30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 23: No more need to dumb it down – there’s Law Smart when it comes to new stats

Once upon a time, a “bat rule” was all a kid needed.

In addition to a Q-and-A with Law as part of Sunday’s media column, we have this review:

The book: “Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones that are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball”
The author: Keith Law
The vital statistics: William Morrow/Harper Collins, 304 pages, $27.99, scheduled to come out Tuesday, April 25
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website, or the writers’ website

The pitch: Everyone wants to look and sound smart, or at least smarter, when it comes to baseball knowledge.
So Keith Law waits until Chapter 18, page 261, to drop the hammer.
“If your local writer is still talking about players in terms of pitcher wins, saves or RBI, he’s discussing the role of the homunculus in human reproduction. The battle is over, whether the losers realize it or not.”
Homunculus? My spellcheck just started hyperventilating.
It’s a reference to a very old theory about “a miniature adult” that was once thought to inhabit the germ cell and to produce a mature individual merely by an increase in size.
How mature.
Another translation: An evolutionary process is happening in baseball, so no matter what you want to hang onto for deal life and claim it still matters, you risk being thought of a non-progressive resistance-to-change outcast who needs to get up to speed quickly or get left behind.
That kind of thinking is why you still may have a flip phone, a fax machine and are holding out hope your taxes might be calculated some day in your favor by using a loophole from the 1940s. Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 23: No more need to dumb it down – there’s Law Smart when it comes to new stats” »

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 22: Meet the stories behind swapping meat

The book: “Baseball Meat Market: The Stories Behind the Best and Worst Trades in History”
The author: Shawn Krest
The vital statistics: Page Street Publishing, 240 pages, $22.99, released March 28
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Vromans.com

The pitch: In 2009, writer Doug Decatur developed a way to quantify baseball’s all-time recording of swaps by producing the book, “Traded: Inside the Most Lopsided Trades in Baseball History” (Acta Sports). In it, he lists 306 transactions that really did favor one team over another, as looking back on history could determine.
Many Dodgers fans expect that the team sending future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez to Montreal in 1994 for second baseman Delino DeShields is about as lopsided as it gets, but Decatur not only left that one off the top 10 worst trades in franchise history, but it’s just No. 255 overall.
The Dodgers reportedly weren’t high on Martinez’s durability based on his size (and somewhat ignoring the fact his older brother, Ramon, was built somewhat the same way but was to become a star in his own right). And they really needed a second baseman.
Done deal. Now, move along.
Why revisit it? Because having a book like this hang on its sales ability and credibility based on its author’s promise to thoroughly explain the “best and worst trades” in baseball history will ultimately mean some of us will never be satisfied with the rationale involved picking which deal to include and what to pass over.
Remember, it’s the stories that Krest is after here, not so much developing a ranking that decides how legend will define it.
Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 22: Meet the stories behind swapping meat” »

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 21: More pizzazz for Piazza, in a very weird N.Y. holistic sort of way

The book: “Piazza: Catcher, Slugger, Icon, Star”
The author: Greg W. Prince
The vital statistics: Sports Publishing/Skyhorse, 264 pages, $24.99, released March 14
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website, or the writers’ website

The pitch: In Piazza’s 2013 autobiography, “Long Shot,” which became a New York Times best seller by the time he eventually was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016, Mike Piazza explained everything related to Mike Piazza – even if he couldn’t figure out the difference between what was “ironic” and what was a “coincidence.”
Coincidentally, he eventually felt he had to leave the Dodgers (frustrated as well during an ownership change), needed a second chance as a New York Met, shugged off steroid allegations (among other personal accusations) and finally got to look back on is career as one of a successful endeavor.
Curtain call. And another …. OK, done.
The cover of that particular book was careful not to show him wearing any particular team color or logos. It was pensive Mike, pulling the catcher’s mask of in a metaphoric way. Just look into his eyes and see his soul.
So that should, and will be, the definitive Piazza story, unless someone wants to come around in a few years and take a most down-the-middle approach.
This one here isn’t that, not by a long shot.
It starts with the cover shot, Piazza unapologetically in Mets laundry, about the start a home-run trot.
Just look at the subtitles for more clues. We read:
Overdramatic.
Idolization.
Hyperbole.
Cliché-soaked.
Just consider the source.

Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 21: More pizzazz for Piazza, in a very weird N.Y. holistic sort of way” »

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 20: Durocher’s good, bad and noteworthy nastiness

The book: “Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son”
The author: By Paul Dickson
The vital statistics: Bloomsbury USA, 368 pages, $28, released March 21
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publisher’s website and at the writers’ website

The pitch: By all accounts, fair or foul, Leo Durocher was baseball’s beast of burden.
As a player, manager, a player-manager, a Hollywood wannabe  and general sweet-and-sour pain in the horse’s ass.
With apologies to Mr. Ed.
It basically says so on his Hall of Fame plaque with the first two word that refer to him as “colorful” and “controversial.
And that’s just finding a label for him as a manager, primarily for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s — minus the year of Jackie Robinson’s debut season of ’47 because, ahem, Durocher was serving a suspension. Which gave him time to pen his own ghostwritten book.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Everything you think you know about Durocher — and if you’re connecting historical dots, it’s not a stretch to put him and Pete Rose in the same sort of baseball social hardnose-to-a-fault category — the esteemed author Paul Dickson gives you so much more, the book is worth reading twice just to see what you may have missed the first time.

Paul Dickson

Like the story about what happened in January, 1976, as Durocher was recovering from heart surgery and a couple years removed from his last big-league managing job in Houston. He had burned so many bridges that any time he was offered a front-office position with a team, there was some hitch involved with who he would have to work with, it usually didn’t happen.
But somehow, a team from the Japanese Pacific League announced it had hired him to manage its squad, a six-figure deal that would make him the highest-paid skipper in the world.
“A disdainful Vin Scully said of the move, ‘It took the U.S. 35 years to get revenge for Pearl Harbor’,” Dickson notes on page 291.
Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 20: Durocher’s good, bad and noteworthy nastiness” »

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 19: Hello, Larry


Part of Chipper Jones’ book promotion tour was a two-part conversation with Bob Ley recently on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines.” Because, he could.

The book: “Ballplayer”
The author: Chipper Jones, with Carroll Rogers Walton
The vital statistics: Dutton, 384 pages, $27, released April 4
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website

The pitch: Larry Wayne Jones Jr., really didn’t need to give us his life story.
Especially with the somewhat snobbish title “Ballplayer,” which kind of gives us reason to shug in the same way when we hear a name like “Kid Rock” or “Lady Gaga.”
Could you dumb it down any more for us, whatever your real names might be?
Chipper the Ballplayer, a chip off the old block, is a product of his father, as this book very much explains. Dad wanted his rock-solid kid to be the next Mickey Mantle, so everyone would go gaga.
Ballplayer Jones took his switch hitting talents about as far as one could for someone born to be a baseball player, endured a few troublesome injuries that may have hurt his overall numbers, but not enough to be included in the Hall of Fame starting with his first year of eligibility in 2018.
All the numbers add to a probable first-ballot election based on HOFm, WAR, JAWS, Jpos and whatever other jumbled letters you choose to use. A book like this also doesn’t hurt the cause when you’re trying to get into the voters’ heads.
Already labeled a “best seller” in baseball biographies from Amazon.com, there must be something “there” there.
On a scale of 1-to-Chipper’s No. 10, we’ll log it in at his position on the scorecard: E5.
Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 19: Hello, Larry” »

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