Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
November 16, 2001
BASEBALL: The New Bill James Historical Abstract

Originally posted on Projo.com

Fans of baseball history and statistical analysis -- and, for that matter, fans of good writing about the game, period -- have reason for great excitement this off-season: the long-long-long-awaited arrival of the third edition of the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Since the first/second edition (the paperback second edition was only slightly revised) is the one book I'd take with me to a desert island, I eagerly awaited the third edition and dove into it once it arrived.

After a 15-year interval, does the book live up to the hype? Well, James' reputation at this point is such that it would be nearly impossible to do so. Reading Bill James as a teenager didn't just teach me how to think about the game, he taught me how to think, period; the approach to critical thinking that I learned from his books has been invaluable to me in my career as a litigator. Many others feel the same way. In some ways, the relationship of James to his devotees reminds me of Hari Seldon, the character in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels who predicts the future through a set of mathemetical models and then, after his death, has his followers open holographic messages from him at specified times to tell them what's next. Many of us want to see what the master thinks of everything that's happened since we last heard from him, and that's a terrible burden for any writer.

James' work can no longer have the earth-shaking impact it once did, plus as writers get older they sometimes pull punches to avoid being unnecessarily mean -- they become better human beings, and worse writers. There's a little of that here. But if James isn't the best in the business, like Michael Jordan, he's still awfully close, and he still has asides and comparisons that nobody else draws on, and pulls together interesting facts from many sources -- who else would compare Lave Cross to the Emperor Constantine? And did you know (I didn't) that Honus Wagner was the only player of his generation who lifted weights, or that it was said that Bibb Falk could curse for an hour without repeating himself? If you liked his work in the past, or if you missed out but have enjoyed the work of his many imitators -- Rob Neyer, the guys at Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Primer, yours truly -- you really do need to buy this book.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:31 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 9, 2001
BASEBALL: 2001 World Series Wrapup

Originally posted on Projo.com

Did the Yankees choke? They came into the World Series heavily favored. They entered the weekend with a 3-2 lead after two victories so totally demoralizing that one would scarcely expect any opponent to revive, much less against a 3-time defending champion. Saturday, Andy Pettitte -- the Yankee with the most big postseason starts to his credit -- came out with nothing, the offense was flat, and they lost 15-2. Sunday, they played their first Game 7 in a 7-game series in the modern Yankee era (i.e., since Steinbrenner bought the team), and even after the Yankees came from behind to take a 2-1 lead into the ninth, it wound up a lot like the last one, the 1964 defeat that ended the Yankee dynasty of 1947-64. Should we regard this as a simple defeat, or one of the big choke jobs in postseason history?

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)