Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning
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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]

Steve Goldman , Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews


“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.

About the Author

Steven Goldman is the creator of the long-running Pinstriped Bible column at www.yesnetwork.com and the You Could Look It Up column for BaseballProspectus.com, a contributor to the Baseball Prospectus annual book, and the author of the biography Forging Genius: the Making of Casey Stengel. His work has also been seen in Yankees Magazine, the New York Sun, and Web sites too numerous to mention. Steven lives in New Jersey with his wife, Stefanie, daughter, Sarah, and, by the time you read this, a boy to be named later.

Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts on Baseball Talent includes, among others, Gary Huckabay, the founder of Baseball Prospectus; Chris Kahrl, a sports editor who lives in Washington, D.C.; and Dave Pease, who roots for Ryan Klesko in San Diego. Together, the roster of Baseball Prospectus writers consult to 26 of the 30 major league baseball teams.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


A brain surgeon walks into a bar after a hard day in the OR. He sits down at the counter, orders himself a cold one, and takes note of the big-screen television. It’s tuned to one of the popular forensic crime dramas that rule network television schedules. A medical examiner leans over a mutilated body in an alleyway.“

Take a close look at this entry wound, Detective,” the examiner is saying. “The bullet penetrated here, then turned his left parietal lobe into hamburger. Must’ve hurt like the dickens.”

The brain surgeon winces. “That’s completely inaccurate. He’s pointing to the wrong part of the brain. The bullet hit the right temporal lobe, not the left parietal lobe.”

“ No way, man!” shouts a man in a faded Detroit Tigers jersey two barstools away. “That ain’t no right temporal! They made the right call! I’ve been a brain fan since I was seven years old and I know! Up yours, buddy!”

Baseball may not be brain surgery, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is an expert on the national pastime any more than we expect the man on the street to know neurophysiology. Yet virtually everyone who follows baseball acts as if he knows what he’s talking about. This book is your insurance policy against being one of those people.

A century of sportswriters, broadcasters, guys in bars, and baseball men themselves have burdened our understanding of the game with half-truths and outright inventions. To take a few examples:
  • Leadoff hitters have to have speed.
  • Character is more important than talent.
  • The more RBIs a player has, the greater his contribution to his team.
  • Some players hit better in the clutch.
  • Teams that hit a lot of home runs don’t win as many big games as those that bunt and steal bases.
  • Bullpen pitchers fall into two categories: regular relievers and those who can close.
  • The closer is the most important man in the bullpen.
  • A player who can’t hit but is an above-average fielder is just as valuable as a good hitter who is an average defender.
One of the greatest myths of all was the Boston Red Sox curse. There was no curse. There was just a tradition of incompetence and mismanagement going back to 1919. Believing their own evasions, the Red Sox continued to assemble one team after another without ever using their brains or their common sense to address their actual flaws.

Since its founding in 1996, Baseball Prospectus has developed a reputation through its annual guide and magazine-style Web site as the nation’s foremost independent group of baseball analysts and pundits, breaking new ground in areas the game has long neglected: intelligent team design, objective player evaluation, injury-preventative pitcher usage, as well as dozens of other insights, many of which are now commonly utilized in the game, or soon will be. In the pages that follow, the writers and performance analysts of the Baseball Prospectus group dissect and explain the process that enabled the 2004 Red Sox to win their first championship since 1918. Week by week and in some cases day by day, BP considers the problems encountered along the way, both on and off the field, and reveals that winning a World Series is not just a matter of getting the big hits at the right time, but of having a plan and a rational worldview.

In short, the Red Sox finally got smart and won themselves a championship. Of course, getting smart doesn’t guarantee a World Series Championship, but it sure beats staying dumb and hoping one will find you by accident.
— STEVEN GOLDMAN --This text refers to the CD-ROM edition.
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