Tag Archives: Boston Red Sox

Red Sox Rule by Michael Holley

(I’m catching up on some books that came out in 2008 that I wasn’t able to get to during the regular season…a bit shorter review than normal, but hopefully enough to give you some insight to the book.)

Without question, the Red Sox have been one of the most dominant teams in the past five years, which is coincidentally when Terry Francona took over as manager. Brought to Beantown following the Grady Little incident in the 2003 ALCS, he has managed to step into the fire of Red Sox Nation without burning his feet.

Michael Holley is quick to recognize the apparent connection of Francona’s arrival and the success of the Red Sox, and offers 202 pages on the man who has been at the healm of the club since 2004.

This is a good read for Red Sox fans looking to learn a bit more about Francona, both on and off the field. Like many, he’s taken an interesting route to get where he is, and like most, it hasn’t been a straight or easy path to the manager’s chair. Having met Francona on several occasions, I wouldn’t say he’s the most dynamic fellow I’ve ever come across, and the book didn’t do anything to change my opinion of him. It provides quite a bit of information on him that I didn’t know before, but given that he’s 3,000 miles away from me, its immediate relevance is a bit tougher to discern.

For non-Red Sox fans, such as myself, the insight into Francona may be a bit more than most folks would like to spend 200 pages on. He’s a darn good manager, but it’s more of a biopic as opposed to a strategy book, although there are some nuggets scattered throughout about how he approaches the game from a strategic sense. You might read this and end up really liking Francona…or you might get to the end and say to yourself, “ok, nice story – now what?”

By no means is Red Sox Rule a bad read – I’d just want to know your interest in the subject matter before giving it a whole-hearted recommendation. If you cheer for the Red Sox, read it – you’ll enjoy it. If you’re not a Red Sox fan, proceed at your own risk — I can’t guarantee you’ll get that into it.

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The Bill James Goldmine 2008 – by Bill James

The Bill James Goldmine 2008

Still basking in the new-season smell of Opening Day 2008, I thought it best to start with a book that certainly has the power to affect how you look at baseball past, present and future: The Bill James Goldmine 2008.
If you’re not familiar with Bill James, well, shame on you. OK, enough with the chastising.

James – currently the Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Boston Red Sox, and who some consider to be the architect of the Red Sox’ two World Series victories – has been in the baseball numbers game since the late 1970s. (Not that numbers game…the stat numbers game.)

He first began by doubting the numbers that the baseball establishment had considered to be indicators of talent — win-loss records, ERA, batting average and so forth. While he passed time as the night watchman for a food manufacturing plant in Kansas, he crunched numbers and looked for trends that other people weren’t seeing.

Fast forward to 2008, and James has kept at the number crunching, revisiting topics and exploring new ones – which thus has produced The Bill James Goldmine 2008, a 317-page volume that will definitely give you something to think about.

For instance – which team had the best batting average in games that they lost? Or which team had the worst batting average when they won? James will tell you – and he’ll also share what he thinks it means – which is of course subject to change with more research and analysis.

There are lots of topics that James discusses – which are interspersed among team-by-team analysis, which bring James’ work home to your favorite club. Sometimes he’ll confirm your suspicions, sometimes he’ll deny them, but most times he’ll give you new things to be suspicious about. Or at least some fodder for the next rain delay you find yourself sitting through.

Did you ever find yourself wondering if players try and reach certain numerical plateaus? For instance, hitting .300, driving in 100 runs, or striking out 200 batters? Are there certain ones that matter more than others? So has Bill James – and the answers are in the book.

Likewise — which players accumulated the most “Cigar Points” in history — an unofficial award given to the player that comes “close, but no cigar” to as many significant statistical numbers in a season.

The information in the book is not only thought provoking, but it’s insightful and for the first-time Bill James reader, will expose you to a new way at looking at the game with an eye for statistical analysis.

This is definitely not something that will appeal to the casual fan. If you don’t know what the score is without having to looking at the scoreboard when you’re at a game – most of James’ writing will be met with a “huh” or “so what?” And that’s fine — there’s nothing wrong with that. But if after reading some of the questions above and you don’t find yourself interested in the answers, this isn’t the book for you.

However, if you are interested in the answers — you’ll get a thoroughly enjoyable read out of The Bill James Goldmine. As like most of James’ work – this will appeal to the seamheads and stat freaks that want to delve into the numbers and look at trends potential relationships between the way players perform and ultimately their team’s results on the field.

If you lean towards the casual fan end of the spectrum, I’m challenging you to at least take a look through the book and see what you think and if it interests you. Some, maybe even most of the book won’t make sense right out of the gate – and that’s fine. But maybe one of the articles will peak your interest, and you’ll delve into the topic a little deeper. I think you’ll find that if you’re ultimately interested in determining why teams win ballgames and what each individual does to contribute to those wins, you’ll enjoy this book at one level or another.

For the stats fans – this is a definite addition to the bookshelf. For the casual fan who isn’t afraid of some numbers and analysis, it’s my hope that you’ll pick it up and peruse the pages.

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