A first-rate topic
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com is out with a book about the most overrated and underrated baseball players of all time, which sounds like the beginning of a cottage industry to me.

Soon to follow: "The Stark Truth 2.0: Guys Who Were Underrated Before Everybody Who Read My Book Discovered Who They Are. Now They're Overrated." "The Stark Truth 3.0: Lots of Guys Can Go From Underrated to Overrated in a Hurry, But Never The Other Way Around. What's Up With That?" "The Stark Truth 4.0: I Didn't Have Time For a New Overrated List This Time, So I'm Just Writing About Everybody on the Yankees Roster."

Stark is doing a lot of promotional work for his book. At this rate, his book will be overrated some time in mid-June. Friday, he discusses on ESPN.com his picks for the most overrated players in the game today.

By reading the column, Dodgers fans will feel a little better about how the J.D. Drew deal went down. Instead of owning two of the top four overrated players in the game today, the Dodgers now only have No. 4, Juan Pierre.

Of Pierre, Stark writes: "Speed guys aren't automatically overrated. (See Reyes, Jose, for more details.) But for years now, we've been getting way too worked up about players whose mere ability to bring their legs with them to first base can make a pitcher want to call his therapist between pitches.

"And that brings us to Pierre, a fellow so likable, it pains me to put him on this list. How can you not like a guy who loves baseball so much, he beats the grounds crew to the ballpark?

"But I've been listening to GMs (mostly American League GMs) gripe for so long that Pierre is as overrated as any player in baseball, I'm finally ready to concede. . . .

"Leadoff hitters with .303 on-base percentages, who are on pace to walk 31 times in 748 trips to the plate -- i.e., the Juan Pierre presently playing out the first season of his five-year, $44 million contract with the Dodgers -- they're overrated. When Pierre reaches first in the late innings of a close game, he's still a game-changer. But think how much more often he would reach first if he actually walked three times a week instead of once."

It could be worse, Dodgers fans. The Dodgers could still have Drew, who is ranked No. 2 (behind Barry Zito) by Stark.

"Let's just say this guy is really fortunate the Red Sox's great start has obscured his messy .169 average since April 21," Stark says of Drew. "Because so far, the occupants of Fenway have been shockingly patient with him."

Caveat emptor: Stark ranks Sandy Koufax as the No. 1 most overrated left-handed starting pitcher in history.* (*Borders and Barnes & Noble now offering large blocks of salt with every book purchase.)

"Sandy Koufax, overrated."

It's tough to leave that one out there without elaboration, twisting, like a big fat Dodger blue piñata being surrounded by rather miffed bat-wielding Dodgers supporters.

Outrageous opinions, of course, are a quick, easy and time-tested way to sell books. Stark loads up on them like Gaylord Perry at a slippery elm-pine tar-Vaseline condiments bar -- Nolan Ryan is the most overrated right-handed starter of all-time, Steve Garvey the most overrated first baseman, Lee Smith the most overrated relief pitcher . . . you can see where he's going with this.

You could put together a fairly fabled All-Time All-Freeway Series All-Overrated Team from Stark's selections: RHP: Ryan.

LHP: Koufax.

RP: Smith.

C: Charles Johnson (No. 4 most overrated catcher).

1B: Garvey.