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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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. Each essay focuses on a particular player or moment and does an in-depth analysis of its subject and how it contributed to the overall picture, but the overall picture is sometimes lost in the statistical analysis. Some chapters require multiple readings to gain a clear undertsnding of the statistics involved.
Overall, "Mind Game" is a good book. Red Sox fans will love it because it gives you a million more reasons why that 2004 team was so special. Thoughtful baseball fans will enjoy it for its statistical analysis and challenging ideas. I think even open-minded Yankees fans will gain something from "Mind Game," even if they disagree with some of the points raised. The only people to whom I would NOT recommend this book are the lockstepping Yankees fans who meet even the slightest criticism of the Bronx Bomers with screams of "26 World Championships" and "Jeter is God."
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.