What if I were to tell you that I’ve found the one book that needs to be in pretty much every bar in America? The book I’m referring to is The Stark Truth: The most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History, by Jayson Stark. How many times have you been at a bar with a buddy and instead of spending the night slipping roofies into drinks you get into an argument about who was the best power hitting right fielder? If you answered “all the time,” then this book is perfect for you.
ESPN analyst Jason Stark gives an in depth look as to why he considers some of the top players in baseball history as either glorified or underestimated. He looks at basic statistics (such as ERA and batting average), but also analyzes teams that players played for and against. The book’s rankings are based entirely on the author’s opinion. Its purpose is to incite thought and debate amongst fans. And if there is one thing that baseball fans like more than their team signing a Cuban refugee into the starting rotation, it’s arguing nonstop about the players that make this game great.
Die hard fans will love the controversial rankings and the reasons behind them. Readers will find themselves singing the praises of the author on one page and wishing that he is suffers a corneal abrasion the next.
For example, the book immediately names Nolan Ryan as the most overrated right handed pitcher. Something I completely agree with. He was a great pitcher, but he walked everyone. Actually, he caused so many people to walk, that medical researchers once asked him to pitch to Stephen Hawking.
In the very next chapter, he argues that Sandy Koufax is the most overrated left handed pitcher. This is both sacrilegious and unacceptable. The man threw the best curve ball in history and has the numbers to prove his dominance.
Arguments like those are what will make this quick and entertaining read a hit with baseball fans. Sure, it’s not the writing of Bill James or Peter Gammons, but Stark’s brand of wit and oddball humor will surely make up for that.