The book: “The 50 Greatest Players in Dodgers History”
The author: Robert W. Cohen
The vital statistics: Blue River Press, 416 pages, $24.95, released March 1
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website
The pitch: Fine, we’ll take the bait.
Who do you got who where, why and how come?
Interesting, but …
Cohen, who already cranked out a book for this publishing company on the 50 greatest Yankees, Cubs, Tigers, Cardinals, Giants, and Red Sox over the last few years has dodged the Brooklyn-Los Angeles roster long enough.
He has somewhat logical criteria for how he has assembled the lists: Career accomplishments, weighted stats, contributions to the team, limited to what they did only while in a Dodgers uniform, and only those after 1900.
Common sense would seem to be what’s most overlooked.
Off the top of our head, the top five should be not too difficult to pick out, in whatever order you choose. If you were to simply go by the research put into a list by The Sporting News in 1999 listing the Top 100 players to that point, then you’ve got Sandy Koufax (No. 26), Jackie Robinson (No. 44), Roy Campanella (No. 50) and Duke Snider (No. 84). Except Cohen flips Campanella and Snider in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots on his list, without any sort of explanation, even as he credits Campy with “generally considered to be one of the greatest catchers in baseball history.”
No. 5, by the way, is Clayton Kershaw.
(Hold on a sec. This is Robert Cohen’s mug shot as provided by … him. The “scholar and lifelong fan of baseball,” as he describes himself, provides the best photo of himself that he can find? He has also once written a book, “My Life With Rusty,” about his “unique” 14-year relationship with his first cat.)
Back to this listless list:
Gil Hodges, who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, is ranked ahead of Pee Wee Reese, who is in.
Matt Kemp gets slotted at No. 19.
Matt Freakin’ Kemp.
And Pedro Guerrero shows up at No. 21.
Both are ahead of certified Hall of Famers Burleigh Grimes and Willie Keeler, and the legendary Babe Herman. And the Los Angeles Dodgers’ all-time home run leader, Eric Karros (No. 33).
Jake Daubert is No. 29? Did we even spell that name right? At least we get a bio on the man who does belong in this group, but apparently is way overlooked.
Jim Gilliam (No. 25) and Andre Ethier (No. 43) get in ahead of Bill Russell (No. 45), the all-time L.A. Dodgers leader in games played and clutch playoff performer.
Jim Brewer (No. 44) is ahead of previous all-time saves leader Eric Gagne (No. 46). Current all-time saves leader Kenley Jansen didn’t make the Top 50.
Why do we even continue?
If we weren’t positive, we’d guess this book was written as a middle school project supplemented by extensive Google searches. There’s no real new insights with each bio, no argumentative new-age stats that sparks debate and tries to justify a ranking. It’s just kind of cut-and-past elementary babble, some of which doesn’t even need to be there (like with Steve Garvey, at No. 12, who gets a few paragraphs devoted to his off-the field “sordid details of his personal life.” Did that help or hurt his placing on the list?)
The artwork used is also somewhat amateurish and haphazard. There’s Tommy John, at No. 37, in a Cleveland Indians uniform. And Tommy Davis, at No. 38, wearing some strange minor-league cap. The optics don’t get much better.
And because the top 50 wasn’t strange enough, Cohen expands it to Nos. 51-75 at the end. Zack Greinke, for three stellar seasons in a Dodger uniform before he mercerized himself to the next-highest bidder, is at No. 51 — ahead of Burt Hooton, Bob Welch, Jerry Reuss, Carl Erskine and Wes Parker.
And somehow, there’s James Loney at No. 74.
It’s enough to inspire us to do our own list. Maybe. If only to do it more correctly and more in line with what other Dodgers longtime followers might be more apt to agree with.
This? It doesn’t make the Top 5 of whatever the next list book Cohen is apt to pursue. You gotta figure he’s going to hit all 30 franchises eventually. You’ve been warned.
More to know:
= An updated version of “Baseball’s Best 1,000: Rankings of the Greatest Players of All Time” by Derek Gentile (fourth edition, released April 4) has these Dodgers in its rankings and in order of importance: Robinson (No. 26), Campanella (No. 39), Koufax (No. 47), Snider (No. 55), Mike Piazza (No. 122), Billy Herman (No. 132) and Don Drysdale (No. 152).
Matt Kemp didn’t crack the Top 1,000.
Bill Russell is at No. 446.