March 30, 2008

Rob Neyer's Big Book Of Baseball Legends

Three years ago, in March of 2005, in the 24 hours that passed after the first report of [former Red Sox pitcher] Dick Radatz' death, there were many stories published about Radatz' match-ups with Mickey Mantle and how often Radatz whiffed Mickey. In those 24 hours, I saw the following claims published in various outlets:

54 K's in 67 attempts.
47 in 63.
44 in 66.
44 in 67.
44 in 63.
And, 12 in 16.

And, it was that last one which was true. What's the old saying about when the legend is better than the truth, print the legend? Related, so often, when it comes to baseball stories, facts are stretched, or commingled with ones from other stories, on just they are just flat-out fabricated. And, the older the story, the worse it seems to get.

If you're like me, and you're interested in knowing the truth when it comes to baseball history, rather than the fish stories, then you're going to love "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, the Lies, and Everything Else" (which goes on sale this week on April 1st).

With this new book, Rob Neyer goes through both well-known and obscure baseball stories found in books, news reports, game broadcasts, and the like, and turns them inside out to determine the truth.

In the lyrics of an ol' Romeo Void song ("Your Life Is A Lie") there's a part that goes "You're a great silhouette. You cast a shadow. But you don't stand up to the light." And, in so many (but not all) of these baseball tall tales, Neyer finds out that they do not stand up to the light.

As a Yankees fan, I'm sure you've heard the story about how Thurman Munson, after hearing that Carlton Fisk was leading him in catcher's assists, went out and dropped a bunch of third-strikes to pad his assist total and pass Fisk. I know that I've heard it about a hundred times. Guess what? It never happened - as Rob proves in his book.

There are around 100 great stories looked at by Neyer in "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends" - such as the Munson/Fisk story. Rather than spoil too many of them for you, I'll just share that they include (but are not limited to) people like Rube Waddell, Ty Cobb, George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, Fred Lynn, Jackie Robinson, Harvey Haddix, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Willie Mays, Bill Mazeroski, Honus Wagner, Hal Chase, Leo Durocher, Pete Alexander, Casey Stengel, Dizzy Dean, Yogi Berra, Bob Gibson, Dwight Gooden, Joe Morgan and some guy named Babe Ruth.

As a Yankees fan, you'll be interested in two items in this book where Ken Singleton tells a story about Ron Guidry and Willie Wilson and where Michael Kay tells a story about Derek Jeter and Joe Torre - both debunked by Neyer. It's proof that you can't believe everything that you hear during a YES broadcast. (It's O.K. Kenny - you're still a pleasure to listen too - even if you are loose with the facts some times.)

You can read "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends" from the first page to the last page, or, you can just attack at it and cherry pick the stories that attract your attention first. With either approach, it's an entertaining and informing read. Along with his other two "Big Books" - "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders" and "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups" - "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, the Lies, and Everything Else" is a must have for the serious baseball library and just a fun read for the thinking baseball history fan. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2008

My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned From The Boys of Summer

Six days from today, Scribner (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) will release Steve Garvey's new book "My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned from the Boys of Summer."

With this book, Garvey tells the story of how he learned life-lessons from big leaguers who he met while serving as a batboy (in Florida) from 1956 through 1961. These players (and learnings) were: Pee Wee Reese (leadership), Gil Hodges (dignity), Carl Erskine (honesty), Jackie Robinson (passion), Duke Snider (persistence), Roy Campanella (compassion), Sandy Koufax (faith), Mickey Mantle (fortitude), and Al Kaline (perfection).

Garvey's father was a bus driver for Greyhound in Florida and was assigned to drive charters for ball clubs during spring training. Through this connection, Steve was able to serve as batboy for the Dodgers, Yankees and Tigers.

"My Bat Boy Days" is a quick read. The book is 7.8" by 5.3" (in size) and is 149 pages (long).

To be candid, I enjoyed "My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned from the Boys of Summer" much more than I expected going into the review process.

There are some "Yankees" ties to the story here. Garvey's parents moved from Long Island, New York, to Tampa, Florida, while Mrs. Garvey was pregnant (with Steve). Nonetheless, according to the book, Mrs. Garvey never switched her devotion to her favorite team - the Yankees. And, as stated, Garvey included Mickey Mantle among his select group of players featured in this book.

Basically, each essay on a featured player reads like a mini-biography. And, for me, this is the true value of this book. Anyone wanting to learn more about nine great players from the late 1950's - and a particular quality that made them special - can benefit from Garvey's storytelling here. And, again, it's a nice and quick read.

If there's someone in your life who was born in 1940, or earlier, and who likes to reminisce about baseball back when they were young, or, if you know someone younger, who is just learning about baseball history, "My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned from the Boys of Summer" would be a nice little surprise gift to give them.

It's not the greatest baseball book of all-time. But, I've read many, many, baseball books that were so boring that I couldn't finish them - and that's saying a lot, coming from a baseball nut like me.

But, Garvey's book is quick enough, and entertaining enough, that you'll have no problem reading it. And, like me, you just might find out that you liked it better than you thought that you would (once you read it).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:29 PM | Comments (3)

March 18, 2008

The Pride of the Yankees - Collector's Edition DVD

PrideoftheYankeesDVD.jpg

Today, MGM (Video & DVD) has released a Collector's Edition DVD of The Pride of the Yankees.

If you're a Yankees fan, and you've never watched "Pride of the Yankees," then you haven't experienced the full effect of being a Yankees fan.

I cannot remember the first time that I saw this movie. If I had to guess, I would say it was some time between 1974 and 1976. But, from the first time that I saw it, whenever that was, I was hooked on it. In fact, I confess that, as strange as it sounds, as a teenage boy in the mid-'70's, I once had a huge retroactive crush on Teresa Wright (who received a "Best Actress" Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Lou's wife, Eleanor Gehrig, in this movie).

This is a true story: In the late spring of 1980, I was 17-years old. One evening, I had a "date" with girl - who I was very interested in (at that time). This was probably our third or fourth "date" (that particular evening). She invited me to her home, to "hang out," because her parents and siblings were going to be out for a while. (I think you get the picture here.) Well, when I got there, as a social reflex, she asked me if there was anything that I wanted to watch on TV - and she handed me a copy of TV Guide. (Keep in mind, this was way before the days of cable, remotes, and channel guides.) Being polite, I started thumbing through the TV Guide, and I noticed that Pride of the Yankees was about to start on Channel 11. Seeing this, I asked my "date" if she had ever seen the movie. When she said "No," I did not hesitate, and, despite the how that evening was supposed to flow, I said "O.K., you're going to watch it tonight - because it's one of the best movies ever made."

Now, if that story doesn't tell you how strong I feel about Pride of the Yankees, what else could? (To close the story, she loved the movie. And, when her parents came home, her father was pretty amazed to hear her tell the story about watching the movie and how much she enjoyed it. And, this being the first time I met her dad, and seeing what a large man he was, I was feeling really good about the whole thing.)

In any event, to this day, whenever I watch "Pride of the Yankees," it provides a warm, comfortable, and (for lack of a better word) good feeling - despite the fact that I've seen it before (for many times). It's just a special movie.

If you're a fan of this movie, like me, you'll want to pick up the Collector's Edition DVD of The Pride of the Yankees. In addition to the movie, this DVD comes with six special features - including the featurette "The Making of Pride of the Yankees" and the featurette "Always" (which is the story behind the hit song from the movie - and perhaps one of the best "hooks" ever used in song).

And, as stated before, if you're a Yankees fan...heck, if you're a baseball fan, period, or someone who enjoys classic love-story movies...and you've never seen "Pride of the Yankees," then I strongly suggest that you pick up this new DVD.

Related, also today, MGM (Video & DVD) has released Collector's Edition DVDs for one of the greatest baseball movies ever made, "Eight Men Out" and, for one of the most popular baseball of all-time, "Bull Durham" - celebrating the 20th anniversary for both these films. These new DVDs contain special features - including one where the cast and crew look back, after all these years, at each film. Both of these Collector's Edition DVDs sound like something that any baseball would want to add to their DVD library.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:07 PM | Comments (3)

March 08, 2008

The Bill James Gold Mine 2008

As promised, I had a chance to check out "The Bill James Gold Mine 2008."

If circumstances only allow you to purchase and/or read one baseball book this spring, you cannot make a better choice than "The Bill James Gold Mine 2008."

In this book, James provides fun and informative statistical analysis on every big league team - in addition to 17 new essays that are a treat to read.

Among my favorites were:

"Three to Five Run Records" - which shows you the best and worst teams when they scored or allowed three to five runs in a game.

"The Dave Kingman Award" - where James uses "HR/[RC+10]" to show us which batters over the last 30 years were the "best" at "hitting home runs without doing anything else positive as a hitter."

"The Turk Farrell Award" - which identifies good pitchers who had terrible records because their team stunk.

"The Nolan Ryan Award" - given to unreformed power pitchers via James' formula of "[W*L*SO*BB]/IP."

"End Game" - which identifies "the moment at which it ain't over, but it's over" for a team with respect to their place in the standings. (This essay suggests that the three greatest collapses in baseball history belong to the 1951 Dodgers, 1964 Phillies, 2007 Mets, and 1978 Red Sox - in that order.)

"Closer Fatigue" - where James shows how fatigue level of a closer impacts success for his team.

"Strength Up the Middle" - that confirms good teams are strong "up the middle" - and it's more true that bad teams are weak in this area.

"Bullpens and Crunches" - that establishes teams with good bullpens "tend to exceed expectations" in one-run and close games. But, it also shares that there's no definitive evidence that teams with strong bullpens do well in the post-season.

"Herbie" - where James introduces a stat that identifies "a more reasonable candidate for the league's best pitcher than the actual ERA leader."

Brass tacks, if you were a fan of The Bill James Baseball Abstracts, you will enjoy this book. And, if you've never read James' Abstracts, and always wondered what the fuss was about, you owe it to yourself to pick up this book.

"The Bill James Gold Mine 2008" is the type of baseball book that's so much fun, and enlightening, that you'll want to re-read it, again, the minute you finish reading it for the first time. And, there's a good chance that you'll want to read it a third time after that - as there's so much good stuff in it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2008

The Hardball Times Season Preview 2008

As promised, I had a chance to check out "The Hardball Times Season Preview 2008."

This is a fun book to get you primed for the season. The folks at The Hardball Times reached out to various internet baseball authors to cover each team in the majors. Those who frequent baseball sites will recognize many of these folks - such as Brian Borawski, Lisa Gray, Bradford Doolittle, Dave Studenmund, Larry Mahnken, Steve Treder and John Brattain - who have contributed to "The Hardball Times Season Preview 2008."

For each team in the majors you get the following:

+ A projection on their 2008 won-loss record.
+ A summary of their 2007 season.
+ General comments on the team's strengths, weaknesses, G.M., Manager, ballpark, minor league system, and a listing of "favorite team blogs."
+ Keys for 2008 in terms of players lost and acquired, reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic, who's due for a better and worse season, and what's left for the team to do.
+ Player statistical projections for 2008.

In addition to all this, you also get an essay from David Gassko on projecting career statistics and an essay from Chris Constancio on rookies to watch for 2008.

In terms of the Yankees, "The Hardball Times Season Preview 2008" sees them winning 93 games this season and finishing four games back of the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East - with some interesting individual numbers such as A-Rod hitting "just" 41 homers, Matsui having 72 RBI, Phil Hughes going 7-7, and Ross Ohlendorf posting an ERA of 6.53 in 89 innings pitched.

As a fellow blogger, I do have one gripe with an element of this book. Where they listed "favorite team blogs" for each team, in some cases - such as when Larry Mahnken covered the Yankees, Jim McLennan covered the Diamondbacks, Bradford Doolittle covered the Royals, and Eric Johnson covered the Brewers - some authors listed their own blogs as being among the "favorite" for the team they were covering. That seems like a little "homerism" to me - but, then again, it could be sour grapes too since WasWatching.com was not listed among the "favorite" Yankees blogs. And, again, only some of the authors did this - not all of them.

This small nitpick aside, I recommend checking out "The Hardball Times Season Preview 2008." Whether you're a fantasy baseball participant looking for some handy draft/auction reference material or just a baseball fan looking to get some interesting insight on your favorite team as well as the rest of the teams in the big leagues, this book lends towards satisfying your needs.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:06 PM | Comments (2)

March 03, 2008

Facing Clemens: Hitters On Confronting Baseball's Most Intimidating Pitcher

Jonathan Mayo is a senior writer for MLB.com. Tomorrow, his new book, "Facing Clemens: Hitters on Confronting Baseball's Most Intimidating Pitcher," will be released.

I had a chance to do a quick Q&A with Mayo on his book. It follows below:

WW: What was the inspiration behind the concept that you chose for this book?

Mayo: It came about during conversations with Lyons Press about a number of different ideas I’d had running around in my head. This one, however, I cannot take credit for. They had done two similar books on boxers: “Facing Ali” and “Facing Tyson.” The feeling was the concept would work well for baseball and Clemens, at the time, seemed to be the perfect candidate. I took the concept from there and ran with it, figuring out who would make for the best chapter subjects.

WW: Can you provide some more detail on how you found the best chapter subjects? Was there anyone that you found that you wanted to feature in the book and could not?

Mayo: I’ll answer the second question first. Probably the guy I wanted to talk to the most was Mike Piazza, for obvious reasons. I figured if I could get him to talk about the 2000 World Series as well as how well he hit Clemens, that would be ideal. But Mr. Piazza wasn’t interested. Maybe he’s saving the story for his own autobiography?

In terms of finding other chapter subjects…It started with a lot of searching on Retrosheet.org. Those guys are awesome and I always have to give them credit. I began by looking at Clemens’ career batter vs. pitcher stats. From there, I was able to pick out the guy who’d faced him the most (Cal Ripken Jr.) and a guy who’d had considerable success against him (Ken Griffey Jr.). Doing some more digging allowed me to find someone who was in the lineup when Clemens made his big-league debut (Julio Franco) and, in general, the research enabled me to build out chapters based on a single meeting like a World Series. Along the way, I found interesting tidbits like the fact that Dave Magadan faced Clemens in the 1983 College World Series. Doing something on one of the 20-strikeout games was a must and I was able to contact Phil Bradley who was on the Mariners in 1986 and was the 20th and final “K” of the game.

WW: It is interesting that, with each subject who talks about Clemens, in your book, you're able to paint a picture about them or about some event they were part of (etc.) while also staying true to telling their "Clemens" story. During this process of learning more from the subject themselves, was there one thing that amazed you the most? What was it?

Mayo: I don’t know if there was any one thing about the subjects that came out that amazed me. It certainly was enjoyable uncovering facts like the fact Torii Hunter really wasn’t as serious about baseball as he was about football until late in his high school career when scouts started paying attention to him or that Johnny Drennen, the minor leaguer who homered off of Clemens in 2006, has a dad who had a military career. There were great tidbits like the fact that Cal Ripken Jr. never struck out more than 100 times in a season and only topped 90 twice, the first two years of his career. Or how about that Clemens wasn’t even supposed to pitch against the Mariners in 1986 when he struck out 20. He was supposed to pitch one game earlier on the road, but it got rained out. The most amazing thing about that game, and his repeat performance in 1996 against the Tigers, is that he didn’t walk anyone in either start. That’s right, 18 IP, 40 K, 0 BB. That’s amazing.

WW: With all that we've been hearing about Clemens lately, is there anything that was not included in the book that, now, you wish you had been able to address?

Mayo: Wow, that’s a loaded question now, isn’t it? Had there been time, I would have liked to go back and either include reaction from each subject in each individual chapter or do some sort of epilogue, a one chapter add-on that would include as much reaction to the recent news as I could get. I’m sure some players might want to stay away from the subject, but I bet some of the former ones would have some really interesting things to say. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be able to do just that (second printing? Sequel?), but for now it’ll have to suffice to let the book stand on its own merits and try to address the Mitchell Report and everything in interviews like this.

WW: Timing is everything, huh? When I read the chapter from Ripken (on Clemens) where Cal said that Roger's fastball had dropped off in his last few years in Boston and then suddenly came back strong when he was in Toronto, I thought "Had George Mitchell read this, Cal Ripken may have had a date on Capital Hill!" Actually, in reading the book, to me, it comes across as a good "old fashioned baseball book." By this, I mean that it was entertaining and educational to me, as an adult - but, it was also a book that I would have no reservations recommending to a younger baseball fan - say, someone as young as ten years old - because there's nothing in these stories that you would not want a kid to read. Was there a target audience that you had in mind for your book? Or, did it just work out that way that it's a good read for baseball fans of all ages?

Mayo: I think the idea was just to target baseball fans in general, though I had adults in mind as I was reading it. I wouldn’t have hesitated to put some salty stories into it had they come up, but almost all of the conversations I had were very baseball-centric. There were other tales told about friendships and meetings, things of that nature, but it’s not like I kept any sordid clubhouse lore from the book because I was catering to a younger audience. If it works out that it’s good for baseball fans of all ages, I’m all for that!

WW: What would you say is the one, or most important, thing that you want people to take away from reading “Facing Clemens”?

Mayo: That I’m a nice guy with two young children to support? In all seriousness, if it’s at all possible to separate out what’s happened in recent months, do so. There is no doubt that the landscape has changed, but I think the one thing the book says strongly is that the challenge of trying to hit Roger Clemens is no different. Regardless of your current opinion of him, at the time of the meetings between the hitters I interviewed and Clemens, none of that mattered. He was, and will forever be, one of the toughest right-handers to face in the history of the game. I think readers of the book will gain an understanding and appreciation of that far beyond what looking at his career numbers would do.

Thanks to Jonathan Mayo for spending some time to share more about "Facing Clemens: Hitters on Confronting Baseball's Most Intimidating Pitcher."

I found the book to be an interesting read. The book gives you a good feel for how batters felt about Clemens' "mound presence" - in that, when he pitched, it was as if "he owned the ballpark."

There's plenty of other insight in the book as well. For example, here's Darryl Hamilton talking about the 2000 World Series: "We [the Mets] went into the World Series thinking we had a better team the year before, but we didn't get there. I think we were happy, obviously, to be in the World Series, but we weren't so locked that we were saying we could win it. I know that's weird to hear, but I think that's just the way a lot of guys were thinking. Especially after losing the first game the way we did, it really brought a downer to the way we were going, If we win Game 1, obviously, the intensity turns around."

Hey, what can a Yankees fan say to that - other than "Thank you Timo Perez!" And, of course, thanks to "Facing Clemens" for the telling of the story!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2008

A Touch of Pinstripes

There's a brand new Yankees blog on the scene: A Touch of Pinstripes

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!


Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2008

Cambios y Curvas

For those who don't know, there's a Yankees blog written in spanish on the scene: Cambios y Curvas

It's even linked to on YankeesBeisbol.com (which is "El Sitio Oficial de Los Yankees de Nueva York").

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by WW Staff at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2008

YankeeBlography

There's a brand new Yankees blog on the scene: YankeeBlography

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by WW Staff at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2007

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008

Being a big fan of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007, I was truly looking forward to reviewing the The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008. And, once done, I was not disappointed.

Following the format of the two annuals that preceded it, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 provides an extensive review of the past season, essays related to baseball history, features deep-rooted in statistical analysis, and, pages and pages of stats, stats, and more stats.

If The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 was a baseball bat, clearly, the content therein centering on statistical analysis would be the fat part of the bat.

Don't take this to mean that the features on the 2007 season and baseball history were not enjoyable. On the whole, I found them to be interesting and worth reading.

In particular, Dave Studenmund's "The Story Stat," where Dave uses the 2007 season to explain "Win Probability Added" (WPA) and "Leverage Index" (LI) - at a level where the old woman down the street would understand it - was excellent and recommended reading for anyone who does not understand WPA and LI.

And, Will Leitch's "The Deadspin Spin on 2007" was very entertaining - as was "The Months of 2007 in History" by Richard Barbieri.

Further, Chis Jaffe's "Manager Grinders and Boppers" (where Chis, via the stats, shows us who are baseball's true 'small ball' and 'moneyball' managers) is a must read. (Spoiler Alert: Buck Showalter would rather lose a finger than risk giving up an out.)

More so, it's a matter of the (deep) "statistical analysis" features being so off-the-charts in terms of value that they bring cause for you wanting more of them and less of the other (non-stats based) content in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008.

Mitchel Lictman's "Signals and Noise" (where he shows us which teams under- and over-performed in 2007), Tom Tango's "With or Without You" (where he uses the stats to determine the best fielding catchers in baseball history), David Gassko's "Do Managers Matter?" (where he details which skippers actually help or hurt their teams), and John Walsh's "The Origin of the Platoon Advantage" (where he shows us that it's actually the fastball and the slider that lead to large platoon splits - and not the not the curveball or the change), were so outstanding that they alone make The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 a worthy purchase.

To be fair, not every feature in the analysis section was as attention-grabbing as those noted above. Personally, I found Tom Tango's "With or Without...Derek Jeter" (where he uses a new look to show Jeter's lack of fielding skill) and Vince Gennaro's "The Dollar Value of Player Development" (where he makes a case for player development being "the lifeblood of an MLB franchise") to be somewhat like beating old drums, albeit using a new stick, and playing a song that we've all heard before...many times.

However, again, the "great to good" to "O.K. to boring" ratio for the statistical features in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 is very heavy on the "great to good" side. By far, these features put a great swing on the ball and make solid contact many, many, more times than not.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the "stats" in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 - as more than half of the book is pages full of statistics.

In a nutshell, the "Statistics" section of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 is, well, it's the data that you pray the G.M. of your favorite baseball team has at their fingertips, understands, and uses when making decisions. The statistics provided are both ground-breaking and illuminating.

For example, as noted in the book, Jose Contreras had an ERA of 5.57 in 189 innings pitched last season. Ask 99 out of 100 baseball fans and they will tell you that Contreras was a terrible pitcher in 2007.

However, as the statistics in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 show us, Jose's Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) - meaning strikeouts, walks and homers allowed - was not very out of line for him. Also, his Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) - meaning the percentage of times a batted ball was turned into an out by his fielders - was third worst in the league. Further, 68% of Contreras' ground balls allowed went for outs - compared to the league average of 74% - and Jose gave up more runs per grounder compared to the average big league pitcher. Via the stats in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 you can see that Jose Contreras was not a very lucky pitcher in 2007.

You just can't get stats like these in very many places - which makes The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 incredibly unique and useful.

When you factor in the retail price of $19.95, there's really no excuse for a zealous baseball fan not to pick up The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008. (And, if you know a baseball fan, and are looking to buy them a gift this holiday season, you will do no wrong by getting them this book.)

In 2005, I wrote:

I highly recommend The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. I've read many books like this over the last 25 years and this one is right up there among the best of the group.

And, in 2006, I wrote:

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 is batting 1.000 - in terms of providing great and ground-breaking baseball analysis. It's a worthy pick-up.

Having now read The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008, in summary, I have to "borrow" from what I wrote about its predecessors and say:

I've read many books like this over the last quarter-century and this one is right up there among the best of the group. In terms of providing great and ground-breaking baseball analysis, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 is an excellent learning tool and valuable resource. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:41 AM | Comments (2)

November 08, 2007

The Yankee Squirrel

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: The Yankee Squirrel

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!


Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2007

The Bill James Baseball Handbook 2008

For 13 years, STATS Inc. published the STATS Major League Handbook. However, in the fall of 2002, STATS Inc. all but suspended its publishing operation. At that time, it had appeared that 2002 would be the end of the Major League Handbook (that so many had grown fond of over time). However, in June of 2003, thanks to the good folks at Baseball Info Solutions and Acta Publications, The Bill James Handbook (as this grand annual was renamed) reappeared on the scene - and it has continued to be available in the years to follow.

On November 1, 2007, The Bill James Handbook 2008 was released.

As usual, this version of the Handbook contains team statistics from last season - including Bill James' Team Efficiency Summary, a register of career stats for everyone who played in the majors this past year, 2007 fielding stats - including the 2007 Fielding Bible Awards, manager records and tendencies, park data, player splits, leader boards, win shares data, and 2008 player projections.

In addition, this version of the Handbook contains some new and expanded features. These include:

* Bill James' Young Talent Inventory - with good grades for the Rockies, D-Rays and D-backs...and bad grades for the Astros, Cubs and Tigers.

* Bill James' Manufactured Run Analysis - which notes that, last season, manufacturing runs was slightly more a trait of successful teams than preventing teams from scoring them.

* Bill James' Player & Team Baserunning Analysis - that shows why Mike Cameron is the king of going first to third and why Jason Varitek is a station-to-station guy...and that the Angels, as a team, will first to third you to death whereas the Astros killed themselves on the bases as a team.

Granted, in the past, the STATS Major League Handbook had an edge that is no longer available for The Bill James Handbook. Both books provide reams and reams of great baseball data and were/are the earliest "baseball annual" each year. For the STATS Major League Handbook, these two wrinkles were a major draw as, at that time, there were not web-sites that provided (both traditional and sabermetric) baseball data on a real-time basis. Nor, for the most part, were there software programs that contained this information. Therefore, if you wanted baseball data like this, and you wanted it "ASAP," the STATS Major League Handbook was your source.

However, while not having an edge in terms of exclusive data and publication timing, The Bill James Handbook does provide you with something unique - call it a serendipitous benefit - with its retro-style media format. In simple words: It's a book!

Being a book, you can do something with The Bill James Handbook that you can't do with a web-site or software program - meaning you can read it...like a book.

You can sit with it for an hour, or just a few minutes, and no matter how much time you spend when looking at the Handbook, you will find abundant nuggets of baseball enlightenment and amusement. With every turn of a page - albeit if you start at the first page of it or just pick a starting page at random - you can begin a fun journey into the land of baseball statistics. And, again, because it's a book, The Bill James Handbook lends itself towards being used in locations and/or times, and in a way, that web-sites and/or software programs cannot provide the same satisfying results.

Think of it this way: You need a screw-driver. You know where to find it. It's in a tool-box on a shelf in your garage. So, you go exactly there, and get the exact screw-driver that you need. That's nice and satisfying feeling. You have a need, you know the best place to address it, and it's easy to complete that need at that place.

Now, think about this situation: You have some time to kill. Just for the heck of it, you go for a walk in the neighborhood. As you are strolling, you run into an old friend that you haven't seen in years. You talk to them and start to realize how much they had to offer in terms of enjoying their company. Then, as you're talking, someone that you never noticed before comes by and joins your conversation - and you start to realize that this new person also offers insight that is something that you never thought of...and, you find it useful and enjoyable as well.

Both of these situations benefit you. But, going for that screw-driver is not going to deliver the same benefit that you get from that random and chance meeting with old and new friends. And, chances are, if you needed a screw-driver, the best route was that direct line to that tool-box on a shelf in your garage - rather than hoping you might find one, or run into someone with one, if you went for a walk around the block.

Still with me? What I'm trying to say here is that using a web-site or software program to get baseball data, is like the screw-driver situation. If you know what you need (or want), specifically, and you know the quickest place to get it, then going there makes sense. However, if you're looking to take some time, and allow yourself to find something - that you're not specifically looking for - and want it to be a positive experience, then a more indirect and broader route is the better way to go...like taking that walk and rolling with chance meetings...or like picking up The Bill James Handbook, reading it, and seeing what you'll find out.

It's for this latter reason that I highly recommend The Bill James Handbook 2008. Just don't get it for all the great data and analysis that's inside it - get it because of the way in which it can be used...and enjoyed...in a manner that only a book can provide.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:25 PM | Comments (2)

November 06, 2007

Yankee Stadium's Misfits of Row X

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Yankee Stadium's Misfits of Row X

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Posted by Steve Lombardi at 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2007

The Bronx is Burning DVD Set

I've been meaning to share this for a while now. I recently had a chance to watch the The Bronx is Burning on DVD. When the series was on ESPN, I never really got into it - probably because of when they were airing it. Still, I was happy to see if come out on DVD - because the 1977 Yankees interest me.

On the whole, I truly enjoyed The Bronx is Burning DVD set. I can testify that this series, on certain things, was dead-on with the facts. The forces behind the production must have gone to great lengths to make sure they mirrored exactly how things happened.

Sure, there were some parts of the story that I would be willing to bang heads on...the role of Fran Healy being one. The series made Healy out to be one of the clubhouse leaders on the team. That's not something that I recall happening back in 1977. But, then again, Healy was one of the "consultants" to the series, so, that could have something to do with it.

Also, certain players had large roles in the series - as you would expect. And, other players had smaller roles. But, Roy White was just about completely MIA. And, there was no mention whatsoever of Dave Kingman being on the team - and, that was a story, somewhat, in 1977 (because of his Mets connection).

Of all the acting performances, I was most impressed with Oliver Platt as Big Stein - and, I came into this one with reservations on that casting. But, having now watched his performance, I thought Platt nailed it - and I will think of his performance, now, and probably forever, when I think of George Steinbrenner.

The DVD set also comes with bonus extended interviews with Reggie, Stein, and Billy Martin Jr., which are insightful.

Having now watched it, I would recommend The Bronx is Burning DVD set for Yankees fans. I enjoyed it. And, I'll probably watch it again over the winter for a baseball fix (at some point).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:49 PM | Comments (2)

iYankees

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: iYankees

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2007

Yankee GM Blog & Inspired Numbers

There's two relatively new Yankees blogs on the scene: Yankee GM Blog and Inspired Numbers.

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2007

Phil Allard Live!

FYI, Phil Allard will be running a daily and in-game blog during the playoffs over at NYYFans.com. It will be on the front page of the site around game time this evening. You may want to check it out. Sounds like fun.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2007

The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth

Eleven days ago, I picked up a copy of Leigh Montville's "The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth." Since I don't have a lot of time to read, I'm only about halfway through it now. Nonetheless, I wanted to share with you that this is an incredible book and one that I think any Yankees fan would enjoy.

Since it's already a national bestseller, I won't go on and on about it here. If you look around, you'll find that this book has received good reviews.

What's amazed me so far in the story is just unencumbered Babe Ruth was - in the way that he dealt with everything in his life. Sure, we've heard stories about him, on this, before. Still, Montville paints the picture of this aspect of the Babe with such focus that it's enlightening beyond what I've imagined.

If you're looking for a great baseball book to read, and you were on the fence about "The Big Bam," or, if you were not aware of it, you should grab this one. It's probably one of the better baseball biographies ever written - certainly in the top twenty-five ever.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:48 AM | Comments (3)

August 07, 2007

Five O'Clock Lightning

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Five O'Clock Lightning

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Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2007

1977 World Series Collector's Edition DVD Set

For the last week or so, I've been playing around with the Yankees 1977 World Series Collector's Edition DVD Boxed Set. This is a new collection that was released three months ago. If you haven't checked it out already, you'll want to get this one for your collection.

There are seven DVDs in the set - All six '77 World Series games against the Los Angeles Dodgers plus Game 5 of the ALCS against the K.C. Royals. There's also lots of post-game footage following Game 6 of the World Series and interviews from people like Reggie Jackson, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Lou Piniella, George Steinbrenner, Paul Blair, Brian Doyle, and others.

The video quality is not always the greatest - in terms of being what one expects from a DVD - but, it's not at the level where it's an issue for your eyes.

Personally, it was fun to watch Game 1 of the '77 Series - since I never saw that one on TV (as I was there, in-person, at the Stadium that night). Heck, it's just interesting to watch games at the Stadium from that time period - with the distances in the outfield being 430 feet to left-center and 417 feet to dead-center. Billy Martin had a lot of confidence in Lou Piniella - playing him in that big left field.

Speaking of Piniella, in one of the later-day post-series interviews found on the bonus footage, Lou said that he couldn't remember Reggie's third homer from Game 6 of the Series...even though he knew that Jackson had three that night. How bizarre is that?

It was almost as bizarre as watching the 1977 post-game footage of Reggie being interviewed after Game 6...and seeing a baby-faced Dan Shaughnessy (aka "the CHB") looking like a deer in head-lights during the whole thing.

Like I said, there's some cool stuff in this set. And, watching the games on these DVDs is easy...I love the way the menus are set-up...so that you can go to any half-inning that you want at any time.

The World Series games were covered by ABC - so, for those games you get Keith Jackson, Tom Seaver, and Howard Cosell doing the games. (Cosell was in Cosell-form for these games too.) But, for Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS, you get the WPIX coverage of the game.

For me, having this game, with Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer and Bill White covering the contest, is the prize of this set.

First, just watching the game is awesome. It reminds me that George Brett and Hal McRae were the Manny Ramirez and David Oritz of their time - as they were major pains for the Yankees. And, it reminds me of how important Mike Torrez was to New York in the '77 post-season. (If there's such a thing as an overall MVP to the post-season, Torrez was it for the Yankees that year.)

Secondly, you get to see how Rizzuto, White and Messer handled games back then...mixing and matching between play-by-play and color (while also doing the radio on WMCA).

In this game, White did the play-by-play, with Rizzuto doing color, in the first three innings - with Messer on the radio. For the middle three innings of the game, Rizzuto did play-by-play, with Messer doing color - and White did the radio. And, for the last three innings, Messer did play-by-play, White was the color man, and Rizzuto closed out the game on the radio.

As a kid growing up, following the Yankees, this broadcaster set-up was the norm for me. And, I think it was the best - everyone got to do it all...and you, as a fan, got to hear your favorites...no matter if you were watching on TV or listening on the radio. Ah, memories.

And, that's what this DVD set is all about - bringing back some great memories - for me. For others, who are not as old as me, I think it would be a great primer to see what it was like to watch the Yankees, thirty years ago.

I highly recommend the Yankees 1977 World Series Collector's Edition DVD Boxed Set. It's the story of a great team's October. And, it's a time-machine dream for Yankees fans.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:13 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2007

The Yankee Trough

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: The Yankee Trough

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:03 AM | Comments (2)

July 09, 2007

Pags Radio

Former Yankee Mike Pagliarulo (and Adam White) are now running a show called The Baseline Report. As per their MySpace Page:

The Baseline Report will set the record straight on baseball. We'll analyze major league baseball decisions and performance without bias and we'll always explain why we feel a certain way. We will challenge all suppliers of baseball content and data to do the same.

It's about time the "Perception of Baseball" got closer to the "Reality of Baseball".

We're starting a radio show on ESPN 890/1410 in Boston on Sunday July 8th, from 10am to 11am. Straight baseball talk from baseball experts.

If you can pick up ESPN Radio in Boston, you might want to check them out. And, check out their blog on the MySpace Page. There's some interesting stuff there.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2007

IT IS HIGH, IT IS FAR, IT... IS... caught.

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: IT IS HIGH, IT IS FAR, IT... IS... caught.

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2007

The Secret Diary of George Steinbrenner

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: The Secret Diary of George Steinbrenner

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Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:19 AM | Comments (3)

June 21, 2007

The Stark Truth

I've just finished reading "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History" by Jayson Stark.

In the book, Stark provides his picks for the top five most "overrated" and "underrated" baseball players for the eight non-pitcher defensive positions, designated hitters, right-handed starters, left-handed starters and relief pitchers.

For the Yankees fans reading this, here's the "bad news" - there's at least a dozen Yankees that made the "overrated" lists whereas around only four Yankees made the "underrated" lists.

In any event, I enjoyed reading "The Stark Truth." It's a quick read. And, Stark has a very casual way of writing that makes you feel as if you're having a conversation with one of your baseball buddies - rather than having some supposed-hardball-genius preaching to you from their ivory tower.

You won't agree with all of Stark's picks...I know that I did not agree with some of them. Nonetheless, "The Stark Truth" presents many thought-provoking cases. And, they're presented via a nice blend of hard statistical facts mixed in with non-quantifiable yet illuminating supportive evidence.

Baseball fans who enjoy having their perceptions challenged will enjoy "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History." Granted, the cases may or may not change those perceptions. But, again, it's because of the overall concept of Stark's book, his presentation, and the succinct cases therein, that will make this an enjoyable read for them.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

lolyankees

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: lolyankees

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!


Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2007

River Ave Report

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: River Ave Report

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:01 AM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2007

Scott Proctor's Arm

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Scott Proctor's Arm

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Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2007

Yankee Girl Versus Guy

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Yankee Girl Versus Guy

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

June 02, 2007

New York Yankees Grand Slam Trivia DVD Game

If you're like me, and you pause to pay attention at Yankee Stadium when they flash a Yankees trivia question on the scoreboard between innings, or, if you're the type that always takes a stab at the AFLAC trivia question during the YES Network broadcasts, then I've got news on a new product that will interest you: it's the New York Yankees Grand Slam Trivia DVD Game.

Setting up the game is simple - you just pop it into your DVD player and use your remote to navigate through the game.

There's a Batting Cage portion of the game that you can use as a warm-up. The questions there, to me, were extremely simple. I would only recommend this portion of the game to those new to baseball and the Yankees.

However, the Grand Slam Trivia portion of the game is challenging. Here, it's two teams playing against each other - where you can play both sides (playing against yourself), or play against a friend, or have several friends playing at once (with them teaming up to form the two teams).

The Grand Slam Trivia portion is a three inning game where each team gets four At Bats in their inning. Get one question wrong and the inning is over. In your inning, you can choose the level of question that you want: single, double, triple or homerun. (Singles and doubles are easier questions than triples and homers.) Your baserunners move along the diamond, according to your hit, when you answer the question correctly. That's how you score your runs. With the choice of "hit," this adds some gamesmanship to the contest. Do you go for the lead-off homer, and risk being out with the tougher question? Or, do you play it safe and try four singles in a row and play for one run?

The questions in the Grand Slam Trivia portion of the New York Yankees Grand Slam Trivia DVD Game are good. I like to consider myself a pretty good Yankees trivia buff. Using my level of skill against the types of questions, I would say that 15% of the questions are "tough" (meaning I had to guess and/or got them wrong). I would figure that the "average" Yankees trivia buff would find 30-50% of the questions to be a challenge.

Another thing that I liked about the DVD was that it includes video clips that are played when some of the answers are disclosed. That's always fun to see the old footage, etc.

On the downslide, I did notice two things that I thought could have been better:

It's possible for a question to be repeated within the Grand Slam Trivia portion of the game - meaning one team can have the question in one inning and then the other team gets it later in the game. That's like a free hit for the other team if they're paying attention.

Also, I believe that every once in a while, the game sneaks in a question that has nothing to do with the Yankees. (Like "Who won the 1979 World Series?") But, I only saw that happen once when I previewed the game. So, maybe it doesn't happen all that often.

On the whole, I enjoyed playing the New York Yankees Grand Slam Trivia DVD Game. And, I expect to be popping it into the DVD player again - it's the perfect "toy" for when there's nothing on TV.

In addition, since it's a new product, I think it would be an excellent Father's Day 2007 gift idea. It's a cool gift for the dad who's difficult to buy for - assuming he's a Yankees fan who likes trivia. The game lists for $24.95 - however, I've seen it listed at $19.99 at Amazon.com as well. (Since Dad's Day is not that far away, you may want to grab a copy of the New York Yankees Grand Slam Trivia DVD Game soon.)

If you have any questions on the game, list them in the comments section below. I'll try and answer as many as possible.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2007

Let's Go Yankees

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Let's Go Yankees Blog

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:06 PM | Comments (2)

April 26, 2007

New York Yankees Baby DVD

Being the father of a 5-year old girl, and a 3-year old boy, I've watched more than my fair share of Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Maisy, Blue's Clues, Dora the Explorer, and Go, Diego, Go! videos over the last few years. Therefore, I somewhat have a feel for what works for the little ones with respect to video entertainment. However, when it came time to review the DVD "New York Yankees Baby," I decided to go with the reaction of someone better suited for the task...specifically, my aforementioned kids.

First, allow me to scope out "New York Yankees Baby." It's a 30-minute DVD program, Yankees-themed, that's broken into ten segments - nine "innings" of learning topics (such as "Let's Go to the Ballpark!" or "Baseball Stuff" or "Baseball Colors & Shapes") followed by an "Extra Inning!" of "Outtakes!" (from the production of the video). This DVD has everything that you would expect to see in an Infants/Toddlers video - plenty of songs/dancing and recognition/learning tools for things like counting, spelling, shapes and colors. Of course, it's all accompanied by heaps of footage of Yankees gear, highlights, sights, etc.

Now, to the more important items here: Did my kids enjoy "New York Yankees Baby"?

Upon receipt of the DVD, we watched it all, together, for the first time ever.

My 5-year old daughter was glued to it - from start to finish. She especially liked the sections where the learnings were on the parts of the baseball field, baseball colors, shapes, spelling and counting. She enjoyed singing along with "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" - of course, that's one of the first songs she ever learned...I made sure of that - and she laughed out loud during the "Outtakes!" section. When the DVD was over, her first reaction was "Can we watch that again?" (I told her that we would - another day as it was close to her bedtime.)

My 3-year old son was just as excited as his sister to watch it, at first. However, about halfway through he began to wonder off on to other things. At first, I was curious as to whether this reaction was due to lack of interest or perhaps the shortness of his attention span. Given his age, most would suspect that it could be the latter. Still, I've seen him sit through 90-minutes of watching Max & Ruby without ever leaving the room, so, I know that he can get locked into things - when he wants to be zoned-in. In any event, he came back to the room before we were done watching "New York Yankees Baby" - and he laughed just as hard as his sister during the "Outtakes!" section. Therefore, I suspected that maybe he just was wandering for the moment...as the DVD was not holding his interest.

At first blush, I took his reaction as a sign that perhaps this DVD was better suited for little ones closer to "sightly older than toddlers" (like my daughter) than for actual infants/toddlers. However, I soon learned otherwise.

After my kids and I watched "New York Yankees Baby" together on the family TV, (days later) I popped the DVD into my PC to watch it again - in order to prep for this review. While I had it on the PC, my son entered the room - and he started watching "New York Yankees Baby" with me - and he would not leave. He seemed just as glued to it as his sister did when she watched it the first time.

So, maybe his reaction that first time was just his mood at that moment? He certainly was interested to watch it when he unexpectedly found it playing on the PC.

Further, towards the end of our "PC" viewing of the DVD, his sister also walked into the room - to say "good-bye" as she (and my wife) was on her way to pre-school for the morning. When she saw what was on the PC-screen, she said "That's the baseball DVD. Can we watch that again when I come home from school?" And, you could tell that she really wanted to stay and watch it (along with me and my son) - and was somewhat disappointed that we were watching it at a time where she had to leave the house. (She was probably thinking to herself "Hey, you promised me we could watch this again. Why are you watching this without me now?")

I took this all as a good sign that "New York Yankees Baby" had the power of keeping kids interested during a repeat viewing. That's a big thumbs-up when it comes to a kid's endorsement of a video.

You probably get the idea by now: My kids, again, ages 3 and 5, did enjoy watching "New York Yankees Baby." This DVD even got the "Can we watch it again?" seal of approval from my daughter. What more needs to be said?

Personally, I thought the narration during the DVD, done by George Steinbrenner, was not animated enough for kids. (Someone cartoonish - like John Sterling - would have been a better pick in my opinion.) But, my kids didn't seem to mind at all. Between the music, dancing, baseball action, colors, counting and spelling, etc., there was enough to keep their interest.

There are two things in particular that I will remember about this "review" process.

When we watched it the first time, together, my son left the room before the "inning" where the DVD had the sing-a-long of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." And, actually, I stepped out of the room for a moment as well - to see what he was up to, elsewhere. It was at this time my wife said to me "You might want to get back in there and see this." When I did get back to the TV, I found my 5-year old daughter in the room, by herself, singing along, out loud, to "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." As a dad who's a baseball nut, that was a cool moment.

Later, when I was watching the DVD with my 3-year old son, via the PC, I noted that he had the same reaction each time we saw a highlight of a Yankee making a great play or getting a big hit. It was one word, said with passion: Whoa! As a dad who's a Yankees fanatic, in addition to being a baseball nut, that was music to my ears.

This all said, I would recommend "New York Yankees Baby" to any Yankees fan who has little kids. This DVD is entertaining for the little ones - and it's not all fluff...as there are learning skills built into it (on spelling, counting, shapes, etc.) Further, for the parent who is a Yankees fan, "New York Yankees Baby" is a nice primer to introduce your kids into something that interests you as well.

Having your kids share interests with you, and vice versa, is a pretty important tool towards keeping the lines of communication open with your children - in my opinion. "New York Yankees Baby" lends towards building that shared interest. For that reason alone, picking up this DVD will be a good return on your investment.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:43 AM | Comments (1)

April 04, 2007

New Blog Aiming For In-Game Commentary

There's a new Yankees-related blog that you may want to check out. It's:

Am Watching

Please note: The above blog is not affiliated with WasWatching.com in any way. I'm merely pointing them out to you in response to a request. Nonetheless, stop by and say hello to them, if you're interested.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2007

Another Media Yankees Blog In Town

Dom Amore of the Courant is now blogging.

He's around my age, grew up a Yankees fan, and is now living what many of us would consider a dream. I bet his blog will be worth checking out this season.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2007

Trentonian Thunder Report

There's a new Yankees-related blog that you'll want to check out. It's the:

Trentonian Thunder Report

Stop by and tell them that WasWatching.com sent you.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2007

Inside Power

InsidePower.jpg

To be candid, when I was first presented with an opportunity to review "Inside Power" (by Gary Sheffield with David Ritz), I accepted it not because I was attracted to learning more about the story of Gary Sheffield. I already knew that Sheffield was one of the all-time twenty-five best right-handed batters in the history of baseball. And, I knew that Sheffield was as hard-nosed as a real life "C-Note" Franklin. Therefore, I felt that I knew everything that I needed to know about Gary Sheffield. More so, rather than being driven by interest, I accepted the chance to read "Inside Power" because of my personal (and habitual) reflex/willingness to read almost anything baseball-related.

However, I must confess that, as soon as I began to read "Inside Power," I found myself become rapidly engrossed in this book.

In this autobiography, Sheffield tells his story - starting at the age of four, where he was hard pushed by his grandfather, step-father, and uncle (Dwight Gooden) to be tough and to excel at baseball. And, the story runs through his days in Little League, the Minor Leagues, and all his stops in the big leagues. Along the journey, Sheffield shares his take on dealing with racism, collusion, violence, the media, Bud Selig, Wayne Huizenga, Bob Dailey, Tommy Lasorda, Barry Bonds (and BALCO), George Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Joe Torre (among others).

In "Inside Power" we also learn how Sheffield, who had four children with four different women before he turned 30-years old, found religion and settled down with DeLeon Richards (who, along with former teammate Terry Pendleton, has become a major factor in how Sheffield now lives his life).

There is much to be found in this book. Even the name "Gary Sheffield" has a story to it. Gary's mother is Dwight Gooden's older sister. She married a man named Harold Jones and took his last name. However, before she married Jones, she became pregnant by a man named Marvin Johnson - a pregnancy which led to the birth of "Gary Sheffield." Where did "Sheffield" come from? While she was pregnant, Gary's mom was planning to marry a man named Lindsay Sheffield. When Gary was born, his mother listed "Sheffield" as the last name on his birth certificate to match the name of the man she planned to marry. However, the Gooden-Lindsay marriage never happened - and, after the break-up, Lindsay was killed. So, as Gary writes "My father's name is Johnson. My mother's name is Jones. My grandmother and grandfather's name is Gooden. And, I'm Sheffield, named for a man, killed in a robbery, who I never knew."

There's plenty of intriguing tales such as this one in Sheffield's book. "Inside Power" is a very quick-read, yet, it is attention-grabbing. I was pleased to have read it - and do recommend this book to any baseball looking to learn more about the complex life behind one of the greatest baseball hitters in the modern history of the game.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:26 PM | Comments (9)

March 21, 2007

The Pride and the Pressure - A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl

To begin here, I feel it is appropriate to share some statistical context of where the 2006 Yankees place in terms of all teams in the "Joe Torre's Yankees" era. To this end, I decided to use Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) and Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA).

Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) is a Lee Sinins creation. It is the difference between a team's Runs Created total and the total for an average team who used the same amount of outs. (A negative Runs Created Above Average indicates a below average team in this category.)

And, Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA) is another Lee Sinins creation. It is the amount of runs that a pitching staff saved versus what an average staff would have allowed. It is similar to the statistic Pitching Runs detailed in the book Total Baseball - except (1) both have different ways of park adjustments and (2) Total Baseball added a procedure to take into account the amount of decisions the staff had while Runs Saved Above Average does not. (A negative Runs Saved Above Average indicates a below average pitching staff in this category.)

Using the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, we can look at the RCAA and RSAA totals for each Yankees team, to date, under Torre:

Yanks9606RCAA.jpg
Yanks9606RSAA.jpg

As you can see, the 2006 Yankees were the best offensive team to ever play for Joe Torre. But, on the flip side, the 2006 Yankees - while almost near a league average mark of zero RSAA - were lacking in the pitching department compared to all other Torre Yankees squads (sans the 2004 Yankees pitching unit which was terrible).

Still, a team is the sum of its parts - and should be viewed in its synergistic state. Therefore, I've decided to give each RSAA and RCAA "score" (for the Bombers teams under Torre) a "ranking" in terms of where they fell compared to the other squads in this study - and then I took an average of the RSAA and RCAA ranks to come up with an overall "Torre Team Rating" (for lack of a better title). Here are the results:

The above chart suggests that the 1998 Yankees were the most overall talented team under Torre and the 2004 Yankees had the worst overall talent (all things considered) in terms of comparing Torre teams to Torre teams. I think most Yankees fans would agree with the statement about the 1998 Yankees. And, seeing the 2004 Yankees in this light makes you wonder how they got as far as they did that season.

This chart also suggests that, of all the Torre Yankees teams not to win a ring, the 2006 Yankees were probably the 3rd best overall squad - based mostly on the dominance of their offense - behind the teams from 2002 and 1997.

Seeing all this adds a new level of thought in regard to something I heard Joe Torre say during a WFAN interview on October 10, 2006. Torre said (that day, on the air) that the loss of the 2006 ALDS was worse to take than the loss in the 2004 ALCS because his team was competitive in the 2004 ALCS. Perhaps he should have added that the loss in the 2006 ALDS was worse to take than the loss in the 2004 ALCS because his team in 2006 had more overall talent than his teams from 2004 and 2005? If Joe had said that, I would agree with him - seeing the stats now.

The 2006 Yankees were the big offensive steam engine with a near league average pitching caboose who should have never wondered about whether they "can" make it up the hill - and, yet, in the end, they derailed. So, what happened?

The best way to tell is via retrospective dissection. And, thanks to The Pride and the Pressure - A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl by Michael Morrissey (288 pages, Doubleday Books) we now have the definitive chronicle of the 2006 New York Yankees - breaking both the team and the season down, part by part.

In "The Pride and the Pressure," Morrissey provides insight to specific key 2006 Yankees via chapters devoted to them. These parties include Johnny Damon, Brian Cashman, Mike Mussina, Bernie Williams, Joe Torre, George Steinbrenner, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Carl Pavano, and Melky Cabrera. In addition, Morrissey also provides chapters on Yankees Old-Timers view of the current Yankees landscape, the 2006 coaching staff, the Yankees August five-game sweep of the Sox in Fenway, the 2006 ALDS, and the Yankees off-season of 2006-07. There is also a chapter in "The Pride and the Pressure" which is centered on "Jeter/A-Rod."

I found each of these chapters in "The Pride and the Pressure" to be revealing and therefore entertaining.

Did you know that Derek Jeter's nickname for Jorge Posada is "Sado"? Did you know that Brian Cashman once said, when the Boston Red Sox lost catcher Jason Varitek to injury, that "He's one of the best you'll ever see, As a catcher who controls every pitch thrown on their side, you're gonna feel his loss"? Or, did you know that Jason Giambi once referred to Alex Rodriguez as a "glutton for punishment"?

I never knew about Posada's nickname, Cashman's admiration for Varitek, or Giambi's assessment of A-Rod - before I read "The Pride and the Pressure."

But, those are small, tidbit, type facts. In addition to those types of things that you will find in "The Pride and the Pressure," you will receive confirmation on bigger ticket items - such as, but not limited to, why Jason Giambi is so well liked by those on and around the team, or, how Mike Mussina has grown into being a team leader on the Yankees.

And, perhaps, most importantly, in reading "The Pride and the Pressure," you will learn for certain how both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have traits that are detrimental to the overall harmony of the team (unless they are willing to change).

In a nutshell, Morrissey's book provides everything that you need to know about the 2006 Yankees - with no holds barred. The Pride and the Pressure - A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl is a must read for Yankees fans and an excellent source of information for anyone wishing to know more about what it's like to play professional baseball in the Bronx Zoo circa 2006. Therefore, I highly recommend this book.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:56 PM | Comments (2)

March 15, 2007

YankeesHeroes.org

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: YankeesHeroes.org

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2007

SWB Yankees Blog

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: SWB Yankees Blog

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!


Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2007

How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball

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"How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball" (144 pages from ACTA Sports) was published on February 15, 2007.

In this work, a dozen writers share how Bill James changed the way they think about baseball (and other things). These writers include Alan Schwarz, Dave Studenmund, Gary Huckabay, John Thorn, Hal Richman, Ron Shandler, Rob Neyer and John Dewan (among others). In addition, throughout the book are comments and reflections from other "fans" of James' work. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I must share that I am one of those with a comment in this book.)

"How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball" is a quick read. Nonetheless, for any fan of Bill James, this book is extremely enjoyable from cover to cover.

One reason why this book is delightful is the one-degree of separation access angle. Have you ever met someone who knew someone else - and that someone else was a party that you've always been interested in? What's the first thing that you usually ask that person? It's "So, tell me all about so-and-so" (meaning the that someone else). With "How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball" you get that aforementioned one-degree of separation access angle to learn more about Bill James and his relationship with some of the people who have worked and/or who are close with him.

Also, for those commenting on James (in the book) where they did not have a direct relationship with the man, it's just fun to read about how others discovered his work, appreciated it, and how it changed their thinking. If you're a fan of Bill James, you will see a lot of yourself in these stories.

I would be remiss to not share one nitpick observation - in the spirit of Bill James' love of noting "This is wrong." Steve Moyer, the president of Baseball Information Solutions, (in his section of the book) writes "...I liked the Cardinals against the Red Sox in the 1967 World Series. (Ironically, when that series was replayed in 2005, I was rooting the other way.)"

Clearly, Moyer meant "replayed in 2004" and not 2005. However, that one small miscue is the only fault that I could find in this book.

"How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball" is a must read for any fan of Bill James' work as they will find reading this book to be a captivating experience. And, for those not aware of the legacy of Bill James, I cannot think of a better way (outside of this book) for them to learn more about it. I highly recommend "How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball."

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:52 PM | Comments (7)

February 27, 2007

The Psycho Fan

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: The Psycho Fan - Watch and enjoy as the New York Yankees slowly kill a grown man.

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2007

The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed

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J.C. Bradbury has authored a book that is slated to be released on March 15, 2007: "The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed."

In the book, Bradbury uses "sabernomics" to examine particular baseball puzzles - ranging from the field of play and beyond. What is "sabernomics"? It's taking sabermetrics to another level - by injecting it with a heavy dose of economic study applications.

Sabermetrics is the statistical analysis of baseball data. However, as Bradbury writes: "Sabermetrics involves analytical and statistical methods, but the analysis is often narrow and is not based on economic assumptions about human behavior."

To address this issue, Bradbury - who is an associate professor of economics at Kennesaw State - has enhanced the sabermetric method of analysis by incorporating the tools of modern economics into the process. These tools analyze human behavior and study how people respond to incentives. And, in the end, you have "sabernomics."

"The Baseball Economist," powered by "sabernomics," looks into trends on hit batsmen, the influence of on-deck batters on pitchers, the fallacy of fearing left-handed catchers, the impact of managers chirping on balls and strikes, the value of Leo Mazzone, the myth of market driven competitive imbalance, dealing with steroid use, and 'putting a dollar sign on the muscle' (meaning using stats and the economic approach to judge talent and determine worth) - among several other topics.

I found the content of Bradbury's book to be original, refreshing, thorough, objective, and thought-provoking. As such, "The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed" is the type of book that the analytical baseball fan will find as worth reading - and reading again. The publisher of Bradbury's book refers to the work as "Freakonomics meets Moneyball" and I would agree with this label. And, I would not be shocked to see "The Baseball Economist" do just as well (as those two books) on the seller's charts. I highly recommend Bradbury's book as one of the "must-read" baseball books of 2007.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

Sox and Pinstripes

I just noticed this press release about a new Yanks-Sox blog: Sox and Pinstripes

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2007

The Major League Strength Dugout

Dana Cavalea is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the New York Yankees. He's also got a blog: The Major League Strength Dugout

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!


Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

The New Ballgame: Understanding Baseball Statistics for the Casual Fan

Back when I was in the 5th grade (in 1972), I bought a book at our school 'Book Fair' that was very important to me (at the time).

The book was called "How to Play Better Baseball."

It was a 'learners' book on baseball - how the playing field was made up, what equipment was used in the game, how to field each position, pitch, hit, run the bases, game strategy and how to keep score - all with many illustrations that looked like they were right out of Schoolhouse Rock.

I probably read the thing (at least) 50 times after I bought it. And, I still have it - I guess that I've kept it, all these years, just for old-times sake.

I just had the pleasure to read Glenn Guzzo's new book - "The New Ballgame: Understanding Baseball Statistics for the Casual Fan" and it reminded me of that 'learner' baseball book from my youth.

"The New Ballgame" (which was just released this month) provides a user-friendly primer for the newer baseball fan (or those just new to appreciating the numbers that are tied to the game) on the use and history of baseball statistics.

In this book, Guzzo runs through the conventional everyday baseball statistics, offers a brief statistical history of baseball, teaches the basics of keeping score and reading a box score, details how statistical appreciation can be applied at the park or watching TV, and gives a hint at the future of baseball statistics - as well as touching on the use of baseball stats in fantasy games.

"The New Ballgame" is a quick read. And, to be candid, if you're the type of fan who can recite the formula for Bill James Win Shares calculation (without looking it up) and/or you have been a member of a historical review board at SABR for the last thirty years, then this is probably not the book for you.

Nonetheless, if you're a new fan to the game of baseball, or someone who has been a fan but has never really understood baseball statistics, I would recommend picking up "The New Ballgame." You will learn something by reading this book. (Even this 30+ year fan of the game picked up some new tidbits when reading the brief statistical history of baseball section in the book.)

Just as I have kept "How to Play Better Baseball" for over three decades, I could see someone still having "The New Ballgame" on their bookshelf thirty years from now.

It's that "first kiss" effect - many seem to always want to remember that first lip-lock. And, if you're in need of that "first kiss" in terms of learning about baseball statistics, "The New Ballgame" is a great way to get introduced to something that you can enjoy for the rest of your life.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

The Pinstripe Pen

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: The Pinstripe Pen

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2007

River Ave. Blues

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: River Ave. Blues. You may recognize some of the authors there.

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:08 PM | Comments (5)

February 18, 2007

Subway Heroes

There's a relatively new "New York Sports Blog" on the scene: Subway Heroes

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:55 PM | Comments (2)

January 30, 2007

Yanks and More

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Yanks and More.

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:53 AM | Comments (8)

January 28, 2007

The Best New York Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard New York Fans

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I've been thumbing through a copy of Peter Handrinos' new book, The Best New York Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard New York Fans.

To be candid, before I opened the book, I was lukewarm on the probability of enjoying this work. This was no reflection on this particular book. More so, it was based on my experiences reading these types of "all-sports" debate books in the past. I'm no longer a huge football fan and I've never been a fan of hoops, hockey, or boxing (which The Best New York Sports Arguments also covers in addition to New York baseball).

However, I am enjoying the heck out of reading The Best New York Sports Arguments.

First of all, Handrinos addresses arguments that I can relate to - even if I'm not a fan of the sports.

For example: Living in the New York area, even if you're not a diehard fan of football, you probably know who Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick are - and can appreciate the debate on who is the best coach? Or, you can know nothing about boxing, but, you'll probably know who Mike Tyson is - and you can enjoy the question of was he ever a great heavy-weight? And, while I've never watched a Knicks game, I understand the question of was Patrick Ewing to blame for them never winning a title while he was there.

This aside, still, I should share that it seems like at least half of the "arguments" in the book are baseball-related. So, perhaps that's why The Best New York Sports Arguments is really winning me over?

In any event, secondly, and more importantly, what I think I am enjoying the most about The Best New York Sports Arguments is that Peter Handrinos is not shy an offering a strong opinion on each of the "arguments" presented in the book. And, while I agree with him on some and disagree with him on others, I am enjoying reading what he has to say on each.

Reading The Best New York Sports Arguments is as if you're sitting in a sports bar, by yourself, and you overhear the guy sitting next to you talking to the bartender about something sports related. And, the topic is something that you find interesting. So, you start to engage the guy when the bartender leaves and you find out that this guy has a lot of entertaining positions on many of the local sports teams, etc. Again, you may not agree with everything that he says, but, since he shares it in a manner that makes you think, it's a good time.

There's plenty Yankees/Sox, Yankees/Mets, A-Rod/Jeter stuff in the book that will appeal to Yankees fans. And, you can tell that Handrinos has his favorites in these debates. Still, again, the way he presents his cases are more than just a guy picking his favorite and not having a good reason to back it up.

Since The Best New York Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard New York Fans is a paperback book, it doesn't cost you more than it would to pick up a couple of magazines at the newsstand. At that price, and given it's entertainment value, it's a worthy pick-up for the New York area sports fan who enjoys hearing positions being taken, and therefore getting stimulated themselves, on various New York sports debates.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:37 PM | Comments (3)

January 25, 2007

Yanked Foul

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Yanked Foul.

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2007

Michael Morrissey Interview

Michael Morrissey has been writing about Major League Baseball since 1997. He has been honored in "Best American Sports Writing" three times. He's been covering baseball in New York City since 2000 and currently writes for the New York Post. From January 11, 2007 through January 19, 2007, I had a chance to do a "Q&A" session with Michael on his new book which details the 2006 baseball season in the Bronx. In the process, Michael also shared some very interesting insight on Joe Torre, Brian Cashman, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter. Our exchanges follow herein.

WasWatching.com: Your book, The Pride and the Pressure: A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl, is slated for release on April 10th of this year. What can you tell us about the book now and what was the driving force behind your decision to write it?

Michael Morrissey: Steve, I'll handle the second part of the question first, because it's something the publishing houses wanted to know when we were shopping the book proposal. What I told various publishers was that my idea for "The Pride and the Pressure" came to mind during the winter after the 2005 season, when a confluence of events hammered home the uniqueness of being a Yankee. GM Brian Cashman broke down in tears at the end of the team’s season, and there was widespread speculation that he would move on. Also, manager Joe Torre was dissatisfied with the culture of the organization, and he spent a week in October debating whether to honor his contract for 2006.

Meanwhile, Matt Lawton was busted for steroid use. Lawton said he panicked after a 3-for-38 start as a Yankee and buckled under the pressure of playing in New York. At the same time, Alex Rodriguez was waffling as to whether he would play in the World Baseball Classic, and for the Dominican Republic or the United States. To top it off, the continued specter of steroids surrounded Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi.

During the winter, I came to the conclusion that nobody in this most recent era had written strictly through the prism of the pressures and prestige of being a Yankee. People had written excellent books about the beginning and the end of the Yankee dynasty and the rivalry with Boston. They had written great biographies of certain players. But no one had focused on the uniqueness of being a Yankee circa 2006. In my mind, A-Rod's tenure with the team alone merited a new book on the current status of the organization.

In the spring, I approached Yankee officials from the top down concerning my idea. Team president Randy Levine pledged his cooperation with the book. Cashman, who remained as GM, told me he hoped the book would become a best-seller and also agreed to offer insight. Torre generously agreed to be interviewed exclusively during the course of the season. And since I’ve been with the Post since 2000, I’ve developed a rapport with guys like Sheffield, Giambi, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter.

As far as what the book is about, I'd say it's one writer's inside look at the tradition and turmoil unique to the Yankees. I tried to make this book a look behind the clubhouse door through the eyes of these players - with refreshing, off-the-beaten-path honesty - as much as I could. I'm reluctant to talk a lot about the actual contents until it's published for obvious reasons, but there will be some very interesting insights and information.

So often in a newspaper, we're limited by the constraints of time and/or space. While that's true in a general sense in the book world, you have much more time and much more space to report, to analyze and finally, to put forth words. People who love Bernie Williams, for example, will be treated to an entire chapter on Bernie. There are other issues that are examined in more depth than they've ever been examined. That's about as specific as I can get until April 10th, unfortunately.

Also, I will begin blogging this week about the book-writing experience and life in the "Yankee Fishbowl," on my new website, http://www.myspace.com/theprideandthepressure, so I encourage any Yankee fan with interest in the book to check it out.

WasWatching.com: Pressure, or stress (if some prefer), and dealing with anxiety, etc., have always interested me. Pressure brings change - but it can either make a diamond or dust. It's been my experience that there are two kinds of stress - actual, true, would rattle anyone pressure and the stress/pressure that someone creates on their own in the way they decide to deal with a particular situation (that may not stress everyone). In your opinion, was the pressure on the 2006 Yankees something that was real or something that certain individuals created on their own? I know that you cannot get into too many specifics, but, could you try and share why you think it was one way, or the other - or even both?

Michael Morrissey: It's my opinion that, from the top of the Yankees on down, as well as from the media and fans, there is a mandate to win a world championship that creates a certain level of pressure. Brian Cashman and Joe Torre admit that there's a pressure that doesn't exist in other cities, and by speaking of it publicly, I think they try to alleviate some of the anxiety. Their feeling is, hey, it exists, let's not pretend it's the elephant in the room. Cashman told me back in the 2000 season that there are plenty of people who would prefer not to be a GM in such a high-pressure situation, and the same goes for players. We see guys shy away from playing in New York every winter. So there was a certain alert level in play at the beginning of the season.

Then, there's the self-imposed pressure beyond what's expected of the team. One of the most famous examples was Roger Clemens trying to fit into a world championship clubhouse back in 1999, instead of simply being "The Rocket." Torre had to tell him to be himself more than once, but Clemens admittedly didn't truly feel comfortable for about a year and a half. The performance suffered.

Alex Rodriguez, obviously, is the most obvious current example. Anyone who watched the Yanks last year knows that A-Rod squeezed the sawdust out of his bat during certain stretches. He tried to do too much, he tried to end the booing with one swing, and it didn't help matters. Same thing: people like Torre and Don Mattingly told him at certain points to just relax and have fun. Larry Bowa was another guy, as you'll see in the book. Reggie Jackson has a great anecdote in the book on this subject.

I go back to the Matt Lawton answer from the first question, because to me it hammered the idea home. If you take Lawton's explanation of steroid use at face value (which I did), and you believe he was a nice guy, always clean throughout his career, who suddenly panicked because he was in New York and in a slump and in danger of losing a job, it makes perfect sense. Guys like Kenny Rogers who had decent careers elsewhere couldn't, admittedly, cut it here. I believe that's because of the unique stress that's imposed, outwardly and inwardly.

WasWatching.com: Part of me wants to believe that the eventual results of the 2004 ALCS, coupled with the Game 5 loss in the 2005 ALDS, may have led to a heightened sense of pressure for the main ringless players on the 2006 Yankees team - like A-Rod. However, the fact that Alex Rodriguez was the league MVP in 2005 starts to poke some holes in that theory. It seems odd that A-Rod did not feel the performance impacting pressure in 2005 like he did in 2006. So, maybe the 2004 ALCS had nothing to do with it? (Perhaps the Yankees just knew that the Red Sox could pitch, pardon the pun, rings around them in 2004?) This still does leave the 2005 ALDS end result as a possible cause for more pressure in 2006. Was this your finding? Or, was there something else out there that made 2006 more pressure packed than most other Yankees seasons?

Michael Morrissey: There is no doubt that the guys like Mussina, Giambi, A-Rod, et al. feel a heightened sense of being ringless. In fact, there's an anecdote early in the book where it's addressed as a team. They all, in one form or another, shared that sentiment. They all could've played anywhere; they came to where they thought they had the best chance of winning a World Series ring. Yes, Rodriguez agitated for a trade, but he would've only played in a couple of competitive cities once he realized the mess that he was in with Texas.

Now, I don't personally think that the fact that the team collapsed in 2004 and suffered a disappointing early exit in '05 was the only cause for what happened in the '06 playoffs. For those that think the collective playoff failures, however, causes a snowball effect that rears its head every October, I'd tend to accept that as part of the reason for the pressure.

As for A-Rod, he had a terrific year in 2005 but then was terrible in the playoffs, and he admitted trying to carry the whole load - which he addresses in the book. In '06, I believe the lineups the manager put forth contributed a great deal to A-Rod feeling pressure and not performing.

As far as the ultimate defeat, I feel that the Game 2 swing was pivotal, and the Yanks looked flat for the final three games after Damon's homer. Part of that was Detroit pitching, but part of that was an energy thing, a chemistry thing, even a lineup thing, whatever you want to call it. And consider this: if Yankee fans were asked at the beginning of the year if they wanted Jaret Wright - a back-end starter the entire season - to pitch a Game 4 facing elimination, what would they have said? So ultimately, there was also some unsupported optimism (or hope) in the back end of the rotation by people in the organization.

WasWatching.com: I was all set to ask you some questions about the process of writing the book at this point. But, something you just said begs me to ask for more on it. In your opinion, in what way did Torre's line-ups contribute a great deal to Rodriguez feeling pressure and not performing?

Michael Morrissey: In my opinion, the decision to bat A-Rod sixth to begin the Division Series was either very poorly thought out or simply misguided. Based on what I observed before and after, it had a strong effect. Now, keep in mind the Yankees won the first game with a timely RBI single from Gary Sheffield and without any contribution from Rodriguez, who stung the ball a couple of times. That said, the lineup decision turned workout day into an absolute circus, I feel that played on A-Rod's psyche. How many ballplayers would ask himself these questions: why is Skip bumping me down to sixth? I haven't hit there in 10 years. I've been hitting cleanup much of the season. I finally jumped out of my latest slump. I'm swinging good. The guy hitting cleanup has been hurt all year. The guy hitting cleanup has way worse numbers than I do off Nate Robertson. I've tattooed Robertson over my career. Why make a change now? What's Skip trying to prove? Why is he doing this to me?

If you want to dismiss it as one writer's opinion or armchair psychology, that's OK. But the proof is in the pudding. If you look back on the coverage of workout day, it became a gigantic story.

Now, if Torre's initial intentions were to take the heat off Rodriguez and try to get him to relax by hitting sixth, you can chalk it up as a noble but failed experiment. As soon as the Yanks lost, though, A-Rod was back up to fourth. So much for relieving the pressure. When they lost again, he was dumped to eighth.

Objectively, based on where A-Rod batted most of the season, through thick and thin, based on where he batted after Matsui and Sheff returned, based on stats against the Game 1 starter, based on the probability that Sheff was not in midseason form (something he admitted in November), based on the likelihood that a commotion would be made if/when the manager changed the lineup from what it was in September - all these things are evidence that Torre made a mistake. Messing with A-Rod's spot in the lineup (and thereby his head) affected him, in my view, and he went 1-for-14. Torre has historically made his career on putting out brush fires. He's one of the best ever at it. But in my humble opinion, he created one here - and it raged out of control into a forest fire.

The issue is discussed at great length in the book, and I'm curious to what your readers think. Were they perplexed when they initially saw A-Rod dumped to sixth for the playoff opener? Were they thrilled that he wouldn't be in the heart of the order? What did they think of the Game 3 and Game 4 lineups?

WasWatching.com: Well, I can tell you what I wrote when I first saw that Torre decided to bat Rodriguez 8th in Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS:

"Mark down today's date: October 7th, 2006. This is the date that we can look to when judging the acquisitions of Giambi and A-Rod. The results of today's starting line-up tell you everything you need to know. In a 'must win' or die game, the manager of the team feels that he cannot count on these guys to be major factors towards a chance to win."

As far as the readers of WasWatching.com, if I recall correctly, the reaction was a mixed bag. Some were fine with the decision whereas others thought it brought cause to no longer defend Torre's moves. Some thought it was a sign that A-Rod must leave town and others thought that Torre should be fired for the decision.

You mentioned this matter is discussed at great length in the book. Was that hard to do? Do you have any concerns about this, or anything in the book, creating a situation where it may damage your standing with those you still need to report on? Are you expecting that you may have to do some fence mending this Spring?

Michael Morrissey: It wasn't necessarily hard to do, because I'm a writer who has been taught at the Post to shoot from the hip. You can't really hedge your analysis or criticism based on the fact that someone might not like it, or else the readers, in the end, are the ones who suffer. It was my opinion, and my editor at Doubleday backed me, that whitewashing what turned out to be a disappointment wouldn't be right, wouldn't be true.

Now, that said, I'm sure some people will be unhappy when the book comes out, but I'm not worried about it damaging my standing with them.

Sportswriting has changed so much just in the course of a generation or two. I encourage all your readers to pick up the great Jerome Holtzman book, "No Cheering in the Press Box." It's a great read about a bygone era, and any baseball or history fan should enjoy it. I'm mentioning it because there are a couple of great anecdotes about how certain writers were, among other things, sycophants for the players. Nowadays, there's a wariness between athletes and sportswriters, at best. At worst, it's a downright confrontational relationship. Doing the job in the clubhouse has never been more difficult.

I recall the great Peter Gammons - who I can unabashedly say was my sportswriting hero growing up, and the reason I got into this industry - saying that early in his career, he used to occasionally shag fly balls for some of the Red Sox players during early BP. Folks, if I tried to do that nowadays - I say this half-jokingly - the security guards would probably hustle me off the field and right out the Stadium.

So that was a roundabout way of saying that things have changed. To really answer the question, while I highly respect Brian Cashman and Joe Torre and all they've done in building and sustaining the premier franchise in sports, I'm not afraid to report on what I felt were the team's shortcomings. The same holds true for the players. I don't think the standing will be damaged, because much of the book is based on what people have told me through their own eyes. Additionally, the reporting of the results is unmistakable. In other words, you can't argue that a franchise that demanded nothing less than a 27th world championship since the first day of spring training lost to an inexperienced (if not inferior) club, which in turn lost to an 83-78 club in the World Series.

As far as certain anecdotes or certain candid remarks, yeah, some people end up looking bad. Savvy Yankee fans can probably even guess who they are. And I'm sure some Yankees might be offended by them when the book comes out. But all I can do is stand by my reporting and my analysis, and I'm fully comfortable with that.

WasWatching.com: Speaking of life in the Yankees clubhouse, from your view, has there been much of a change there in terms of the overall climate and how people relate to each other, now, as compared to 6 or 7 years ago? In what way? If the change has been in the wrong direction, is it something that can be corrected this season? What would that require, in your opinion?

Michael Morrissey: I arrived in New York after the 2000 season was already underway, so I missed most of the camaraderie that may have existed on the earlier teams. That already seems like a long time ago, and I remember them as not often in the clubhouse and kind of grumpy - maybe because I was a "rookie" that year, or maybe because I so vividly remember them losing 15 of 18 at the end of the regular season. I guess the point is, I don't think it's a radical change to what the press saw last season and in '00.

I can speak to this: I think in 2006, the Yankees were better than they were during '04 and '05 (I was on the Mets beat in 2002 and 2003, so I can't speak to those years). The fact that a player tried to do something out in the clubhouse, like Sal Fasano and the chess game with the B List guys and the fact that players tried to grow mustaches, even if it was only a few and for a few days - these are moves forward. But they're small moves. If you ask your friends who might follow other baseball teams religiously, ask them about all the goofy, off-beat stuff that their teams do over a six-month period. Seems like even when you think about it in your own head, there's more gung-ho stuff that happens elsewhere, from the Frat Boy A's of the early 2000s to the Idiot Red Sox of '04. Even the Mets openly crowed about how loose they were last year, and I seem to remember a Sports Illustrated cover piece on just that topic (which the Mets then blew up a replica of and hung proudly on their clubhouse wall).

Point being, I think the Yankees are always going to be one of the most buttoned-down teams in baseball compared to others. The guys I talked to in '06 thought the chemistry was really strong for the most part, even A-Rod I think said it was the best since he had been there. But Gary Sheffield argued that the Yankees can do much better in that area, and it's something that we talk about in the book.

One thing that could get better would be the perception around A-Rod, from the media, fans, and, yes, his teammates. The fact that everyone from Rudy Giuliani to Darryl Strawberry is commenting on the Rodriguez boobirds and the Jeter/A-Rod dynamic is not a good thing, Yankee fans. On that topic, the status quo in '07 would not be a good thing. That can be corrected by Rodriguez sprinting out of the starting blocks and staying hot until he wins the league MVP and a World Series title. I know Yankee fans would gladly take that.

Otherwise, I think the contagious enthusiasm the young players like Cano and Cabrera show will continue to positively affect the vets, and I think you'll see good chemistry as long as they keep winning. Having Sheffield and Johnson out of town and not moping around certainly helps.

WasWatching.com: The constant commenting on A-Rod thing is tough - because it's such a deep topic that always seems to pull you back into it. For instance, right now, I should ask you about how the Yankees can get more "younger players" into the clubhouse, given that their starting eight on the field and their DH are locked up for the next few years. Or, maybe I should ask about what one thing you want your readers to take away from "The Pride and the Pressure." But, the suggestion that Alex getting out of the gate in good fashion will help him this season with respect to the focus on him, forces me to ask this question: Wasn't A-Rod the A.L. Player Of The Month For May last season? Did that help him last year in the long run? It seems, at least to me, that Rodriguez tanked in June when Matsui and Sheffield went out. And, that's when the heat and booing started up heavy for Alex. Could it just be that it's in the Yankees best interests to make sure they have big bats around Alex so that he doesn't have to feel like he has to carry the team and then start pressing? See, it's so easy to just keep talking about A-Rod!

Oh, and, by the way, any thoughts on getting more younger position players in the Yankees clubhouse and what it is you want readers to take away from your book?

Michael Morrissey: [Laughing] We'll get to the last two questions, I promise. I was kind of joking that A-Rod needed to jump out of the starting blocks and then keep going, put his stamp on a year to remember like the year McGwire hit 70 or George Brett hit .390, etc. etc. We all know that isn't likely to happen, and there will probably be some slump or rough patch over the course of a six-month season when Rodriguez gets booed again. That's what makes sports so interesting: how do you handle the adversity?

I think you make an excellent point that Matsui and Sheffield going down came right around the time A-Rod slumped, either through coincidence or through pressure by the fans and media (or even self-imposed pressure). His final numbers, though, were something that virtually any hitter would gladly accept.

The Yankees, in my humble view, need to convey on the most personal, human level possible that Rodriguez is their most pivotal player for 2007 and beyond, and that they are on board to help him navigate the ups and downs of New York. Whether that's Brian Cashman, whether that's Joe Torre, whether that's Derek Jeter, whether that's a combination of people, I think the Yanks need to make a good-faith effort to put A-Rod at ease beginning in spring training, and make him understand that "the ship ain't sailing without him," to use a term.

Cashman mentioned something about bedside manner regarding Andy Pettitte the last time the lefty was on the free-agent market. He said their bedside manner could've been a little better in courting Pettitte back in '03.

In my mind - and this is one man's view - the Yanks' bedside manner regarding A-Rod needs to be much better in '07. If Rodriguez fails, if he opts out of his contract when the year is up, at least the club can say it did everything in its power to make it work out.

The Yankees can get younger by using what they have and properly grooming what they want to have. By playing Melky Cabrera regularly (two or three times a week when the other outfielders need a day off), that will help the energy level. Pitching-wise, they're preparing for a life without Mussina, Pettitte, Clemens, etc. They simply need to make wise choices in how they bring guys like Phil Hughes along and get a little bit of luck on the health aspect with these young prospects. My understanding is the team doesn't really have any great young infielders on the come, so it's up to someone like (outfielder) Jose Tabata to make a difference in a few years.

The thing I think I want readers to take away from the book is what a unique, precious and privileged thing it is to be a Yankee - and a Yankee fan. These players understand that, and I hope it comes through vividly. I can say unequivocally the organization is filled with good men and good women who care, and that the baseball operations department - starting with Brian Cashman - is absolutely focused on winning that next world championship. They are, for the most part, dedicating every available resource to do that.

However, with the tradition and the excellence comes a trade-off, and I hope the book portrays that properly. There are no medals for finishing second. Nobody that I know of is sporting "2006 AL East champs" T-shirts around town.

WasWatching.com: As a Yankees fan, it's great to hear from someone with access to the inner workings of the team that there are good people, who care, and who are focused, working the controls. It's interesting that you said there are "no medals for finishing second." It reminds me of that old Bill Parcells book "No Medals for Trying." Maybe that can be the Yankees team slogan for 2007?

You said the Yankees need "a good-faith effort to put A-Rod at ease" and that "the Yanks' bedside manner regarding A-Rod needs to be much better in '07." I'm a believer in root cause analysis as part of any sound remediation plan. Do you have any opinions on what brought cause for the Yankees (both in the clubhouse and the front office) to develop a bedside manner towards Alex that causes him not to be at ease? If the Yankees put a Band-Aid on the situation, without changing why it happened, isn't it likely to develop again? By this I mean, if the Yankees reaction is the result of something in A-Rod's control, should not he also be charged with making some changes in 2007? Does this make sense?

Michael Morrissey: This is my opinion, but I simply think A-Rod is a high maintenance superstar. Furthermore, I think Joe Torre grew frustrated or exasperated trying to figure out what made Rodriguez tick and get him to relax in 2006. Obviously, Rodriguez had a great year in 2005, so it was perplexing to see him struggle through long stretches the year after, especially defensively - where he regressed. I think the manager, who has so much on his plate, figured his cleanup guy would break out of it. But that it took Jason Giambi to exhort the manager to action (see SI's "Lonely Yankee" story) is telling. Torre usually knows the right thing to say, and a little goes a long way with the stuff he says. A-Rod either didn't take it to heart or didn't hear the right thing about relaxing, trusting yourself, understanding the Yankee fishbowl, etc., etc.

Beyond that, the Jeter/A-Rod relationship is something that could get better. There's no denying it. Everyone from Mike Lupica on down wrote about a relationship that was called various degrees of "frosty" over the course of 2006. For the fans, I'll say it's not a case of sportswriters making this stuff up; it's the most respected names in our industry remarking on the dynamic. The fact that Jeter said at the World Series that there's nothing more he can do tells me it's likely that nothing will change, though.

The fact that this has always been Jeter's team and A-Rod is an outsider coming to New York are root causes of the comfort level, I'd say. Again, though, he won the MVP in 2005, so it's not like he's a bust. He had one "bad" year where the media perception was certain key people might've hung him out to dry a little. It can get better by him finally realizing and actually believing that, like it or not, he'll be booed by some until he's cheered at the end of a victorious World Series, and for that to not distract him from the day-to-day task at hand. He certainly needs to relax more, no doubt about it.

WasWatching.com: I suppose, in some way, A-Rod might be better off being ignorant and/or apathetic towards people's opinions of him. The need for approval thing is just not working in his favor - at least last season. Perhaps having a buddy like Mientkiewicz on the team this year will provide some sort of confidant option to him - much like Fran Healy was for Reggie Jackson back in the day when Jackson was not getting along with his manager and teammates in the Bronx? As a Yankees fan, I hope it all works out.

In closing, and getting back to your book, was there something that happened, or came to your attention, in the process of writing "The Pride and the Pressure" that surprised and/or pleased you more than anything else? If so, what was it and why does that item or event stand out? Related, was there one item or event that you wished had not happened?

Michael Morrissey: I'm not sure I was surprised by any one thing. Having said that, there are one or two things that a couple of the key figures on the team said that will certainly be surprising to people. Although there are opinions baseball fans have of certain people or certain events around the Yankees, I think there will be some coloring in.

The death of Cory Lidle was certainly something that I wish hadn't happened. I had a chance to speak with him a few times, and although I learned people in baseball were divided on him, I found him to be a very humble, very down-to-earth guy. There is a lengthy interview with him at the end of the book, and I hope even Yankee fans who didn't get to know him/like him gets something from his feelings about being a Yankee.

I just wanted to thank you for this interview, and I wanted to welcome Yankee fans everywhere to my blogs (at Amazon and MySpace). In the next few months, I'm going to try to begin posting regularly about the Yankees, the book, and other events inside and outside the baseball world. Thanks all, and good luck with your team this year!

WasWatching.com: Thank you Michael - for your time and candor in answering these questions. I'm sure that Yankees fans will appreciate and enjoy what you've shared here, will be sharing in your blogs, and have shared in The Pride and the Pressure: A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl. Best of luck with all your projects!

That's it. Once again, our thanks to Michael Morrissey for granting WasWatching.com this interview!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:07 PM | Comments (14)

January 15, 2007

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007

shandler2007.jpg

Last month, I reminded readers of WasWatching.com that I am a firm believer that, someday, mainstream baseball - in the collective sense of more teams, players, agents, media and fans than not - will learn to embrace the usage of such (presently cutting-edge) baseball statistics such as Win Probability Results and Batted Ball Type Results.

Why should baseball accept this enhanced view of production? It is simply because the traditional end-numbers that the presently accepted baseball stats yield are sometimes skewed - either positively or negatively - by an element of luck.

Ron Shandler is one of the first baseball analysts to look "behind and inside the numbers." Shandler specializes in analyzing and evaluating baseball players' performance in terms of their "component skills." And, he's been sharing the findings that he and his team of experts have been able to uncover via his annual "Baseball Forecaster" for the last 21 years.

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007 is now available. Having reviewed this year's edition, I can share that this is a book that any fan of the game of baseball will want to read - and read again and again.

Shandler notes that his book was "a well-timed collision of sabermetrics and fantasy [baseball]." And, he continues with that this book is sometimes "shunned by the two schools" as neither the sabermetric crowd or the fantasy baseball enthusiast wants to mingle with the other.

I have been a fan and follower of sabermetrics since 1982. From 1989 through 2000, I served as a commissioner (and franchise owner) in what many would consider an intense fantasy baseball league. And, while I no longer "play" fantasy baseball, I believe that I understand what makes both sides of these "schools" tick. There's a tremendous amount of enjoyment that both the saber- and roto-heads can take in reading Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007.

Having examined Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007, I know that anyone from either of the aforementioned two schools who elects to avoid Shandler's work is making a serious error in judgment on their part.

In the "Baseball Forecaster" you will find detail on the tools, principles, rules, axioms, doctrines, and standards behind the forecasts provided in the book. Further, you will find research abstracts from many authors. And, of course, you will find performance projections galore as well as articles on fantasy baseball gaming strategies that can be applied in various league formats. (Note, this is just the meat of the book. It is not an all-inclusive list. There are several other studies and statistic presentations to be found in the "Baseball Forecaster.")

As a Yankees fan, I found the following information from Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007 to be very interesting:

+ There's a trend between Jason Giambi's 2003 and 2006 seasons that suggests that his 2007 season may end up like his 2004 season. (And, that would be bad news for Yankees fans.)

+ Based on his Major League Equivalency stats from last season, Gerardo Casadiego was a pretty good pick up for the Yankees last season.

+ There's evidence that suggest that Chris Britton should be more effective for the Yankees this season than Brian Bruney.

+ Why, in part, Worm Killer Wang excelled in 2006: In the majors last season, grounders were turned into out 53% of the time. In Yankees were above average at this in 2006 - as they did it 55% of the time. However, with Wang on the mound, the Yankees infield did this 56% of the time. (Although the Yankee Stadium grounds-crew may have helped with this.)

As a zealous Yankees fan, I want to know information like the above (and that Robinson Cano should hit 20 homers this year, as his "component skills" suggest).

Now, take this type of Yankees-stuff and then add it for the other 29 teams in baseball. This is what you will find in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007. Therefore, whether you are a member of the sabermetric and/or fantasy baseball legions, or just a fan of the game who wants to know more about his favorite players and/or teams, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007 is a book that you will want to read before Opening Day - and continue to reference during the 2007 season.

The fictional Emil Faber said once "Knowledge is good." While those words were never said in reality, the notion is perfect and true. Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007 is 252 pages of knowledge at a suggested retail price of $24.95. (And, if you use the links in this review, you will see that you can get it at Amazon.com for $16.47 - at this time.) Therefore, for baseball fans, reading this book is good.

What does "good" mean? It means something has desirable or positive qualities, it is agreeable or pleasing, thorough, a commodity, something that is valuable or useful.

This is how I would summarize Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007. It is thorough, pleasing, and a valuable commodity for all fans of baseball whether they love stats, fantasy play, or just following their team. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:34 AM | Comments (9)

January 04, 2007

Bronx Liaison

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Bronx Liaison.

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!


Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:56 PM | Comments (2)

December 17, 2006

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007

As recent as the late 1970's, in common baseball circles, concepts such as recognizing the value of "On Base Percentage" (say, compared to "Batting Average") were as foreign as the concept of indoor plumbing is to Borat Sagdiyev today. However, progress can be made - after all, it was just three years ago that "On Base Plus Slugging Percentage" began to appear on the backs of baseball bubblegum cards.

Related, I am a firm believer that, someday, mainstream baseball - in the collective sense of more teams, players, agents, media and fans than not - will learn to embrace the usage of such (presently cutting-edge) baseball statistics such as Win Probability Results and Batted Ball Type Results.

It may take five years for this to happen, or thirty, or even another century - but, when it does occur, it will be (in part) thanks to the good folks at Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) and The Hardball Times (THT) as they have been championing this type of progressive baseball analysis for a while now.

As an example of how BIS & THT are helping to blaze this new trail for baseball statistic appreciation, I highly recommend reading The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 - as I have just completed reviewing The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 and can share (that, in my opinion) it is the new standard by which these types of sabermetric-themed baseball annuals should be judged.

Actually, I should take a step back and qualify that last statement with some further perspective. Last year, I had an opportunity to review The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 - and, at the time, said (about it): "I've read many books like this over the last 25 years and this one is right up there among the best of the group."

Therefore, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 actually set the bar for my expectations leading into reading The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 - and it was a very high bar. Nonetheless, the annual this year cleared that bar with daylight galore.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 provides commentary and study covering what happened in the 2006 baseball season as well as baseball's past. And, it contains pages and pages (and pages!) of unique and telling baseball stats. If you're a baseball stat-junkie, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 will provide you with a fix that's good right up until Opening Day 2007 (and perhaps beyond).

In particular, I very much enjoyed the features (in this year's edition) contributed by THT Staff Writers John Brattain, Chris Constancio, David Gassko, Dave Studenmund, and John Walsh - along with the guest contributions from John Dewan, Will Leitch, John Burnson, Greg Rybarczyk, and Mac Thomason.

Do you want to know who are the best prospects in baseball? Who are the most valuable pitchers of all-time? What was the story behind the Federal League? Who had the best and worst outfield arms of our time? What's the history and impact of Tommy John Surgery? Which baseball team had the best defense in 2006? How much do ballparks and weather impact hitting? What types of players develop power as hitters? What's the difference between line-drives and strikeouts in terms of run impact? Who controls the batter-pitcher match-up? Then, you owe it to yourself to get The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007. All this, and more, can be found therein.

You know, as antiquated as "Batting Average" is in terms of being a useful tool in determining a batter's worth, it does still hold one truth that cannot be denied: If you're batting 1.000, you're perfect.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 is batting 1.000 - in terms of providing great and ground-breaking baseball analysis. It's a worthy pick-up.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:19 PM | Comments (4)

December 12, 2006

After The Road

Tiffany from the YES Network's Ultimate Roadtrip show (Season 2) has a blog now - it's called Ultimate Banter - in case you're interested.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:52 AM | Comments (3)

December 09, 2006

The Baseball Strategist

I just came across another blog by a Yankees fan and thought that I would share the link. Here it is: The Baseball Strategist. Looks lke they have a detailed Pettitte feature up today.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:20 PM | Comments (0)

Review: Best By Number: Who Wore What With Distinction

The Sporting News has recently released three new sports-related books:

* Warriors: The Greatest Photographs of Football's Toughest Players

* Grudges, Guts, Glory: Sports All- Time Great Grudge Matches

and

* Best By Number: Who Wore What With Distinction

I had a chance to review Best By Number: Who Wore What With Distinction and found it to be an extremely fun read.

In a nutshell, Best By Number runs through the digits "zero" (or "00") to "99" and identifies the best athlete to wear that number. But, there's more to this book than just that "best-of" identification exercise. In addition to naming "the best" for each number, the authors list "the best of the rest" for each number. Along with this is an abundance of facts and stories on the athletes - on both the greatest selections as well as the other "elites" and "notables." Lastly, Best By Number is full of incredible and unique color photographs.

While all sports are used for the selections, as you can imagine, baseball players take a fair share of the titles for each digit highlighted - and many of those are Yankees. (Although you'll never guess who topped Derek Jeter for number "2" all-time.)

Ruth-Gehrig-DiMaggio took 3-4-5, naturally. But, Mantle lost to another former Yankee (of sorts) for # 7.

From the book, here's a Yankees trivia question for you: What number in the Bronx was taken from 1964-74 and 1976-88 by two men who later earned World Series rings as coaches, together, in New York? The answer to follow at the end of this review.

You can easily lose yourself just thumbing through Best By Number - and, it's an excellent holiday gift idea for the big-time sports-fan on your shopping list.

Best By Number: Who Wore What With Distinction was released (in Hardcover) this past Fall and contains 224 pages. The retail price is $24.95.

--------
Trivia answer: #30 - worn by Mel Stottlemyre (64-74) and Willie Randolph (76-88).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:04 AM | Comments (8)

November 13, 2006

The Bill James Handbook 2007

FYI, you might enjoy the review of The Bill James Handbook 2007 that I just did for NetShrine.com. Click here to read it.

Without the Handbook, I could never share with you that Alex Rodriguez had the 9th worst strikeout per plate appearance ratio (min. 502 PA) and the 9th worst "swing and miss" percentage (min 1,500 pitches seen) in the A.L. last year.

Hey, it's been a while since I've had a comment on A-Rod, no?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

Gwen Lawrence's "Power Yoga For Baseball"

Gwen Lawrence, a fitness professional and registered yoga instructor, has has created a 35-minute baseball-specific yoga workout entitled "Power Yoga for Baseball" that is now available on DVD. As Gwen's DVD is endorsed by Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman, we thought it would be interesting to learn more about this program. What follows below is our Q&A with Ms. Lawrence:

WasWatching: What was the driving force for you behind the concept of applying yoga to baseball conditioning?

Gwen Lawrence: I have been a practicing fitness professional since 1990. I started teaching yoga in 1998 and became involved with local athletic teams shortly thereafter. My husband is a varsity baseball coach and former professional baseball player, so my interest in training athletes got started there. I spent many hours with my husband at his practices and started observing the lack of flexibility, and serious sport-induced imbalances in their bodies. This prompted me to become part of the team’s training staff. Before I knew it, I had college teams wanting to do yoga, and then professional teams followed. My classes with professional teams have actually more than tripled in just the past year.

WasWatching: Besides improved flexibility and balance, what other benefits - albeit physical or something else - can baseball players receive from yoga conditioning that they may, or may not, receive via the traditional training methods?

Gwen Lawrence: Along with improved flexibility and balance, yoga offers two other key benefits that are lacking in most traditional training methods.

Mental Training...The mental game of baseball is just as important as the physical preparation. Yoga training helps in this area tremendously. The practice of yoga demands that you stay present in the moment, without judgment, to perform some of the more challenging balancing postures. This translates beautifully to the demands needed to stay focused on the playing field for even the longest of games. Yoga teaches the athlete to be in the now, not to focus on the past defeat, missed play, strike out, etc. It teaches the athlete to take every minute as a new opportunity for success. Along with improving concentration, the breath and mind control techniques of yoga also dissolve energy-sapping nerves, release tension, and help with controlling the temper, thereby preventing angry skirmishes that lead to injuries and disciplinary fines.

Rehabilitation...By improving blood flow, quickening toxin release, and expanding oxygenation throughout the whole body, yoga reduces the recovery time from injury and illness and stimulates the immune system. Yoga also helps in speeding up the healing process of injury, joint and ligament injuries by creating more space in the joints and/or by generating increased blood flow to the injured areas. In addition, yoga helps repair nerve damage resulting from repeated falls and collisions by opening up neural pathways in muscles that have deadened due to such injuries. A rehabilitative yoga regimen will include a number of stretches which isolate and focus on the lower back, arms, shoulders and necks. These postures can be applied to injuries in these areas and will dramatically quicken the recovery times.

WasWatching: What's been the typical response from ball players at the first suggestion that they try Yoga conditioning?

Gwen Lawrence: Since I have been working for some time now with many, many, teams, professional down through Little League, my reputation precedes me. The kids and coaches are very receptive to my instruction. It is hard to question the results or procedure when they know you are hired by the pro's.

However, when I first started I would meet up with much resistance. The common misconception being that it was all about sitting around breathing and chanting spiritual prayers. When I come upon this opinion, I invite people to try it. Without fail, five minutes into the session sweat is dripping and their whole face changes when they realize the intense commitment it really takes. Not to say I still have a tough start every now and then. Recently, I worked with a college baseball team and to compensate for the tough poses and their initial unsuccessful attempts at them, they would chat, laugh, and mock things. This is the time when I have to instill more of a tough coach approach and less that of a zen yoga teacher.

WasWatching: Speaking of the pro's, I've noticed that Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman had the following to say about your program - "As a baseball player you are always walking that fine line between improving your strength and maintaining your flexibility. Gwen's Power Yoga for Baseball will help you accomplish both." How did Brian become so aware of your program? Is it in use in the Yankees organization?

Gwen Lawrence: Mr. Cashman and I have been working together for several years. He and I have slowly been introducing yoga to the Yankees as a one-on-one program. I hope to have group sessions with them someday in the future. He knows of all my successful work with professional teams and players and believes in my system.

WasWatching: Do you think we will see the day, sometime in the future, where baseball players are using yoga on the field before a game - much like the stretching routines they use now? And, why?

Gwen Lawrence: Absolutely...the question should be why are they not using yoga poses that resemble what the player does on the field. As a player you want to warm and prepare the muscles necessary to enhance your performance on the field specific to that sport. Yoga makes that transition easy. My husband (who is a High School varsity baseball coach) now only uses yoga poses (stretches) that are relevant to baseball and getting his players ready to perform. The yoga poses will get deeper into the muscles needed to perform from the first pitch to the last. The depth of flexibility gained pre-game using yoga techniques lasts longer than the traditional "stretch."

WasWatching: It seems as if the game of "baseball" can learn a thing or two from the practice of "yoga." Is there anything that "yoga" can learn from "baseball"?

Gwen Lawrence: Considering that yoga is 5,000 years old and defined as a learning art form and lifestyle, it is really difficult for me to think of anything that yoga can learn from baseball. However, baseball does offer the opportunity for yoga to be applied in a sports-specific sense, taking it out of the stereotypic classroom setting and on to the playing field. By focusing on the needs of a particular sport such as baseball, yoga proves itself as an invaluable training tool that can be adapted to the needs of all sports.

Of course, our thanks to Gwen Lawrence for her time in answering our questions. For more on "Power Yoga for Baseball" be sure to visit the official site for the program.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:00 AM | Comments (6)

November 05, 2006

TopProspectAlert.com

TopProspectAlert.com has posted their 2007 New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects. They like Joba Chamberlain a lot more than I do - but it's an interesting list.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:02 AM | Comments (11)

October 26, 2006

All Things Bubba

If you have a second, you might want to check out All Things Bubba.

Just don't break the news that Bubba is now a free-agent.

Bubba Crosby had a nice Yankees career - in a Roger Repoz kind of way.

Darren Viola, if you're out there, any chance that one of your boys will take up the "Bubba" handle someday?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:12 AM | Comments (14)

October 24, 2006

The Mose Is Loose!

Adam Cohen inserts some Yankee lore into the big question today. It's worth checking out.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:21 PM | Comments (1)

October 11, 2006

StrikeTwo.net's Yankees Page

If you're ever looking for a good Yankees "Blog Roll" - striketwo.net's Yankees Team Page is a good source.

It was nice to see WasWatching.com ranked as the #2 Yankees blog there today. (Do I really average 32 posts a week? I need to cut down, huh?)

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:22 AM | Comments (10)

September 13, 2006

New York Yankees, Etc.

There's a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: New York Yankees, etc.

If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2006

Statstacular New Blog

There's a new Yankee's blog in town: The Stat Boy of the Empire: B(rent) that's worth checking out. (And, I'm not just saying that because they like WasWatching.com - although that would never cost anyone some points!)

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:28 AM | Comments (1)

August 08, 2006

The Latest Jan Grams Blog

If you're a Yankees fan, and you can read Chinese, you may like one of the new Yankees blogs on the scene. Click here to see it.

I tried to translate the site via google, and the characters for "Yankees" came out as "Jan Grams."

So, Let's-Go, clap-clap, Jan-Grams, clap-clap!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)

August 02, 2006

General Von Steingrabber's Home Page

I saw this site today for the first time.

Pretty impressive - even if I can't read it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:22 AM | Comments (2)

July 27, 2006

Yankees WPA Rundown

There's a new Yankees-related blog that you'll want to check out. It's:

Yankees WPA Rundown

Stop by and tell them that WasWatching.com sent you.

(Hat tip to Dave Studeman.)

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:03 AM | Comments (2)

May 29, 2006

The King's Game

John Nemo recently sent me a review copy of his new book - The King's Game.

I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of baseball fiction - even though I have enjoyed reading books like Man on Spikes, The Natural, Wild Pitch, and Double Play in the past. Nonetheless, The King's Game kept my attention - from the start of the book to the end.

It's the story of a man's life told as he's pitching the biggest game in his career. And, yes, even though this format has been used before, I still found myself wanting to keep reading - to find out what would happen next. Nemo does paint a pretty interesting story for the main character in his book.

It's important to share that there's also a strong Christian message throughout this book. Personally, I took it as being part of the story. But, if you're the type of person who feels that such a message is an attempt at proselytizing, then this is not a book that you will probably enjoy.

Basically, if you're a fan of the movies "For Love of the Game" and "What Dreams May Come" - and you like reading baseball fiction - then you might want to consider checking out The King's Game.

I'm sure that the appropriate audience will find Nemo's book to be a nice, quick, and fun read.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:58 PM | Comments (1)

May 26, 2006

Birth of a Dynasty: Behind the Pinstripes with the 1996 Yankees

I've been a Yankees fan since 1973.

Naturally, the 1976 Yankees were the first "special" team for me. And, I'm sure that squad was special for many fans - as it was the first Yankees team to win a pennant in a dozen years. (The Chambliss homer to win it helped make it even more special.) But, the 1976 Yankees, in terms of their place in history and fan memories, take a ding as a result of their poor showing in the World Series.

The 1977 Yankees were exciting. But, perhaps because they followed the 1976 team, their ring season, while impressive, is not a year where I look back to and say "Wow, that 1977 team, it was a season for the ages."

This brings us to the 1978 Yankees. Now, there's a story, huh? And, this is the team that I would always refer to as "My favorite Yankees team of all-time." And, for the 18 years that followed, I had no reason to change this opinion.

Then came the 1996 Yankees. Looking at the big picture, I think many Yankees fans today look at the 1998 Yankees for their dominance and the 2000 Yankees because they beat the Mets, and they lose sight of the magic that happened in 1996. (Related, the 1999 Yankees really fall into the shadows for some as well - which is sad, because they were an excellent team too.)

As I look back at it all today, I'm inclined to say that the 1996 Yankees are now probably my favorite squad of all-time, even over the 1978 Yankees. Sure, the 1978 team had the great comeback and the Dent homer. But, when you factor in the 18-year ring drought prior to 1996, the horror of the post-season in 1995 for New York, and the magic that happened in the ALDS, ALCS, and the World Series in 1996 for the Yankees, it's a tough thing for any championship squad to match-up with all that.

And, now, we have Joel Sherman's new book, Birth of a Dynasty, that serves as the chronicle of that 1996 Yankees season.

I've just finished reading Birth of a Dynasty and can share that this is a must-read for every Yankees fan.

In terms of the essential library for the modern-Yankees fan, I place Birth of a Dynasty right up there with Steinbrenner's Yankees, Pinstriped Summers, Damned Yankees, The Bronx Zoo, Bombers, I'd Rather Be A Yankee, and The Last Night Of The Yankees Dynasty.

What really sells Birth of a Dynasty for me is all the insider-behind-the-scenes stuff that this book provides.

How many people know the important role that Lou Piniella played in the Yankees obtaining both Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez? How many people know the oral act that Buck Showalter promised to perform on Gene Michael if he would trade Tim Leary? How many people know that Joe Torre called Michael Kay on the carpet, in front of the entire team, when he thought Kay was trying to sabotage his relationship with O'Neill?

If they had read Birth of a Dynasty, they would know. Sherman's book has more dirt on the 1996 (and, as well, actually, the 1995) Yankees than a fat man has in his belly-button. It's really good dish.

And, along with the items that you have never heard before, Birth of a Dynasty does an excellent job of documenting the story of the 1996 season. Nothing is missed.

In summary, I highly recommend Birth of a Dynasty. If it's not the best Yankees-related book published in the last decade, it's in the top-five for sure.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:52 AM | Comments (5)

May 21, 2006

The Team That Changed Baseball

Later this month, (fellow Yankees fan) Bruce Markusen's new book, The Team That Changed Baseball, will be released. It's the story of the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates.

This Pirates team was noteworthy as they had the first "all-minority" starting line-up and they proved that a culturally mixed team could win a world championship - just as well as a roster crafted with players of more homogeneous origins.

I had a chance to scan through a review copy of a The Team That Changed Baseball and can share that it's on par with Markusen's previous works.

When it comes to writing about baseball history, Bruce Markusen is always sure to nail down the facts.

Witness that, another one of his books, Baseball's Last Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Oakland A's, won the 1999 Seymour Medal from The Society For American Baseball Research. Bruce is always sure to dot the i's and cross the t's when it comes to noting what happened.

If you're looking to learn more about an important team in the baseball timeline, from a polished and creditable source, then you should consider checking out The Team That Changed Baseball.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2006

Baseball Between The Numbers

FYI, you might enjoy the review of Baseball Between The Numbers that I just did for NetShrine.com. Click here to read it.

In addition to the Jeter and A-Rod items mentioned in my review, there's a study in the book entitled "Are New Stadiums a Good Deal?" that I think is must reading for every Yankees fan.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2006

Review: Alex Belth's "Stepping Up"

I've just finished reading Stepping Up: The Story of All-Star Curt Flood and His Fight for Baseball Players' Rights by Alex Belth of Bronx Banter fame.

Before I start with the review, I should disclose that I know Alex. In the past year, we've traded dozens of e-mails. And, just recently, we had a somewhat long phone conversation about baseball, books, and stuff. (That was the first time that we had ever spoken to each other.) Lastly, I actually did meet him about three weeks ago - albeit briefly.

And, from my dealings with Alex, I've found him to be one of the most generous and nicest people that you could ever hope to encounter. And, among baseball bloggers, he's a prince. You either got it, or you don't got it - and Alex has it.

This all said, you can imagine how excited I was to read his book. And, it did not disappoint.

In Stepping Up, Belth carefully documents and superbly paints the story of Curt Flood.

And, what a story it is. The Flood case brought the issue baseball's reserve clause into the light for both players and the public. And, it forced baseball owners to bargain in good faith (as opposed to treating players like property). And, for all the life-altering pain that Flood had to go through during this process, he got zilch. Picture "Joan of Arc" meets "Rosa Parks" - and, that's Flood's story.

Alex's book is a quick read - it's in a 6" x 8.5" format and contains about 200 pages of actual text. But, it's full of information.

For example, the book mentions a series of articles written by Dodgers G.M. Buzzie Bavasi (for Sports Illustrated in 1967). These articles talked about how greedy the players were - and that money was the only thing that motivated them. And, these articles went on to rally the resolve of the player's union. Until I read this, I was never aware of it.

Also, just before he was shot, Robert Kennedy mentioned Don Drysdale in his speech at the Democratic Party's California presidential primary. (This was after Drysdale just threw his 6th straight shutout.) I never knew this before reading the book.

So, besides the great story of Curt Flood, you get lots of other baseball information in Alex's book.

Now, I would have liked to have seen more detail around the 1964 National League pennant race. And, when Belth details the Tigers comeback in Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, he never mentions any of the Cardinal pitchers who surrendered the game. Also, there's a mention of Spring Training "Murphy Money" without explaining why it had that name. (In fact, the term dates back to 1946 - when lawyer Robert Murphy tried to organize a player's union. While he failed, he did win the players a grant of money for expenses during Spring Training.)

Then again, maybe I'm just being picky with some of this stuff?

At the end of the day, I've learned many baseball things that I was not aware of - and enjoyed myself in the process - while reading Stepping Up. What more can you ask for in a baseball read? I highly recommend this book.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2006

ATM Reports Blog

Lee Sinins has started a blog. It's at: www.atm-reports.com

Knowing Lee, I would bet that it will have all the baseball news that you'll ever want/need - and will not be short for opinions. I'm bookmarking it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:11 PM | Comments (1)

March 26, 2006

Review: Behind-The-Scenes Baseball

decatur.jpg

I've just finished reading Behind-The-Scenes Baseball: Real-Life Applications of Statistical Analysis Actually Used by Major League Teams...and Other Stories by Doug Decatur.

Decatur has been a statistical consultant to big league teams for 15 years - mostly for the Brewers, Reds, Cubs and Astros.

Behind-The-Scenes Baseball is broken into three parts. The first section is a collection of "insider" stories from his days as a consultant. The second section is a "G.M. IQ Test" of 100 questions. And, the third and last section is a focus/case study on the 2004 & 2005 Phil Garner Astros. (Decatur has worked with Garner for a while and they have a strong relationship.)

This book is a quick read - you can get through it in a day.

While I didn't find the insider stories in the first section to be very juicy, they were not boring.

I did enjoy the "G.M. IQ Test" very much. Basically, it's a quiz on the findings of Bill James, Baseball Prospectus, John Dewan, STATS Inc., and Decatur himself.

From a Yankees fan perspective, I found these questions most interesting:

1. Assuming the 2004 Yankees and Red Sox were equal teams, what was the mathematical chance that the Red Sox would come back from 0-3 in the ALCS?

2. True or False - For a manager, there is a positive correlation between the number of young players developed into full-time starters and the number of championships won.

[The answers will follow at the close of this review.]

The third section of the book was also interesting - to see the work behind the curtain on the 2004 Astros comeback and the Astros play in the 2005 postseason. One item in there was extremely interesting to me:

"In all seven of the postseason series in 2005, the team in each series with the better regular DER [Defensive Efficiency Record] won that postseason series."

See, when I wrote about the Yankees 2005 ALDS issues back in October, and said:

Defense. Like just about every game this series, the Angels turn hits into outs while the Yankees turn outs into base runners. That Crosby-Sheffield crash reminded me of Blair-Reggie collision back on May 12,1978 (when A.O. went inside the park). Sad part is, even without the crash, I don't think Sheffield makes the grab there.

....I was not just kidding.

On the whole, I recommend reading Behind-The-Scenes Baseball. The "G.M. IQ Test" alone makes it worth it.
________________

Answers to the above questions:

1. 6.25% [From John Dewan's Stat of the Week, 10/20/04.]
2. True. [This is taken from a study on managers in the Baseball Report Card.]

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:39 PM | Comments (2)

March 25, 2006

The Last Nine Innings

FYI, you might enjoy the review of The Last Nine Innings that I just did for NetShrine.com. Click here to read it.

With all the Yankees-stuff in there, I think this a must read for Yankees fans.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2006

The Book - Playing The Percentages In Baseball

FYI, you might enjoy the review of The Book - Playing The Percentages In Baseball that I just did for NetShrine.com. Click here to read it.


Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2006

The Fielding Bible by John Dewan

FYI, you might enjoy the review of The Fielding Bible that I just did for NetShrine.com. Click here to read it.

It was a very good book. From a Yankees fan angle, I found the following quick hits interesting:

* The 2005 Yankees team outfield play was by far the worst in the major leagues.

* The Yankees keystone combination last year of Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter, and the Rangers duo of Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young, were the worst in the majors - with the leather.

* From 2003 through 2005, base runners have taken advantage of Carlos Beltran's throwing arm more often than Johnny Damon's arm - and this was especially true in 2005.

* Last year, no third baseman in baseball was worse at fielding bunts than Alex Rodriguez.

I expect to be sharing more data from this book in the coming weeks.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:46 AM | Comments (2)

February 24, 2006

Spalding's World Tour: The Epic Adventure that Took Baseball Around the Globe - And Made It America's Game

Spalding's World Tour, by Mark Lamster, will be released this coming April.

In a nutshell, it's the story of Albert Spalding's brainchild of bringing his team, the then Chicago White Stockings, and another team of All-Stars, on an exhibition trip to promote baseball throughout the western United States and in Hawaii, Australia, Egypt, Italy, France, England, and Ireland - during the period from October 1888 through March 1889.

I've had the privilege of reading a review copy of the book and can share that it is a book that it both educational and entertaining.

With this book, Mark Lamster is not just a writer telling a story. More so, he is an artist painting a picture. When you read this book, you are not just processing words for meaning in your brain - instead, because of Lamster's gifted presentation, the events of the story come to life, in the form of moving pictures, in your mind and you truly feel as if you are a fly on the wall while everything is happening.

And, while the main theme of the book is an interesting story, there are so many other fascinating stories within the story, that Spalding's World Tour is a "nesting doll" of a good time.

Anyone who wants to learn more about 19th Century baseball, or just life in America and abroad (in general) during this time, would be well served to read this book.

I feel smarter having read it - and recommend it to anyone baseball fan looking for a good book to read this summer.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2006

Tris Speaker - The Rough-and-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend

FYI, you might enjoy the review of Tris Speaker - The Rough-and-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend that I just did for NetShrine.com. Click here to read it.

I can't help but wonder how Speaker's legacy would have been different if he had ever played with and/or managed the Yankees.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2006

In George We Trust

In George We Trust is a new Yankees blog worth checking out, FYI.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:22 AM | Comments (1)

January 21, 2006

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2006

FYI, you might enjoy the review of Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2006 that I just did for NetShrine.com. Click here to read it.

It was a very good book. From a Yankees fan angle, it looks like we should be very concerned about Shawn Chacon's performance in 2006. According to their findings, he was very lucky in 2005.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:23 AM | Comments (8)

January 01, 2006

Fantasyland

FYI, you might enjoy the review of Fantasyland that I just did for NetShrine.com. Click here to read it.

It was a very good book. From a Yankees fan angle, there was a mention in the book that Brian Cashman checks out BaseballGraphs.com - which I thought was interesting.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2005

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006

This past Tuesday, I received a copy of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006.

I have to confess, when I looked at it for the very first time on Tuesday night, I was initially overwhelmed at its content. Truly, my first reaction was "This thing is so jam-packed that I don't know if I can read it. I'm not even sure where to start?" Honestly, it was somewhat intimidating - like a normal appetite person sitting down in front of the "Norm Peterson Special" at the "Hungry Heifer." But, determined to give it a try, I started thumbing through the book nonetheless.

This book is penned, as the title would suggest, by the gang over at The Hardball Times (THT). If you're not familiar with them, let me share that they are a very smart outfit - but not an elitist (which happens sometimes with smart folks) ivory-tower-type group. I've personally corresponded with Brian Borawski, Dan Fox, and Aaron Gleeman (among others at THT) recently (before reading this book) and they were very approachable and accommodating with me. That's one reason why I wanted to try their book.

In addition to the work from the THT brain trust, the book also contains "guest contributions" from several noted and enjoyable baseball authors - such as Rob Neyer, Bill James, Alex Belth (again, among many others). That was another draw here for me.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 provides an extensive review of the 2005 season (including the post-season) plus an additional 11 essays on topics from the 2005 season - including Alex Belth's fun guest piece "Never a Dull Moment" detailing the happenings in the Bronx this season.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 also includes 4 great essays related to baseball history - including Bill James Hall of Fame case made for Bert Blyleven. And, there are also 9 essays that the "stat heads" will enjoy - such as "What's so magic about 100 pitches?" and "What's a batted ball worth?" and "Do players control batted balls?"

Lastly, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 provides pages and pages of stats, stats, and more stats. There are stats on every team and player from the game - and the types of stats that you just don't see everywhere - like Fielding Independent Pitching, Homeruns per Outfield Fly, Incremental Baserunning Runs, etc.

Now, the stats-thing is worth expanding on - because these stats are not for the person who thinks Neifi Perez is helpful because he's a middle infielder who hit .274 last year with 9 homers. Because of the sophistication and amount of the stats that are found in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006, if you're someone who hates the deep thought "stats-side" of baseball, then this book is not for you.

But, if you're someone who felt like you were holding the Holy Grail the first time that you read one of Bill James Baseball Abstracts, then you're going to love The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. I must confess, on my third night of thumbing through the book, that's what it felt like for me - like it was 1982 all over again and I was reading a "Baseball Abstract" for the first personal time.

As a Yankees fan, in addition to the Belth essay, you'll enjoy learning things like the fact that Robinson Cano was one of the best base runners in the game, and that the Yankees defense was truly terrible last year, and that the lack of a bench probably cost the Yankees about 5 wins in 2005 - and home field in the ALDS.

And, if you like players on other teams, and/or learning about other teams, you'll find lots of juicy stuff on them in this book as well. It's more than worth the $17.95 (suggested retail price). You'll get at least 6 hours of enjoyment from the book - probably much more. Think about that - how many long-lasting good times these days can you get for less than three bucks an hour? It's a bargain.

I highly recommend The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. I've read many books like this over the last 25 years and this one is right up there among the best of the group. I'm very happy to have the chance to review it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:10 PM | Comments (5)

November 05, 2005

The Bill James Handbook 2006

Two years ago, I had the privilege of reviewing The Bill James Handbook 2004 for NetShrine.com. Now, I have the pleasure of reviewing The Bill James Handbook 2006 for WasWatching.com. (And, my thanks to the folks at Acta Publications for making this possible.)

The handbook is full of league, team, manager and player stats. But, it also has fun sections on Team Efficiency Summaries, Park Indices, Leader Boards, Win Shares Data and Player Projections for 2006, careers, and injuries.

Quickly thumbing through The Bill James Handbook 2006 this evening, I saw the following 2005 facts that would interest Yankees fans:

* The Yankees' 49 wins after the All-Star break were the most for any team in baseball.

* Jorge Posada's Batting Average, Runs Scored, Walks, RBI, HR, On Base Average, and Slugging Percentage have each gone down now for three years in a row.

* Derek Jeter led the AL in pitches seen (2,883) and was second only to Bobby Abreu in the majors.

* On the bases, Jason Giambi went from 1st to 3rd in 47% of his chances (14-30) whereas Tony Womack did it 33% of the time (5-15).

* The Yankees had 111 SB Attempts last year - the lowest number ever by a Torre Yankees team.

* Tom Gordon led all AL non-closers in Blown Saves (with seven).

* The Yankees led the AL in pitch outs with 50 - for a point of comparison, the Red Sox had 11 and the White Sox had 15.

* Only Tampa Bay (0.53) and Baltimore (0.48) had higher Unearned Run Averages than the Yankees in the AL (0.43).

* The two highest home batting averages in the AL belonged to Derek Jeter (.354) and Alex Rodriguez (.351).

* According to Baseball Info Solutions Injury Projections for 2006, the pitcher in all of baseball with the 4th highest % chance of any injury is Carl Pavano (33.3%) and he's directly followed by Jaret Wright (at 32.4%).

* Alex Rodriguez, assuming he stays healthy, projects out to 816 career homeruns.

* The top two slots in the AL for most pitches thrown in a game belong to Carl Pavano (133 on 5/17) and Mike Mussina (131 on 5/7).

I also saw some Red Sox related items that would interest some Yankees fans:

* Pedro Martinez threw 217 IP in both 2004 and 2005. He hit 16 batters in 2004 but only 4 in 2005.

* Boston hit more HR on the road in 2005 (107) than they did at Fenway (92).

* David Wells' average fastball last season was thrown at 87.6 MPH.

It's facts like these that make The Bill James Handbook 2006 so much fun. (And, there's a ton more great things in the book. I found these in minutes.)

I highly recommend The Bill James Handbook 2006 - not just for Yankees fans, but for any baseball fan. If you like stats, this book covers all the bases (regardless of your favorite team or teams).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2005

Book Review: More Tales From The Yankees Dugout

Last week, I saw Ed Randall's 2002 book, More Tales From The Yankees Dugout, on sale at the local Five Below for just $3.50.

I thought "Why not? It's just three-fifty."

Maybe it's because I had low expectations, but, I'm enjoying it. So far, I've just been thumbing through it - but, it's fun.

John Habyan talks about how the Yankees used to steal "location" from their bullpen and signal it to the hitters. Ron Davis talks about how he got to come into a game after locking Goose Gossage into a toilet in the bullpen. Clete Boyer talks about how he taught Derek Jeter to cut down on his errors during the spring of 1995. Chris Chambliss talks about how he just missed being on one of the 9/11 planes that went down. It's full of stuff like this.

One of my favorites is Jerry Narron telling a story of how Catfish Hunter once told him, as a rookie catcher, "Don't worry about it. I'm gonna throw every pitch you call for. If I don't like it, I'll just throw it so they can't hit it."

I cannot remember the last time that I've had this much fun from $3.50. If you have a local Five Below, and see this book, pick it up.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:57 PM | Comments (2)

August 10, 2005

NoSenseWorrying.com

If you haven't seen it yet, you should stop by NoSenseWorrying.com.

I'm bookmarking it and will make sure to check it out each day. Jen's a hardcore Yankees fan and knows what she's talking about.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:35 AM | Comments (2)

July 03, 2005

Book Review: Bat Boy

I just finished reading BAT BOY – My True Life Adventures Coming of Age with the New York Yankees by Matthew McGough. This is a new release – it just came out on May 10, 2005. And, it retails for $22.95.

In a nutshell, this is the story of Matt “Spider” McGough who, as 16-year-old, pulled off what would seem like the impossible. McGough wrote letters to the New York Yankees, seeking a job as a bat boy for the team, and his request was granted. Landing this gig was a major accomplishment since bat boy positions are never filled via the route used by McGough – in just about every case, you have to “know someone” (as in being the son, grandson or nephew to a major Yankees supplier or the like) to get this type of position.

McGough served as a Yankees bat boy for the 1992 and 1993 seasons. (Also, later during the 1998 post-season, he was brought back to help out around the clubhouse – a short and sweet assignment that paid off with Matt being able to ride on a float in the World Championship tickertape parade that followed the World Series.)

This book is a wonderful story about the long hours, hard work, and personal sacrifice that is required by a bat boy in exchange for an incredible experience which leads to opportunities and perks that forge memories to last a lifetime.

BAT BOY is quick read although it is replete with fantastic stories that will make you want to run and tell someone what you just found out after reading it. In fact, when you are done reading this book, you find yourself wishing that it had not ended – so that you could continue your travel down the stream of enjoyment that it provides you.

McGough provides the reader with unlimited and revealing insights to the workings of the Yankees organization, Yankee Stadium, and baseball clubhouses in general. There are also terrific stories about some of the players with whom Matt grew close to as a bat boy – such as Jim Abbott, Scott Kamieniecki, Don Mattingly, Matt Nokes, and Bernie Williams (just to name a few).

BAT BOY includes tales about player and team generosities, clubhouse pranks, late night Yankees Stadium happenings, road trips, autograph high jinks, and personal mishaps, etc., that are also very compelling. (Although, one anecdote of misfortune detailing a “pyramid scheme” that McGough was pulled into via some Yankee Stadium connections did tend to run perhaps twice as long as necessary in my opinion. But, this one small item here is the only “knock” on this book for me. And, it is very small and therefore an inconsequential nitpick.)

In his storytelling, McGough excels at making you feel as if you are in the exact time and place that he is describing. Additionally, as you read BAT BOY, you cannot help but finding yourself liking both Matt and his family.

In summary, BAT BOY is a book that I recommend for any and all baseball fans. For Yankees fans, it is a “must read” and an essential for your Yankees baseball library.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2005

Da Bronx Bombers

Da Bronx Bombers

Some of those pictures are pretty funny.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2005

Book Review: The 50 Greatest Yankee Games

The good people at Wiley recently sent me a review copy of Cecilia Tan's book "The 50 Greatest Yankee Games" that came out a couple of months ago.

While I have not had time to fully read the book, I did have a chance to sample through it and I thought some here might be interested in my findings.

Cecilia is a Yankee fan extraordinaire. She’s been writing about the Yankees at sundry outlets for a long time now. Personally, her name has always stuck in my head because of the Simon & Garfunkel hit “Cecilia” that was out when I was around 9-years-old:

“Oh, Cecilia, I'm down on my knees
I'm begging you please to come home
Come on home”

Even though it was 33-years ago, it seems like it was just yesterday that I would get a big thrill when that song came on the radio in my folk's car as we were driving around. (Probably on an AM station, I should add. Man, I'm old.) In any event, Cecilia gets two major thumbs up for the amount of research that went into this book. Most notably, she personally interviewed 28 members of the extended Yankee family. These include the likes of Yogi, Bouton, Bucky, Whitey, Girardi, Reggie, Gator, Murcer, Mattingly, O’Neill, and Stick. On the Spicoli-meter of cool, this alone deserves a “Whoa!”

Unfortunately, I have to quibble with some of Cecilia’s selections. For example, having a game where Tony Fernandez hit for the cycle in 1995 and the Andy Hawkins no-hitter loss of 1990 in the “Top 50” whereas games like games like Guidry’s 18-K night and the Brosius and Tino HR games of the 2001 World Series miss the cut is, well, somewhat inexcusable to me.

Nonetheless, because of the amount of detail that this work provides on the games included, it appears to be the type of book that most diehard Yankee fans would want to have in their essential baseball library. I look forward to having some time soon to be able to read it fully. Thanks to the folks at Wiley for sending it to me.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:16 AM | Comments (3)