Underrated Player: Rich Aurilia

His glove work, his bat, his leadership... Rich Aurilia is no doubt an important player to the Giants, but who really knows about him? One All- Star appearance, one great season... and silence. But that's how Richie likes it: in silence.

I have received many, many, many emails saying how OVERrated Rich Aurilia is, rather than UNDERrated. I laugh at you... All of you.

Aurilia is WELL KNOWN, not overrated. Not so much known in the league, but locally. He's underrated as a Giant and in the league.

Who knows who Rich Aurilia is, at the mention of his name? No one. Oh, and when the word "shortstop" comes up, who do you think of? The MasterCard using, Gatorade drinking, Derek Jeter? Or the ridiculously overrated Alex Rodriguez? Granted, they've done their share on the field for their stardom status, and they sure have not been quiet about any of their accomplishments.

On the other hand, Aurilia is quiet. Well, you can't expect to be first while you have Barry Bonds as a teammate throughout your entire career, but Aurilia doesn't mind. He doesn't mind standing in the shadow to Bonds, because he knows that Bonds is a great player and he has a lot of respect for him. If Aurilia is so overrated, how can he get along so well with Bonds? Everyone knows that big egos clash and having too many star players on one team is just asking for a death wish (for example, the Lakers).

Keep quiet, he will, but when Aurilia is asked about his opinion on something, anything, he usually has a satisfying answer waiting for the media. You can even say he's taken a few bullets for Bonds, as he became one of the main media guys. Reporters wait at his locker rather than at Bonds' locker after games for a quick interview, and you can bet that Barry appreciates that. Aurilia just goes out and does what he does, taking much pride in everything he does, on and off the field... nothing overrated about it.

People may also think he's overrated because they hear his name come up often, especially around the Bay Area. That's because he does so much community work and is a well-known and well-loved player amongst the community and fans, simple as that. A guy with a heart of gold, and even when he couldn't play baseball, he would spend his days in the community, working on his charities and keeping the fans happy. Who WOULDN'T know who he is around here?

So if Aurilia wasn't playing with Bonds and wasn't batting in front of him in 2001, he wouldn't have gotten his nice feed of hittable fastballs, right? Maybe half right, but you can't just stick anyone in the slot before Bonds and have them deliver as consistently as Aurilia had in 2001.

Now, without further ado and to end my points on how absurd the idea of Aurilia being overrated is, let's get to the main topic at hand: Why Aurilia is an UNDERrated player.

I hate to find excuses, and I'm sure Aurilia hates it as well, but last season he went through elbow surgery, disabling him from doing much damage through the season, especially since everyone said he came back from his surgery too early. Having an overall disappointing season as opposed to his 2001 season, Aurilia lit up in the playoffs, and yet again, was underrated in his role during the postseason.

Offensively, he came up with big hits against the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals to help the Giants to the World Series. Defensively, he made important stops to prevent the opposing team from scoring anymore. Defense wins games.

Recall this moment for me: NLDS, 2002, Braves. Braves threatening, Giants leading, and a ground shot was hit towards Aurilia. On a bad hop, Aurilia somehow managed to keep the ball in his glove and stepped on the bag at second to end the Braves' chances that inning, which, if I remember correctly, was the bottom of the eighth and the Braves had the bases loaded, with the Giants leading by one. The Giants ended up winning that game and taking the tied, do-or-die series from Atlanta.

This season? People can stop b-wording and complaining about Aurilia's performance, you think he doesn't know how bad he's doing, and you think he's not upset with himself about it? You try playing while having the freak injury year like Aurilia has. Contacts after contacts after eye drops were jammed into his eye, and the man was cut open to remove something that was growing in his stomach... You try to swing a bat. Give the guy a break.

When he IS healthy, he's delivered. He proved he can still do it, in the beginning of season and in the start of the second half, despite being thrown around in the lineup. If his appendix wasn't bothering him, who knows what kind of second half he can be having now? He came out with a bang after the All-Star break, and now with that unneeded organ taken out, he should be healthy again.

It's not a mystery that the Giants are in desperate need of offense, and with Aurilia out of the lineup, they lack the offense that was needed to win. Talking about the lineup, who wouldn't be whining and pouting about being thrown around like a hot potato? Aurilia doesn't mind... but of course, he prefers to stay at one spot, no matter where it is, #2 or #8.

His numbers against most teams are second or third behind Bonds... no one knows that either, right?

Again, the Giants are an overall quiet and humble team, and Aurilia is one of the quiet leaders in the clubhouse. He provides his leadership by setting an example himself, rather than being the "go all out and be friends with everyone" type of leader like Marquis Grissom. Either type is good and either type works, but Aurilia just has his own way, and he's never looked upon as a "big leader" because he doesn't come out and show his leadership, but you can ask any player in the clubhouse about Aurilia, and they'll tell you he's a leader.

A leader and a team player. The Giants have one of the best infields in the entire league, and that's due to friendships off the field, cooperation on the field, and respect for each other on and off the field. Aurilia is right in the mix, and like it or not, he's a dependable guy. You put him out there, he'll deliver, no matter if it's on the field or in the batter's box... He'll do whatever he can to help the team win and he plays hard everyday.

Believe me, I can go on and on about Aurilia and how UNDERrated he's been, but I rest my case. Click on my email as you please, but I beg you to think about what you're thinking and/or saying before you bother me with your ridiculous and nonsensical comments... Especially when it has to do with my favorite Giant.

On Deck: Scott Eyre (if that's OK with everyone)

Sara Kwan was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. She currently writes game recaps, other articles, and is the Giant Prophet for SFDugout.com. Any comments or questions about the article, baseball, or the meaning of life can be sent to Sara at kwanchino@alpha-q.net

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