Day 3: 30 baseball books in the 30 days of April ’09: The one you’ve already heard about, may have bought, but probably never bothered reading

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The book: “The Yankee Years”

The author: Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

How to find it: Doubleday, 502 pages, $26.95

Where we’d go looking for it: If you can’t find it, you’re not looking hard enough. Just don’t go to the New York tabloids for excerpts.

The scoop: Frank McCourt insists that Joe Torre has a clause in his current Dodgers managerial contract that prohibits him from doing a “tell-all” book about his days running the team. That’s too bad. The work here he’s done with Verducci, the Sports Illustrated writer, is top-notch stuff, hardly kiss-and-back-stab and far more indepth and revealing than whatever snippets you or David Wells may be misinformed about.

A fraud? That’s not what they called A-Rod on the Yankee team, it’s what the New York tabs did in trying to review this book in stories done before spring training started.

First, it’s written mostly from Verducci’s research than Torre’s storytelling. Mike Mussina may be as quoted as much as Torre, for that matter. It’s not a Torre memoir. Some have compared it to Buster Olney’s book, “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty New Edition: The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness.”

A Dodger fan has to read this to understand how he’s running their team. Trust seems to be a big virtue of Torre’s managerial philosophy. And there’s nothing he hasn’t said here that already hasn’t been chronicled in other newspapers, magazines or TV reports, so the perception that Torre is taking things out of context and presenting them as a way to knock someone else is completely wrong.

A Red Sox fan will also get a lot out of this, since Verducci spend a lot of analysis breaking down how the franchise is run, how it influenced the Yankees’ personnel moves and how that affected Torre’s decision making. So much so that the Yankees might have wanted to emulate what the Red Sox were doing with their Bill James-influenced statistical data that, for example, kept track of every college baseball player in the country and how they panned out in the pros.

You need any more endorsement, KSPN-AM 710′s Steve Mason has called this his favorite book since Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball,” and writes on his blog (linked here): “If you want to understand the game of baseball in the late 90′s and the early part of this decade, read ‘The Yankee Years.’ You will understand why Torre is worth every penny of what Frank and Jamie McCourt are paying him.”

How it goes down in the scorebook: A calculated call to the bullpen. If the reader reviews on Amazon.com mean anything, it has a four-out-of-five stars from 117 reviews, with 66 of them giving it a full five stars (and five giving it a one or two star review respectively)

Postscript: Other books also written by Torre:

“Chasing the Dream: My Lifelong Journey to the World Series” (1998)
“Joe Torre’s Ground Rules for Winners: 12 Keys to Managing Team Players, Tough Bosses, Setbacks, and Success” (2000)

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