-03?
Sure, Soriano still has useful power and he can drive in runs, but for years he was so over-hyped based on numbers from his past that he'd never reach again.
15. Don Mattingly
Don Mattingly was the best player on the Yankees during one of the rather forgettable periods of the franchise, so of course the New York media made Donnie Baseball a superstar.
Mattingly did win the AL MVP in 1985, but that was far and away the best season of his career.
The Yankees didn't make the playoffs until Mattingly's final season and he really wasn't much of a factor in getting them there.
14. Carl Yastrzemski
Carl Yastrzemski had three seasons launch him into superstar status, a place in which he did not belong.
Yaz hit 40-plus home runs three times from 1967-70, but other than that he never once even reached the 30-home-run mark.
During his 23-year career, he broke 100 RBI only fives times while batting above .300 only six times. In reality, Yaz was a 22-home-run, 90 RBI and .286-average kind of player.
Good? Yes. Superstar? No.
13. Ken Caminiti
Ken Caminiti's 1996 season launched him into superstardom. He slugged 40 home runs with 130 RBI en route to winning the NL MVP Award.
Unfortunately, those numbers were solely the product of steroids—as Caminiti never reached those numbers before or after his magical 1996 season. In fact, that was the only time Caminiti hit 30-plus home runs, had 100 RBI or scored 100 runs during his entire 15-year career.
12. Hideo Nomo
Every baseball fan will always remember Hideo Nomo. Not for his dominance on the mound, but because of his quirky windup and delivery.
Nomo was the biggest thing in baseball when he debuted with the Dodgers in 1995, going 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA and bringing home Rookie of the Year honors.
Opposing hitters soon caught on to Nomo's approach and he was never the same pitcher, aside from two good seasons almost 10 years later. For some reason, people seem to forget his eight dreadful seasons while focusing solely on his few good seasons.
11. Pee Wee Reese
The fact that Pee Wee Reese is in the Hall of Fame is mind-boggling.
Reese was adored by Brooklyn Dodgers fans, who turned him into an undeserved superstar. He was horrible with a bat in his hands, represented by his .269 career average and 98 OPS-plus.
He was known more for his apparent stellar glove work at shortstop, but Reese compiled only a 10.6 dWAR over his 16-year career. That is good, of course, but it is not star quality and by no means Hall of Fame worthy.
10. Brady Anderson
Brady Anderson is probably the most notable one-year wonder to come from the steroid era.
In 1996, Anderson slugged 50 home runs to put his name on the map in a huge way, but that's about all he did during his 15-year career. He hit 160 total home runs during the other 14 years.
Clearly MVP voters weren't as enthralled with Anderson's season as fans were, as his 50 home runs only got him ninth in MVP voting that season.
9. Phil Rizzuto
Phil Rizzuto had a great glove at shortstop, but by no means was he a Hall of Fame-caliber player.
Rizzuto hit .273 with only 38 home runs during his 13-year run in the Bronx, accumulating an OPS-plus of only 93. He is only famous because he was fortunate enough to ride the coattails of guys like Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle throughout his career.
If Rizzuto had played for any other team aside from the Yankees, I would bet that no one would even know who he is at this point.
8. Jack Clark
Jack Clark is given much more credit than he really deserves. To my surprise, some even believe Clark should be in baseball's Hall of Fame.
During his 18-year career, Clark surpassed 30 home runs only one time and broke the 100 RBI mark only twice. He also ended his career with a less than stellar .267 batting average.
I'm surprised Clark managed to make four All-Star games, let alone be considered for the Hall of Fame.
7. Denny McLain
If two dominant seasons in a short 10-year career makes someone a superstar, then by all means Denny McLain was an icon. Unfortunately, two great seasons is not enough and therefore McLain is very overrated.
In 1968-69, McLain combined to go 55-15 while winning two Cy Young Awards and one MVP award with the Detroit Tigers.
If you take out those two seasons, McLain—who's the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season—went 76-76 with an ERA around 4.00.
6. Scott Brosius
Over 11 seasons split between the Oakland A's and the New York Yankees, Scott Brosius hit .257 with 141 home runs. That doesn't seem very superstar-ish to me.
Brosius was thrust into apparent greatness because of postseason heroics. Whenever Brosius managed to make contact in the postseason—which his .245 postseason average proves was not that often—it happened to go out of the ballpark.
Brosius did hit four home runs with a .314 average in four World Series appearances, but other than that he was nothing more than a good platoon player at best.
5. Darryl Strawberry
Realistically, Darryl Strawberry was "the star that almost was," but playing the early part of his career in New York vaulted him into the limelight.
The only part of Strawberry's game that was worthwhile was his ability to hit the long ball, but he still only reached 30-plus home runs three times and garnered 100 RBI only three times.
Strawberry's career batting average sat at a mere .259, reminding me more of a player like Adam Dunn—a good power-hitter but not a superstar.
4. Don Sutton
Don Sutton was by all means a solid major league pitcher, yet I'm not convinced he's even deserving of his spot in the Hall of Fame.
Sutton reached 20 wins only one time in his career, while leading the league in ERA only one time as well.
During eight of the 23 years Sutton was in baseball, his ERA-plus was below 100, making him a below-average pitcher. His 108 career ERA-plus doesn't say much either.
Sutton was a beneficiary of playing on some great Dodgers squads during his prime, yet he faltered when it mattered most, going 2-3 with a 5.26 ERA in eight World Series starts.
3. Bucky Dent
This one is too easy.
I began hearing the lore of Bucky "Bleeping" Dent as a young boy, thinking he must have been one of the greatest baseball players ever.
Little did I know it was all because of one unexpected home run at the most improbable of moments, giving the Yanks the victory over the Red Sox and a trip to the 1978 World Series.
Dent hit over .270 only once and never even managed to hit 10 home runs in a season.
2. Roger Maris
While Roger Maris won back-to-back MVP Awards during his first two seasons with the Yankees in 1960-61, he is most remembered for his magical 61-home-run campaign to break Babe Ruth's single-season record.
Outside of those two seasons, Maris reached the 30-home-run mark only one other time and was a .260 career hitter.
Even though Maris battled injuries during the latter part of his tenure with the Yankees, he was no doubt a beneficiary of being in a stacked lineup alongside Mickey Mantle.
1. Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan was a good pitcher and he's deserving of his spot in the Hall of Fame, regardless of whether some of his records were set due to longevity.
For all of the credit Ryan is given for his career numbers, I find it hard to call a player a "superstar" who broke 20 wins only twice during his 27-year career and never won a Cy Young Award.
Ryan was great at striking opposing hitters out, but that was about it. He was never considered to be the best pitcher in baseball during any particular season and his career ERA-plus sat at an unspectacular 112.