The fourth edition of the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language defines je ne sais quoi as "a quality or attribute that is difficult to describe or express."
When looking for the most overrated players in the majors, that French phrase seems pretty appropriate. What does overrated mean, anyway? Just a notable underachiever? Or simply a player who's grossly overpaid, given how well he's currently playing? Or a chronic slacker, who has reached a certain level but shows no ambition to take his game to a higher level?
Or maybe a fan favorite whose reputation is greater than his actual talent? A player whose skills are overestimated by his teammates and opponents? Possibly a star who regularly receives lavish praise from broadcasters despite his lack of production?
Starting pitcher: Kerry Wood
The field of overrated pitchers is crowded – with marginally talented southpaws having more lives than a black cat that was the favorite pet of Dorian Gray. One pitcher stands out, though: Kerry Wood. After seven years in the majors, Wood's reputation as a dominant pitcher is still 90 percent-based on his overpowering stuff while his underwhelming results are largely ignored. The Cubs right-hander has won an average of less than 10 games per year since making his big-league debut despite average run support. He has led the NL only once in strikeout, in 2003; he's logged 175 innings or more only twice. Wood's fabled 20K one-hitter in 1998 was due as much to a strike zone as wide as a Hummer as it was due to his electrifying stuff. To truly become an ace, Wood needs to use his changeup more and develop at least average control.
Gary Gillette is the editor of the 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia. Gary can be reached via e-mail at mailto:GGillette@247Baseball.com