Monthly Archives: July 2008

Deep Drive – by Mike Lowell with Rob Bradford

Listen to my interview with Mike Lowell by clicking here.

I never really know what to expect when getting into a book authored by a player – or at least told by a player and actually written by someone else, as is the case with Deep Drive.

There’s no question that Lowell is a tremendous ball player; and many associate him with being a pretty decent person as well. I had always thought he was a pretty good guy; if nothing less I never had reason to think he wasn’t. I knew he had an accounting degree from Florida International University…and a player with a college degree scores a point in my positive column.

What I ended up learning as I read the book was not just life details like Lowell’s battle with cancer at 24 years old, but that the events in Lowell’s life has given him not just a unique perspective on accomplishments and priorities, as well as that there seems to be a thread of people not always estimating Lowell to be all that he is.

The second point is the one that sticks out most to me — the most glaring omission of most people’s assessment of Lowell is his Latino heritage. Born in Puerto Rico and with a family of both German and Cuban lineage, most don’t expect a guy with the last name Lowell to be able to speak Spanish, let alone able and willing to associate with Latino guys on his ballclub and be able to bridge the cultural divides that often occur in clubhouses when multiple language and cultures are present.

The first point regarding Lowell’s perspective on life and the events that have shaped his perspective is one that is not as readily evident as you read the book, but it does come out as you read about the hurdles that he has overcome through his life.

As Lowell readily admitted in my talk with him, he doesn’t think his life has been that difficult, and he doesn’t want to be one to harp on the low points. This is where Bradford seems to coax Lowell into bringing out and analyzing some of the tougher times that he’s gone through, and the results are successful.

Lowell never gets too high or too low on himself – which is one of the biggest reasons I liked Deep Drive as much as I did. While it’s not full of life lessons or motivational words per se, it is even keel enough to help shape the reader’s perspective on his own life.

While I wouldn’t necessarily push Deep Drive into your hand with a stern order to read it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you read it.  Red Sox fans and longer term Marlins fans will certainly be able to pick up the book and get a lot out of it having, watched Lowell succeed with their clubs. The average baseball fan who knows who Lowell is will certainly enjoy reading the pretty good story of a pretty good ballplayer.

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The Greatest Game Ever: The Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Playoff of ’78 — by Richard Bradley

Few topics seem as unresolvable as what was the greatest game ever played. As I sit at Safeco Field today, the Mariners are playing their 5,000th regular season game – imagine trying to pick the greatest out of just that group.

But Richard Bradley contends that the playoff game to determine the 1978 American League East Division champion ranks as the greatest ever – and he’s going to tell you all about it in his new book.

The book works because Bradley doesn’t make the case for one team or another — he manages to play it pretty much down the middle. Not being a fan of either team, nor old enough to remember the game or invested enough in the relationship to care about it currently, I wasn’t interested in being swayed to one side or the other, and luckily I wasn’t.

As I’ve read other critiques of the book – something I’ve noticed is a handful of errors in the work, ranging from incorrect game scores to incorrectly identifying whether a player was right-handed or left-handed. I’m the first to admit that my eye wasn’t looking for errors when I read it, and I haven’t gone back and fact-checked everything, something I’m becoming inclined to do when I have a bit more time on my hands.

I’m not going to be an apologist for errors — the truth is that there shouldn’t be any in a well-written and well-researched book. If you have a vivid memory of that game and those teams, you’ll probably be raising your eyebrows throughout the book.

The format of the book works well – putting each half inning at a time into its own chapter and interspersing a chapter of background story between them. Every game is played with context and history, and this game is no exception. For those of us who weren’t there for the game, these chapters are incredibly beneficial as they help paint the picture that the game action happens within.

Had the book been error free, I would have given it a whole-hearted recommendation, not just for those interested in that particular game or these particular teams, but for those who enjoy well written game recaps and baseball history. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is one of the best in sports, and to see a key game 30 years later captured in such a well-written and well-executed book is a treat. Just read it with a critical eye.

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Going, Going, Gone: The Art of the Trade in Major League Baseball — by Fran Zimniuch

Now that we’re in July – what better event to look forward to and start reading about than the trading deadline.

Few topics provide as much discussion as who we could trade for to make the team better.

But as any general manager knows, it’s never as easy to make a trade as it to simply come up with one.

And that’s where Fran Zimniuch’s new book Going, Going, Gone: The Art the Trade in Major League Baseball comes in.

The book provides an almost too thorough job of covering the history of what rules governed players and their contracts. It offers a good background of the reserve clause and the events that spurred both free agency and salary arbitration.

For me, most of this was ground that had already been covered by other books, and while always a good review and something that will most likely be very beneficial to many people who read this book, it was a bit of a recap of what I already knew.

It’s not until the end of the book that some of baseball’s most notorious trades are brought in for example, which may leave you feeling like the subject off the book isn’t really being addressed as advertised. While Zimunich covers the “trade” of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees in the early goings of the book, he also brings some other big name trades in.

As I read it though, I kept wondering when there would be more substance and examples of trades. Some of this might have just been perception, but as they say perception is reality – and while there are good clumps of trade examples, it does feel at times that I was going for dozens of pages covering backgrounds and the context in which trades happen instead of actual trades.

If anything, Going, Going, Gone falls victim to poor layout. Somewhere between this layout and the way that Rob Neyer lays out his books is a format that would be of tremendous benefit because it would better mesh the tremendous backstory and context that trades occur in with the examples that are used.

One of this book is some noticable errors in names — for instance referring to Seattle Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln as Howard Linder, misspelling sports agent Scott Boras as Boros, and Minnesota Twins’ infielder Nick Punto gets referred to as Nick Punta. Basic errors like these worry me about other factual aspects of the book, which I hope to go back and check at a later date.

Read Going, Going, Gone at your own risk – while it’s a good primer on the rules that govern player transactions, it certainly won’t make you feel like you’re ready to apply to be a GM. However, if you do nothing else than simply learning former GM Bing Devine’s four principles for a good trade, you’ll wind up a much more knowledgeable fan.

If you’re not well-versed in things like the National Agreement, the reserve clause, and the history of arbitration and free agency, this will provide a two-fold benefit for you; giving you that history as well as a good look inside what goes into making a trade happen.

My only request that this book didn’t fulfill is that it doesn’t temper the grandiose dreams of fans of trading away a virtually worthless player saddled with a big contract, or acquiring a star player for a significantly undervalued pakcage. I have a feeling that that kind of grandiose and unrealistic thinking is just something we’re stuck with as a by-product of trades even happening in the first place.

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For my NY peoples

A quick message from the folks at GELF magazine, who are hosting an event in NYC on Thursday 7/3 called “Varsity Letters” and will be featuring several baseball authors, including The Savvy Girls.

More info at Varsitylettersseries.com.

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