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Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders: A Complete Guide to the Worst Decisions and Stupidest Moments in Baseball History Paperback – June 5, 2006
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"Rob Neyer is the best of the new generation of sportswriters. He knows baseball history like a child knows his piggy bank. He knows how to pick it up and shake it and make what he needs fall out." - Bill James
About the Author
Rob Neyer has written about baseball for ESPN.com since 1996 and appears regularly on ESPNews. He has written four baseball books, including The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (with Bill James) and Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups. His website, www.robneyer.com, contains additional material related to this and his other books.
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Neyer astutely analyzes these events, challenging long held opinions and impressions by looking at the facts. Neyer is a keen observer of baseball history and his analyses are interesting and sound. His sidebars in the margins of chapters are irresistible. Baseball fans can open this book to any chapter and start reading.
First of all, it's called "Big Book of Baseball Blunders," which would naturally lead you to believe that it will be a ranking (or chronological list) of the biggest "mistakes" in baseball history. We get a clarification very early on that it's not about on-field mistakes or "boners," but rather premeditated errors, usually made by management. OK, so far, so good: Rob Neyer makes fun of stupid front offices with the benefit of hindsight AND a logical mind. That should be fun, right?
But once the book starts, you realize that this is NOT Rob's personal ranking of the biggest blunders in baseball history. Rather, it's a list of moves that were considered blunders by historical consensus, and then Rob does some research and evaluates whether they were truly blunders. (This is the same M.O. he uses in the later "Baseball Legends.") So it's more like "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Famous Alleged Baseball Blunders and His Analysis of Whether They Were Blunders or Not."
Fair enough, this could also be a good book if the opinions were interesting or eye-opening... but they're really not. A disappointing proportion of them end up with Rob meekly concluding: "We can't really tell one way or the other." This diplomatic response may make Rob seems like a "nice guy" (so many stats-oriented baseball writers come off as smug and arrogant, and I think he was specifically trying to avoid that) but it makes for a disappointingly flat baseball book. A little controversy isn't bad! I'm able to come up with NO OPINION without reading a book, thank you very much.
This book is also a victim of some careless copyediting. It's not as bad as the typical edition of "Baseball Prospectus," but there are a lot of little typos and a few actual mistakes that should have been caught. And if you've already read his earlier "Big Book of Baseball Lineups" (a superior product IMHO), there's quite a bit of thematic repetition.
On the positive side, Neyer's prose is always readable, he's a good storyteller, and there's some valuable baseball history in here. I definitely learned some stuff from this book, and it wasn't a chore to get through. But Neyer is capable of much better -- I preferred "Baseball Dynasties" and "Baseball Lineups," and his mid-'90s columns on ESPN.com completely changed the way I look at baseball.
Fine for the fanatic or Neyer completist, but not an essential book. I'd recommend "Lineups" or "Dynasties" before this one.
While the first blunder examined took place in 1917, this book is heavily weighted towards modern times. Only 15 take place before 1960, and almost half take place after 1970. Each incident is given about 4-7 pages of analysis, and many of the entries include side stories that Neyer includes in the margins. Many of the entries will be very familiar to baseball fans - the selling of the Babe, the trade of Roger Maris, and the Bagwell-Andersen deal. There are, however, many that aren't nearly so famous, like Tom Runnells' decision to shift Tim Wallach across the diamond, or the Pirates' benching of Kiki Cuyler during a stretch run. It's a good mix that Neyer has created.
Along with the regular entries, there are several "interludes" to break things up, including a couple about bad trades, and a funny entry about managers who never should have been in that position.
Neyer is, in my opinion, the most improved baseball writer over the past several years. He's always been a brilliant baseball mind, but now he seems to have found his touch as a writer. This book is enjoyable not only because of the cases he chooses to discuss, but also because of his style. There's plenty of analysis, some good humor, and little in the way of ridiculing or finger-pointing, which would have been easy to do in such a book.
An excellent book, and it's tough to beat the price. I'd recommend it for any baseball fan, even if not everything in here is new to you.
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It's good, though. Quite good.Read more