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Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time Hardcover – April, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There are good teams, and there are great teams, and then there are teams that cross into legend where a case can be built for naming them the best team of all time. The Cubs of Tinker to Evers to Chance. The Yankees of Ruth and Gehrig, and later DiMaggio and Dickey, and, later still, Mantle and Maris and Ford, and still later, O'Neill and Jeter and Williams and Cone. The '29 A's, the '55 Dodgers, the '70 Orioles, the Big Red Machine. Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein identify 15 of these powerhouses, assess the overall stats and individual achievements of each, examine the durability of the numbers, and compare and contrast them relative to one another in an attempt to identify the one team that truly lived up to--and exceeded--its potential to stand alone.

It's a fascinating performance, as insightful as it is argumentative. (Neyer, a columnist for ESPN.com, and Epstein, a former baseball exec, don't always see eye to eye, and some of their disagreements are posted as dialogues.) Along the way, they debunk some myths (Mantle's 565-foot home run) and create new stats to test relative performance (one makes Johnny Bench the best catcher of all time--no problem there--with Mickey Cochrane second). Poignantly, they also project some "what-ifs," as in what if Lou Gehrig had stayed healthy for the '39 Yankees.

After parsing and reparsing team after team, Neyer and Epstein arrive at their conclusion, and while they pretty much disagree on places 2 through 15, they manage to present a unified front for No. 1. It's a team in pinstripes, but probably not the first--or second--to come to mind. Given the precision with which way they lay out their case, you'll have to work awfully hard to overturn their verdict. --Jeff Silverman


Baseball teams thrive on arguments. This book will start enough of them to keep the Hot Stove League in session all year long. -- George F. Will

Few athletes are part of one baseball dynasty. I was fortunate enough to be part of two. This book captures the unique characteristics that make great teams great. -- Davey Johnson

It's wonderful to read a book by someone who really knows something about the great teams, knows things that I don't know, knows even important things that I didn't know. This is the book that everybody else who writes about great teams, for the next 30 years, will have to begin by reading, just so they know what they're talking about. -- Bill James

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393048942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393048940
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 7.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,575,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason A. Miller VINE VOICE on July 21, 2001
Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: 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...
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