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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 15 of the Greatest Teams Ever
I purchased this book because it was written by Rob Neyer, whose columns I'd been reading on the ESPN website for several years, usually with an equal mixture of fascination, amusement, and frustation. I was interested in seeing his sometimes-technical take on baseball applied to the great teams of the past, whereas co-author Eddie Epstein I knew not at all...
Published on July 21, 2001 by Jason A. Miller

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2.0 out of 5 stars Way too absorbed in singular numbers to grasp its collective plural subject...
A baseball dynasty is defined as not a single season stat data record, but a team effort pattern of triumph over time, as in at least three WS victories in a decade period. Yet since the authors of this book are too in love with numbers to see forests for trees, what we get instead are comparisons between annual champion team performance. Avoid unless you're a fan of stat...
Published 2 months ago by 50 Somethin' Pop Pundit


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 15 of the Greatest Teams Ever, July 21, 2001
By 
Jason A. Miller (Brooklyn, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
I purchased this book because it was written by Rob Neyer, whose columns I'd been reading on the ESPN website for several years, usually with an equal mixture of fascination, amusement, and frustation. I was interested in seeing his sometimes-technical take on baseball applied to the great teams of the past, whereas co-author Eddie Epstein I knew not at all.
"Baseball Dynasties" is on its face an examination of 15 of the greatest baseball teams ever, ranging from the deadball-era 1906 Cubs, to the "Team of the Century" 1998 Yankees. It's longer and more detailed than most commercially-available "best teams ever" books, and probably the first one I've seen that's not aimed at kids. "Dynasties" is equal part historical research and statistical argument and, depending on where your interests lie, some parts of the book will be more interesting than others.
Neyer's sidebars and sidesteps tend to be the freshest. The historical research shows best in the articles with his name attached. His game recounts are fresh, his player biographies are original. The 1906 and 1912 World Series summaries come to life in a way that makes you believe Roger Angell was actually there and sending back reports. He's the first author I've ever seen detail just who Walter Beall was, beyond the fact that he pitched one inning for the 1927 Yankees.
Neyer, and mostly Epstein, use the Standard Deviation of a team's runs scored and runs allowed, to compare the great teams of different eras. They never tell us how "SD" is calculated, so those of us with adding machines can't play along at home -- I neglected to take statistics in college but love calculating ERAs and Pythagorean theorems as much as the next baseball nut. I won't blame them for my math shortcomings but they did promise to provide the formula at an early point in the book.
Epstein's portions are less interesting. His prose is dry and peevish. His elaborate defenses of Reggie Jackson and Davey Johnson seem unnecessary, his use of the data unoriginal. Boldly proclaiming that a batter with 563 career HRS and 10 different playoff appearances is "productive", strikes of myopia. Worst of all is his discounting of postseason games, and in spite of his saying "Games are not played on paper", he's still trying to reopen the books on the 1969 World Series.
Another of the book's rare missteps is a sidebar castigating a factual error about the 1986 Mets in Doc Gooden's autobiography. Fine, fine, but in the same pages Neyer misreports the scores of two playoff games from that same year.
On the whole "Baseball Dynasties" is a terrific fit on my baseball bookshelf. It's more interested in presenting the facts, anecdotes and numbers -- unindexed, it's not a handy reference tool, and is best consulted during slow games or phone conversations with friends. Their final rankings of the 15 teams seems desultory -- they reach a logical but unsexy result I've seen argued in other books -- but when it comes to teams such as these, any answer is the "right" answer.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sure to start an arguement, June 21, 2002
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This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
Neyer and Epstein's Baseball Dynasties is an entertaining and easy read that is also a thought-provoking book about baseball. Neyer (a regular columnists on ESPN.com) and Epstein (former managment for Orioles and Padres) introduce a method of measuring the dominance of teams -- the SD score. It is a way of estimating whether a team's success was truly a result of being a giant among men -- or whether it was because the talent in the league was so unevenly distributed. They identify 15 of the most dominant teams and break them down -- offense, defense, pitching, bench, how they were built, how the fell, etc. Each chapter is also graced with several small essays discussing fascinating aspects of each team.
The book has its flaws. The attributing of each little section to Rob or Eddie could have been left out and makes the book feel choppy. I think it could have benefited by being written after Bill James' book on Win Shares (then again, so could almost every baseball book). It might even have been preferable for them to talk about lesser-known teams or fewers details but more teams. Do we really need more information on the 1927 Yankees? I didn't think so.
I also think they should have looked at different KIND of dynasties. For example, teams like the 90's Braves, 80's Cards, 60's Reds, 60's-70's Pirates or 70's-80's Royals that weren't particularly dominating in any one year or short span of years, but were consistently good for a long span of time. Interviews with old-timers would have been nice but probably impractical. But I guess these complaints fall under one category -- the book is way too short. This subject deserves a "Historical Abstracts"-like tome that you could really wade into over the course of a few weeks rather than one you can zip through on the weekend.
But the book makes up for these short-comings with the fairness with it treats the topic. You'll realize that the early 50's Yanks weren't that good, despite their five championships. The league was just poorly balanced. You'll realize the early 70's Orioles were truly a great team. It avoids the common trait in "best teams that ever was" arguements of assuming that whatever team dominated the youth of the authors was the best. It's the best book of its type out there.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious analysis but still a good read, July 26, 2000
By 
Dominic Rivers (Northampton, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
Early in the book, Neyer and Epstein make the offhand remark, "...popular myth holds that the truly good teams are the ones that win the close games. That's complete bullsh--... Truly great teams... blow away their competition." I was skeptical of this thesis at first. If a team wins 90 games by the score of 8-4, why are they better than a team that wins 90 games by the score of 5-4? But little by little, the authors made a pretty good case to convince me, their key words being "truly great" teams.
The book utilizes a lot of math, with such calculations as "Pythagorean Winning Percentage" and "Standard Deviation Score." If you are scared away by sabremetric geek-dom, beware... The book is full of it. But I assure you, 99% of these calculations are totally valid. Many of them, will open up your mind and challenge your baseball assumptions.
For example, I went into the book as a great proponent of the sacrifice bunt (unlike the authors) and "little ball." I still think that both are underused, even in this era of inflated offense. However, I will now concede that such dynasties are substantially LESS compelled to relinquish any of their 27 outs in a game. Again, truly great teams BLOW AWAY their competition. They don't need to waste time by bunting a guy into scoring position.
Some other reviewers have accused the book of being humorless. Certainly, one-liners occur with less frequency than they do in Rob Neyer's Espn column. I think this is a product of the authors wanting to be taken seriously. Anybody can write a book in bar-room vernacular saying the "'98 Yankees were better than the '75 Reds, Blah, Blah, Blah..." BASEBALL DYNASTIES clearly strives to be THE authority on the subject... and what the hell is wrong with being ambitious? While certainly not comical, I found the book to be a good read. I was reading two other baseball books at the time (both much less dense and math-based), but I still kept coming back to Neyer/Epstein. Moreover, the arguments in each chapter are balanced by compelling anecdotal observations in the sidebars.
In the end, the authors do rank the 15 greatest teams of all time, and also devote a chapter to teams that barely miss the cut. Without giving too much away, let's just say that they rank Earl Weaver's Orioles higher and Tony LaRussa's A's lower than just about anyone would expect.
If you're a serious baseball fan, or strive to become one, treat yourself to this book. I can't imagine a much better book of its kind.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So which team is the greatest? Read and decide for yourself, April 1, 2000
By 
Chip Millard (Silver Spring, MD) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein's new book, "Baseball Dynasties", is thoroughly interesting examination as to which Major League Baseball teams are the greatest of all time. If you are familiar with Neyer's espn.com baseball columns, you will find the both writing style and content similar to the website. Neyer and Epstein use various statistical measures, such as projected wins, OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), and standard deviations (better or worse than the league average in a category) to make objective arguments about the quality of various teams. In addition, the authors also present a number of interesting stories about each team that capture the allure baseball has for many people. The book focuses on great 20th century MLB teams, but chapters on 19th century teams, Negro League teams, and the century's worst teams, are also included.
Overall, the book is written in a easy-to-read style, and although the book is loaded with statistics, they only embellish, rather than distract from, the stories about the dynastic teams. This book will refuel the debate as to which team is the greatest of all-time. One other thing, both Neyer and Epstein agree on the overall greatest team of all-time, and it ISN'T the 1927 Yankees. So who is it? Read and find out.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough Treatment of the Subject, but Somewhat Bland, April 8, 2000
This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
I recommend this book for someone who is interested in baseball analysis and also baseball history. I have read a great deal of both Mr. Neyer and Mr. Epstein's work on ESPN.com and elsewhere and as usual they do a solid job with the subject material. Each of the fifteen teams is covered in detail. There are specific questions answered of every team and then a number of short essays describing various interesting aspects of each team. Their analysis is almost always supported by facts and generally on the mark. The writing is easy to follow and not too technical, which can be a challenge in a book of this sort. The language is a touch coarse in a few isolated cases, though that doesn't bother me personally.
On the negative side, the book just seems a bit bland. I've been through 70-80% of the book and I don't recall laughing out loud once. The sections dealing with each team are solid, but get a bit formulaic at times. I definitely recommend the book, but it strikes me as being more of a reference than entertainment. As such, I feel certain I will occasionally pull it off my shelf and check out a famous team in the years to come.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for any baseball fan, June 1, 2001
By 
Kirk Allen (Washington DC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
Basically, if you read and like Rob Neyer from espn.com, then you will like this book. The book depends heavily on statistics in the decision-making process, including the use of SD score, which Neyer and Epstein developed for this book. It gives an accurate way to compare teams across generations. They also focuse on several seasons around one focus season, rather just looking at the one great season.
Even for those not highly interested in stats, this is a good read. The team chapters gives great history, and the sidebars provide info on what was happening around the league in the given year, among other things. There is also a glossary provided to aid in questions about what various statistics mean.
The concluding chapter allows the authors to compare and contrast the various teams, as well as to criticize their selections and methods. I feel this lends credibility to the discussion.. And you may be surprised at who they choose as the greatest team of all-time..
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars May settle some debates and start others, April 16, 2001
By 
Todd Hawley (San Francisco CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
All across the US (and anywhere else major league baseball is talked about), the debate rages on about who the greatest major league team of all-time is. In sports bars, around office water coolers, in classrooms, or even family dinners, fans argue about whether or not the '27 Yankees could beat the '98 version or how would the '75 Reds fare against the '54 Indians? As the authors point out in their forward, we as fans appreciate winning. Well yeah it's boring as hell to watch bad teams.
This book takes a look at and attempts to "rate" the greatest baseball teams of the 20th century, starting with the 1906 Chicago Cubs and finishing with the 1998 Yankees. Not only do they list the all-time great teams, they also devote a chapter to teams "just missing the cut." Using a statistical analysis not used before, the authors come to some interesting conclusions. Both authors felt that the '27 Yankees (generally considered to be the best team of all-time) to be number 2 or 3 on their lists, just for example.
What I also liked were chapters devoted to the greatest teams of the 19th century, the greatest Negro league teams, and also a section about the team the authors felt was the best minor league team if all-time, the Baltimore Orioles of the 1920s (many players on this team later played for the '29 Philadelphia A's). There's also a chapter devoted to the worst teams of all-time and while one would immediately think of the '62 Mets, amazingly enough, they were only about the fifth worst team. Scary but true.
Each chapter also contains sidebars about noteworthy events of that season, the team's descriptions, features on notable players, and even books written about the particular teams. While statistically-oriented, it's still a fascinating and well-researched book devoted to baseball's greatest teams.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Objective and Insightful, May 19, 2000
By 
Mark Murphy (Castro Valley, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
I have only praise for Baseball Dynasties. The previous reviews expressed just about everything I wanted to say about the book so I won't bore you by repeating them. I read it twice the week I bought it and since then, I have carried it around in my backpack for nearly a month just hoping for those free moments that will allow me to browse through a chapter or two. I'm a stat-head but I also have a great love of baseball history and this book is very satisfying in both respects. If you enjoyed books such as Bill James's Historical Baseball Abstract or Baseball Managers, I am confident you will enjoy this one as well.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, straightforward analysis of super-teams, November 21, 2001
By 
David R. Cox (South Carolina) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
I've never heard of Rob Neyer, but from reading other reviews here, he's apparently a modestly well-known figure from espn.com. I say that because I enjoyed the book with no prior expectations.
The statistical core of the book is very simple and, contrary to what another reviewer stated, I understood the calculation process entirely from the discussion early on in the book. From this truly simple calculation (standard deviation of runs scored above a standard and runs allowed below a standard), the authors got a nice spreadsheet of team evaluations. And by sorting and accruing this data several different ways, they were able to make a book out of it. In truth, it makes a better statistical table than a book, but enough of the human aspects of each team are thrown in to make it more than just a table.
So, for what it is (the results of a large spreadsheet calculation augmented by side stories about the teams), it pretty much does its job. The biggest fault to me is that the tables in the back of the book are awfully redundant. If you list the 50 highest-rated teams, based on five-year spans, why would you include the 1906-1910 Cubs, the 1905-1909 Cubs, and the 1907-1911 Cubs (these are not actual examples from the book, but there are dozens of similar cases)? I would have hoped that the authors would pick the best five-year run from one of those dynasties and eliminated all other dynasties with overlapping years. That would have given us 50 unique dynasties, rather than about 15 dynasties in varying degrees of permutation.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lively but unprejudiced assesment of the centuries greats., March 21, 2000
Handsomely designed, cleanly written ranking of the great baseball teams by two sabreheads who have learned how to carry their statistics lighly and present it so even mathophobics like myself can understand and even enjoy. Those who know Neyer from his espn.com column need no encouragement; for the uninitiated, if you love baseball and its history, you'll love Neyer too. The best baseball book I've ever read that doesn't mention the Red Sox.
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Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time
Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time by Rob Neyer (Paperback - April 17, 2000)
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