Top positive review
37 people found this helpful
Loved it, didn't hate it
on May 1, 2006
If he's not more careful, Jeff Pearlman's going to get a reputation as the Kitty Kelley of baseball. First, the John Rocker interview in "Sports Illustrated". Next, "The Bad Guys Won!" -- a book about the hard-drinkin', coke-snortin' '86 Mets. Now, Barry Bonds is revealed in all his misanthropic, beef 'roid injectin' misery.
I'm not sure if "Love Me, Hate Me" began life as an impartial look at how Bonds' stellar on-field accomplishments redeemed his tumultuous personal life. Somehow, I doubt it. I suspect it was always intended to be a sarcastic look at how one of the most physically talented ballplayers of the last quarter-century managed to trash his public reputation and make exactly zero friends along the way.
Pearlman knows his baseball, and chooses his comparisons with great precision. His writing is crisp and lively, his point never in doubt. For example, he describes Bonds' infamous late-season and playoff slumps by comparison to late 1970s utility infielders -- the kind of references that only a guy in his mid 30s who grew up with shoeboxes full of Topps baseball cards could come up with: Bonds is described, during his slumps, as being: "... as useful to baseball as an autographed Otto Velez jersey". And: "In April and May, he was Willie Mays; in September, he was Tom Veryzer". This book is probably going to drive the average sabermetrician crazy.
In order to get away with a book like this, the author has to do two things right. He has to get his game accounts perfect. How many baseball bios have been trashed by a lack of research into game details? Ken Kaiser's biography, Andre Dawson's biography, Jose Canseco's love letter to steroids, to name three other baseball books I've reviewed. A look at RetroSheet, however, shows that Pearlman gets it right. He did his research, he watched the key games. That should be a given for any book, but it's not, so he gets points.
The other thing the author has to get right is to check his sources. How do we know that the stories in this book aren't bogus? When you interview 500 people, many of whom knew Bonds only in passing, you're likely to get some suspect information, or anecdotes altered by conscious or unconscious bias. Of course, story after story about how poorly Bonds treated teammates and neighbors is balanced by other stories about his generosity and heart, so not every interviewee is out to get Bonds. The chapter notes also detail hundreds of primary sources -- mostly contemporary newspaper game accounts or the musings of sports columnists (many of which, such as the paeans to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998, look painfully naive in retrospect).
"Love Me, Hate Me" is hardly neutral or impartial. However, it has the ring of authenticity, and is written in the same breezy, in-your-face style that made "The Bad Guys Won!" a blast. It's unfortunate that, as of today, there are about 5700 other books that are outselling this one on Amazon. Love this book or hate this book, you should not avoid this book.