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Monday, June 23, 2003
Updated: June 30, 5:17 PM ET
The List: Most overrated athletes

By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff

As those MLB All-Star ballots roll in, we couldn't help but ponder the mystery: Why do so many fans think Ivan Rodriguez is the best catcher in the NL? Why is Paul Lo Duca not even among the top five vote getters? Obviously, Lo Duca is underrated. And I-Rod is overrated.

But there are a lot of athletes in sports today who are much more overrated than I-Rod. Here are the Top 10 whose reputations most exceed them.

Vince Carter
Vinsanity has had trouble staying healthy the past two seasons.

1. Vince Carter
The second coming of Michael Jordan? Not quite. To quote one ESPN editor who's seen this country through a bagful of undeclared wars, "Vince Carter is the most overrated athlete of my lifetime."

2. Mike Tyson
Ten heavyweights we'd take over Tyson:

Muhammad Ali
Joe Frazier
George Foreman
Larry Holmes
Joe Louis
Rocky Marciano
Sonny Liston
Jack Johnson
Gene Tunney
Jack Dempsey

3. Derek Jeter
What's the deal with Steinbrenner asking Jeter, in that Visa commercial, how he can afford his nights on the town? George, you pay the man. Or, we should say, overpay ($19 million a year through 2010). Jeter's good. Very good. Probable Hall of Famer. But his performance has declined every year since 1999, and he's only the fourth-best shortstop in the AL. Defensively? Adequate, at best, as Rob Neyer explains here.

4. All closers
What does it take to make an "excellent" closer? Give a half-decent pitcher the ball, a lead of up to three runs, nobody on base, and only one inning to pitch every two or three days. He'll rack up dozens of "saves" and be called "one of the best closers" and reap millions in rewards.

As one GM told Peter Gammons, "There are about three closers who really make a difference in the game. Otherwise, the notion of paying an Armando Benitez or Robb Nen $6.7 million to $8.8 million is outdated and silly."

Darin Erstad
Darin Erstad is expected to play first base for the Angels in 2004.

5. Darin Erstad
Erstad had one great season in his career, and many poor-to-fair seasons. He may contribute the "intangibles," but the Angels center fielder is the worst-hitting regular center fielder in the AL, and near the bottom among all outfielders. During the 2002 World Series, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "We have some guys who can hit the ball out of the park, but predominantly we're a club that does battle at the plate and moves runners along, and it's been successful for us this year." Erstad wasn't one of the guys who could hit the ball out of the park (19 homers total in 2001 and 2002), and he wasn't one of the runners who got moved along (terrible .313 on-base percentage in 2002). One great season does not a great (or even good) player make.

6. David Duval and Phil Mickelson
How many majors have the two won between them? Mickelson: 0 (in 44 tries). Duval: 1 (in nine years on the PGA). One reason Tiger's been so incredibly dominant: Duval and Mickelson can't touch him. If we're looking for someone to challenge Woods, it's way past the time to start looking elsewhere.

7. Antoine Walker
A friend's e-mail said, simply, "Check out that shooting percentage!" So we did. And, wow. He's the worst shooter in the NBA among players who averaged at least 8 points per game. Lowest field-goal percentage (.388). Unfortunately, only five players in the league put the ball up more. Walker was also among the worst 3-point shooters, which begs the question of why he attempted a whopping 582 3-pointers last season. And here's the topper: Shaq shot better from the charity stripe than Walker.

Jake Plummer
Jake the Snake will get a chance to prove how overrated he is with the Broncos.

8. Jake Plummer
Career passer rating: 69.0. Career TD passes: 90. Career INTs: 112. Sure, he played in the football wasteland that is Arizona, but that's no excuse: Plummer did nothing to elevate the Cardinals. That's what a good QB is supposed to do. But Plummer's not good. There's no evidence to suggest he is. So, the question remains: Why did the Broncos give Plummer a $7 million bonus to sign with them as a free agent?

9. Pavel Bure
The Russian Rocket? For years he's been struggling even more than the Russian space program. And he comes at a higher price.

10. Chris Webber
Doesn't battle it out under the basket. Averages 60 games per season. Hasn't done what it takes to move from "very good" to "great." It's all been said before, and it's all true. Page 2's Charley Rosen, who's forgotten more about basketball than we'll ever know, once ran through a list of the league's clutch players. Was C-Webb in there? You bet. As a "decoy." Ouch.

Also receiving votes: Jerry Stackhouse
Oscar de la Hoya
Andy Roddick
Tony Stewart
Ben Wallace
David Beckham
Alfonso Soriano
Johnny Damon
Eric Lindros