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Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning Paperback – September 19, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company (September 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761140182
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761140184
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #600,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This is the book about the 90% of the game that’s half mental. It’s the smartest analysis of a smart team yet written.”
— Allen Barra, The Wall Street Journal (Wall Street Journal ) --This text refers to the CD-ROM edition.

Book Description

The Red Sox finally did it. By making decisions that other clubs would not have made and using talent that other clubs ignored or lacked the statistical understanding to perceive, the new, focused Red Sox management built a championship team that overcame 86 years of baseball history. And along the way, argue the writers of Mind Game, created a blueprint for winning baseball.

Savvy, insightful, statistically brilliant, and filled with the thudding sound of the sacred cows of received baseball wisdom biting the dust, Mind Game relives one of modern baseball’s greatest success stories while revolutionizing the fan’s understanding of how baseball games are really won and lost. Created by Steven Goldman and the writers and analysts at Baseball Prospectus—the preeminent annual on the inside game of baseball, with 91,000 copies in print, and Web site, www.baseballprospectus.com, that receives 5 million hits a month—Mind Game explains why the unenlightened Twins gave up on David Ortiz; what led the Sox to understand Johnny Damon’s true value and give him the ideal place in the batting order; how Boston actually gained by having Keith Foulke as a closer vs. Mariano Rivera; and what would likely have happened if the Boston–A-Rod trade went through. (Hint: even worse for the Yankees.) And as the suspense ratchets up before the historic seven-game AL playoff, readers will never look at baseball the same way again, learning that leadoff hitters don’t need to be fast and RBIs are not the rocksolid barometer of an offensive player’s contribution. And all that stealing and bunting? Forget it! Just wait for a three-run homer.

As for the curse of the Bambino? Hogwash! The real curse behind Boston’s 86-year drought was its decades of bigoted, inept ownership and management. --This text refers to the CD-ROM edition.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By RK on October 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
I eagerly anticipated this book, and was only slightly let down when it finally shipped.

On the positive side, it condenses into one volume all of the decisions that went into the making of a championship team. It's especially insightful because Baseball Prospectus has a similar understanding of the game as Sox' GM Theo Epstein. I also appreciated the fact that it's not a pure "stathead" book, and delves into things such as why it's sometimes sensible to overpay a player such as Jason Varitek, why (at the time) it made sense to sign Matt Clement in place of Pedro, and why team chemistry matters (it doesn't always help, but it rarely hurts.)

On the down side, it could have used a lot more proofreading and copy editing; there was at least one paragraph that I had to re-read three times before I could figure out who "him" was (Frank Crosetti). Maybe we need a new stat, "Typos Above Replcement Writer," or "Grammatic Efficiency Ratio."

Perhaps most annoyingly, it's full of glib political references that will alienate about 50% of readers. At the very least, they're distracting, sending the reader off into thoughts of, "Is that a dig at somebody? Is he right?" when you want to be thinking about baseball. These sorts of things are fine in a daily column, but they're inevitably comtemporaneous, and may be hopelessly obscure before the Sox win again. The book would have been much better had the author restrained himself. I don't understand why sportswriters do this, especially since Baseball Prospectus holds itself to much higher standards of accuracy than most political analysts.

But, if you want to read the real story behind the 2004 Red Sox, if you want to understand the thinking behind the most talented and progressive management in the game today, then this is the book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Pagano on March 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
I like to think of Theo Epstein's philosophy as "Moneyball with money." He applies many of the same principles espoused by the sabremetric crowd, but he does so within the context of a fairly rich ballclub so he can afford to make a mistake or two.

What "Mind Game" does very well is analyze what made the 2004 Red Sox different from all the failed clubs that came before it. Theo Epstein had a plan, he stuck to that plan, and he had a manager in Terry Francona who believed in the system and understood how to execute it. He didn't build a collection of superstars in the Yankee mold, but rather a team of players with specific strengths placed in roles that exploited those strengths.

There are some very provocative ideas in the book, several of which have been mentioned in previous reviews. Is Pedro really the greatest pitcher of all time? Is Derek Jeter really overrated? Is Keith Foulke really a better pitcher than Mariano Rivera? The authors make their case, and while you might still disagree after reading it, there is plenty of food for thought.

Like "Moneyball" before it, "Mind Game" challenges some generally accepted baseball principles. Unlike "Moneyball," however, "Mind Game" is an ex post facto analysis. It's much easier to watch the Red Sox win the World Series and then proclaim Theo Epstein a genius than it is to actually sit in the Draft room with Billy Beane and explain why he knows better than the scouts.

Another issue I have with "Mind Game" is that it is a collection of essays as opposed to a cohesive story about a team. Ironically, the book is like the Yankees. The sum of its parts is better than the whole.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Diane B. Firstman on November 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Once again, the folks at Baseball Prospectus have tried to (re)examine the basic precepts of winning baseball. Once again, they have succeeded.

The naysaying reviewers criticizing everything from political jibes (I think I saw *2* in the whole book) to a supposedly *obvious* point (Rivera being solved by the Sox due to their familiarity with him) are being hypercritical. There are plenty of announcers out there (the likes of Joe Morgan and such) who would NEVER draw the conclusion on Rivera that BP has.

I *liked* the essay format, as a distinct change of pace from the "on April 15, they did this ... on April 21 they did that" tomes. The book DID have a flow to it, logically and chronologically. Analyses were sensibly connected to what the Sox were dealing with at the time ... injuries, brawls, offense vs. defense. The "stathead" stats were presented with a minimum of "even if you don't understand it ... just go along with it". There was a *logic* to the presentation.

The one thing I do have an issue with (and it has been said before) is some sloppy editing, particularly in latter chapters. Typos, disjointed sentences and factual errors made for some difficult reading at times. I know the final piece of the book was written in early August for an October release, but it still irks me a bit.

This is a daring attempt to present a recap of one team's season in a new format. I think we should be offering them congrats.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Sabre Rattler on October 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you like to read statheads explain the success of last year's red sox, then you will like this book. If you want more than that, you will probably be disappointed. The book really adds very little in terms of new insight into the baseball world. These are mostly the same points made more elegantly and in better prose in moneyball.

While the title purports to explain "how the Boston Red Sox got smart ... and created a new blueprint for winning," the book itself does a poor job of detailing that blueprint. As a collection of essays, the book comes off disjointed and wildly inconsistent. Obviously, some chapters are better than others, but overall most of them were disappointing.

The James Click chapter, "Cracking the Rivera Code," is typical of the book. It tries to explain the red sox success against the yankee closer: basically, it comes down to his limited repertoire and being overworked. So you see all this "sabre"-rattling comes in support of pretty commonplace and pedestrian conclusions that one could easily have guessed at without any kind of statistical data.

You also get retreads of familiar sabremetric topics as on-base percentage, the importance of pitch counts, etc. In other words, this is a lesser version of moneyball with boston standing in for oakland.

By the way, winning ONE championship hardly constitutes a blueprint for winning! Obviously, this book was written before the red sox were swept out of the playoffs in the 1st round by the white sox, but still it is rather proposterous to make that claim on the basis of a single championship season. Right now, you would have a better case for anaheim's brand of "smartball."
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