on June 18, 2003
Rob Neyer's "Book of Baseball Lineups" is a solid addition to any well-stocked baseball shelf. It goes right next to Bill James' glorious Historical abstract.
Lineups basically goes through the major leagues team by team. We're given an all-time lineup for each team as well as best homegrown players, gold gloves, iron gloves, all-bust, all-name and used-to-be-great -- which catalogues what great players eeked out their declining years on a certain club. This is accompanied by little essays in the margins detailing certain selections and a short essay for each team addressing some topic. The essays are actually pretty good, sort of like little columns that you might have missed on his espn gig.
Neyer has put together a rather unique look at the game. Most books of this type look at the best players of all time from all of baseball, but Neyer's book focuses on *teams* and gives you a sense of the ebb and flow of each team's history. You'll see how all thre greatest players in Royals history bunched up in the late 70's and early 80's, how Atlanta's best players all came in the 90's. The traded away section will detail eras of stupid management for each team. And in the back, you get year to year lineups.
I can't think of any other book that does this. Most books focus on the history of one team (usually the Yankees) or one great year (Yankees again, '27 or '98). But this book will give you your first real sense of the history of other organizations like the Expoes and Brewers and so forth -- teams I didn't know HAD a history before I read this.
It's not as big, bad and beautiful as the Historical abstracts but this is a book you'll find yourself leafing through frequently. Definitely worth buying.
on May 22, 2003
Among baseball fans, it's always fun to "pick" the "all-time best players" at any position. And Neyer in this book has taken what he feels to be the all-time best lineups for every current major league team, as well as teams that started in one location and moved elsewhere (like the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, Brooklyn/LA Dodgers, NY/SF Giants, Wash Senators/Texas Rangers, etc.). While you may not always agree with his choices, Neyer in my opinion has done a wonderful job with these "lineups." He also has a lineup of 'best individual seasons,' a gold glove team and an "iron glove" team (for worst fielders), his "all-bust" teams, rookie teams, traded away teams, and his "used to be great" teams. Having followed baseball since the late 1960s, I vividly remember many of the names in this book, as well as knowing numerous others whose names appear here. Some of the associated vignettes with each team are also fascinating. Like the story of David Clyde, the 18-year-old pitcher for the 1973 Rangers, or "Generation K" of the 1995 Mets. Or how the Devil Rays' management philosophy in Neyer's opinion has contributed to them having some terrible teams. Or how the famous line about the late, lamented Washington Senators, "first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League" really isn't all that true.
Neyer gives a lot of credit where credit is due. His "iron glove" teams are at times a hoot. Neyer mentions the infamous Johnie LeMaster of the Giants at shortstop on their "iron glove" team, Jose Offerman his counterpart for the Dodgers, Eddie Matthews at first base for the 1967 Astros, and so on. His all-rookie teams include notables like Mark McGwire for the '87 A's (well doh) and Stan Musial for the 1942 Cardinals. For some long-time teams, he lists 2 greatest lineups. At the end of the book is a section that features each team and its starting lineup from year to year, along with their manager.
Any fan, whether they be casual followers or students of the game are going to love this book! It's a good one.
on May 29, 2003
I bought the book because I really enjoy Neyer's columns on ESPN.com. He is the only columnist I read regularly. Being a book of lists it is a great book for "bathroom reading" because you can pick it up and read just a few pages at a time and enjoy it without losing any storyline or continuity.
I enjoyed the appendix as much as any other part of the book. It showed the typical starting lineups for each team in every different year of their existence. It was interesting to see how stable the lineups were before free agency.
It is truly a book of lists, with little esle. If you have been a baseball fan for decades, you will enjoy a wonderful trip down memory lane. If you are a casual fan who has an interest in one or two teams, it may not be worth it.
I did not feel that the sidebars added that much to the book. They were too short to have the depth of information/analysis that I have come to enjoy in Rob's columns on ESPN.com.
That being said, I enjoyed the book and will keep it and refer back to it for years to come.
on July 18, 2003
It seems that Rob Neyer is still looking for an argument.
Last year he published BASEBALL DYNASTIES, in which he and co-author Eddie Epstein discussed the relative merits of some of the great teams in the long history of the game. Such "absolute" declarations fairly beg knowledgeable fans to take umbrage and offer counterpoint. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Meaningful discussion (i.e., anything that doesn't end with a beer bottle broken over your head) is an ancillary benefit of rooting for your favorites.
The author picks up where he left off with his fun new offering, ROB NEYER'S BIG BOOK OF BASEBALL LINEUPS. A senior writer and baseball columnist for ESPN.com, Neyer takes a very calculated measure of each team in creating these various lists. These include the greatest players for every ballclub (along with an "all second" team); players who enjoyed one especially fantastic year; an all-rookie team; a line-up of players who came up through the organization's minor leagues and another consisting of those traded to other teams; a best-defensive lineup, along with those who sported "iron gloves"; a roster of the worst players and another of those who were great at one time --- for other teams; and finally, a collection of the greatest "nicknames" at each position.
The lists consist of thumbnail sketches elucidating the author's choices and sidebars for those selections requiring a more extensive explanation. Neyer finishes off each chapter with a brief essay on a topic dear to his heart.
The enjoyment (or frustration) begins as the reader thumbs through each section. "Hey, why was Joe Shlabotnick left off of the list of all-time greats?" one might ask. Conversely, the fan might want to know why someone was placed on the "all-bust" squad when it's obvious to anyone who has ever even heard of baseball that this paragon of athletic ability would have done so much better if it wasn't for that pesky ingrown toenail.
Neyer pulls no punches and his style might strike some as bordering the realm of "I'm an expert and you're not," but he makes up for it with a sense of humor and a keen eye for detail. Thanks to a group of contributors close to each team (whom he credits, to his credit), he is able to produce this amusing volume. Long on opinion and short on the litany of statistics that many writers use to hammer home their points, ROB NEYER'S BIG BOOK OF BASEBALL LINEUPS might become one of the most useful collections of commentary to grace a fan's bookshelf.
--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
on June 1, 2014
Hands down one of the best baseball books I've ever read. Casual fans can peruse it and enjoy and hardcore fans like me can enjoy every single table and word.
Rob leaves no sacred cows. He is objective as possible. Points out the absurd and the over rated players and is more than fair to baseball's hard to track era of the early 20th century.
Rob REALLY dig deep in making these lists, providing comments, and the sidebars (text) and team essays will even the best fan learn something about their favorite team.
My favorite part is Rob's ability to take on lazy common baseball acceptance of fact and just shred it. Example?
Did drugs ruin Doc Gooden's career? No, over use and a shoulder injury had more to do with it.
Did a manslaughter case ruin Cesar Cedeno's career? Nope not even close.
Is the pre Jimmy Rollins Larry Bowa the best Philly SS of all time... no not even second.
This book was written in 2002 and was almost prophetic in Gary Carter and Bert Blyleven making the HOF (after years of old school voters missing their greatness) and also arguing Jack Morris does not belong and he never did get in.
Kudos to Rob. We can only hope for more and more books in the future.
on August 18, 2003
This is a book that is not intended to sit down and read from cover to cover. Instead, just open it up, browse to a team, and read what Rob Neyer has written.
This is a must book for a baseball fan. If you like to sit with friends and discuss baseball teams and players then this book will give you good info.
Rob Neyer chose the publishing of "Big Book of Baseball Lineups" to offer the world a new photo of himself. ESPN.com site-goers had been treated to the same photo of Neyer in a flannel shirt since his column debuted. Only John Kuenster of "Baseball Digest" used the same photo for longer. Now Neyer's got a blue T-shirt and an eerily wide grin. Why is this man smiling?
"Lineups" is a "comeback" book, after the self-published "Feeding the Green Monster" failed to make a splash. "Lineups" opens, really, with its appendix, a tremendously useful spreadsheet listing every team's top regular at every position from 1901 through 2002. This may be the first baseball book in years to print the name of Al Moran, the shortstop for your 1963 New York Mets (and what a shortstop!).
Working backwards from that chart comes a series of dream (and nightmare) teams from MLB's current 30 franchises. The downside of this is that you're only reading about the Los Angeles Dogers, or the Atlanta Braves. The now-defunct teams (Brooklyn, Boston/Milwaukee) don't get their own exclusive treatment, although the end of the book features joint chapters on the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers et al, which is not how I'd have done it.
This is a book best read in brief bursts, one team at a time. With the shifted franchises treated separately, Neyer is weighted toward discussing the last 40 years. However, there are some interesting "finds" here, especially for those less familiar with earlier baseball: The Yankees' best-ever left fielder is Charlie Keller, and the Cardinals' first-team rotation is rounded out by Lon Warneke.
The rest of the book is sidebars (mostly related to that page's lineup), and one feature article per team. Neyer debates managers a lot: for Kansas City, Dick Howser v. Whitey Herzog; for the Yanks, Joe McCarthy v. Casey Stengel. He also introduces current perspective into the spectacular flameout of the Mets' "Generation K", and the woeful roster moves made by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Obviously, there's lots to argue with here. Which is kind of the point. When Neyer chides a "Sports Illustrated" writer for bashing the playoff performance of the Atlanta Braves bullpen, he presents only line stats in their defense. He mentions the famous homers allowed by Charlie Liebrandt and Mark Wohlers, but neglects to mention the 1999 playoffs, when the Braves' pen blew late leads in 5 of 6 straight games against the Mets and Yankees. Later on, he states that the Brewers are the only expansion team to generate 2 Hall-of-Famers in their first 10 years: which is only true if you ignore the Mets, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.
The book's most innovative aspect is its "Traded Away" teams, which allow you to wince in pain with every passing name. Least interesting (to me, anyway) were the "Iron Glove" teams. Overall, though, like "Baseball Dynasties", this is a just plain nifty book to dip into. If I were a broadcaster, this is the book I'd want with me, when the score's 10-3 in the 7th inning and it's time to start talking baseball history again.
on September 27, 2003
I've spent most of the 2003 baseball season chipping away at this book. Time well spent IMHO. I learned a lot about NL teams, which I don't follow as closely as teams in the American League. It's chock-full of historical nuggets, insightful analysis and (sometimes) outright speculation. You certainly won't agree with all of Neyer's choices as to which players belong on a team's "All-Time" or "No. 2" squads...and which players do not. As a Mariners fan, I've got to believe that Glenn Abbott, a long-time, original Opening Day Mariner deserves the spot on the "No. 2" team that Mr. Neyer has given to Brian Holman: talented, but fragile and productive for two seasons.
As noted by a previous reviewer, "Big Book of Baseball Lineups" is a fantastic "bathroom" book. Expect, however, to absorb only two or three pages per "sitting".
on June 26, 2003
This is not a book to be read in a few sittings or over the course of a week. Of course, that didn't stop me. Neyer's comprehensive lists, anecdotes and essays capture baseball's most alluring charm: the stat. No other sport can be catalogued, compared, debated like baseball. And very few writers or fans break down the details better than Neyer or deliver the results in a more manageable and reader friendly manner (by very few writers I really mean Bill James and that's only when it comes to breaking down the numbers).
Breaking teams and organizations into multiple categories (iron glove stands as my favorite) is a simple idea that Neyer flushes out with nuanced details and sound logic.
Just get the damn book. It's really good.
on June 10, 2003
Rob Neyer's newest book should appeal to all baseball fans, young and old. Neyer selects a series of all-time lineups for each baseball team, ranging from the best to worst. His personal selections will amuse many and anger some. Some players, like Paul Molitor, pop up several times within the same team chapter at different positions, as well as for different teams, while some Hall of Famers barely make the Number 2 all-time best team for their respective teams. Each player listed is accompanied by a short sentence explaining the selection.
A minor criticism of the book is that the selections appear more heavily weighted towards players of recent vintage, especially the all-time bust teams. Neyer does more properly accomodate the old-timers for teams such as the Athletics and Braves who played in several cities throughout their existence by having an abridged section following the current team line-ups.
The best part of the book may not be the actual player selections, but each chapter's several short essays focusing on an individual selected player or group of players. Without resorting to somewhat uncomprehensible Sabremetric-like statistics commonly found in many new baseball books, Neyer provides the reader with information about the ballplayers that is new and/or amusing. He even disagrees with his former employer Bill James, the eminent baseball Sabremetrician, on a few selections and issues, with factual proof in support of his position.
Overall a very good baseball book for the casual or fanatic fan.