Given the title, one might think that this is a book where Neyer spends 250 pages criticizing boneheaded decisions, but it's not. Instead, Neyer takes the time to examine about 50 blunders, taking the time to analyze each decision instead of simply pointing fingers at those making the blunder.
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.
on May 6, 2006
This one is very well written baseball book about some very famous and some not so famous decisions made throughout the history of the game. As a baseball fan, and I think you would have to be one too to really enjoy this book, I was looking forward to read about recent blunders , things that I had witnessed in my lifetime or be familiar with, so when I saw that it started with the 1917 Chi Sox swapping firstbasemen I thought I wouldn't enjoy it that much. Well, wrong I was, that first story set the tone of the book and from then on I just couldn't put it down until I finished it.
One of the stories that touched me more was the one about the Oakland A's pitching staff of the early 80's. As an A's fan I clearly remember the Billy Ball era, the A's had a great starting rotation (Norris, Keough, Langford, Kingman, McCatty) and Billy Martin had them pitched some 96 complete games in 1980, after the strike shortened season of 1981 these 5 guys just disappeared from baseball , all of them plagued with arm injuries, undoubtly they had paid the price for all those complete games for an Oakland team that finished 83-79 that year, in a far second place from Kansas City.
This is a great book from Rob Neyer, you won't regret to get it
on January 26, 2007
This is a pretty fast, enjoyable read. Nothing too earthbreaking and you will be familiar with lots of the more recent entries, but it's still a lot of fun. While you may quibble with some of the chapters (was the Cubs hiring Dusty Baker REALLY one of the biggest blunders in baseball history?), it's well researched and insightful.
I especially liked the interludes about bad drafts (all the teams that passed on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for "sure things" you've never heard of) and the chapters on unqualified managers (the chapter on Maury Wills bumbling with the Mariners is hilarious). A lot of the chapters have a theme of "no one could have known how good "X" would turn out to be," which gets a little repetitive, but overall this is a fine addition to your baseball library.
on July 17, 2006
If you've been a baseball fan for 20 or more years, many of the blunders will sound very familiar, no new ground broken. On the other hand, if you're a rookie, you may find it very enjoyable. I appreciated Neyer's placing certain transactions in their proper context, especially the Brock trade, for which the Cubs have never been forgiven. Neyer, however, sorts outs all the facts and the trade, at that time, was about equal. Later on, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the media blew it way out of proportion while conveniently ignoring the proper context of this deal. The use of win shares in analyzing selected transaction adds a new insight into the long range evaluation of whom got the edge in trades. A bunch of blunders are given real short treatment and one wonders why the author even bothered to include them. There were two baseball history errors in this book, which are inexcusable, especially by such an authority as Neyer. Curt Simmons is described as a right-handed starter while Dale Murray is listed as a left-handed reliever...now that's careless research. In brief, if you a veteran baseball fan, you could pass on this one; however, if you value win shares, you may enjoy its application to certain trades.
on September 22, 2006
On the one hand, you have the Baseball Encyclopedia, which is an argument ender. On the other hand, you have, say, one of the Bill James Abstracts, which begins "let's start the arguin'". This book is in between.
The best parts are when Neyer is revisiting well-known "bad trades" of all time, such as Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, giving them context and often reaching conclusions different from the conventional wisdom. The worst parts are when he focuses on a single game or a single player as being the reason a particular team did or did not succeed; it's simply unconvincing. Yes, that .220 light-hitting shortstop might have used up a lot of outs, but the guy on the bench may or may not have had a hangnail and couldn't play; Neyer doesn't do enough research to tell us.
Also fun are the lists of bad managers. I must admit when I read them, I wondered out loud, "where is Maury Wills?" only to discover he had his own chapter (someone should write a whole book about it). And the list of bad draft choices (though the Phillies picking J.D. Drew and passing on Troy Glaus might have had something to do with Scott Rolen, a point Neyer misses) is also fun; the basic idea is that no one in baseball knows anything.
The highlight, to me at least, is the discussion of Spike Eckert, and all the silly decisions that went into his being appointed and his tenure as commissioner. We do have to give the Lords of Baseball this, though: they did get rid of him.
In Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders, Neyer examines around fifty of the biggest baseball blunders in the history of the sport. The list (blunders of his own choosing) includes bad trades, poor personnel decisions and poor player performance. Neyer covers the entire history of baseball, yet focuses on modern day times. This book can be enjoyed by the casual fan. It is full of atecdotes and doesn't rely too much on a bunch of boring stats. Each chapter is a few pages long, allowing you to read bits and pieces at time or to skip parts you don't find interesting. This is a fun book for a baseball fan and would also make a great gift.
on February 2, 2013
Stats aficionado Rob Neyer examines bad player trades, foolish manager decisions, and failed draft picks (post-1965) throughout baseball history. The bad player moves include Boston selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920, the Mets trading away young Amos Otis and Nolan Ryan, the Cubs giving up young Lou Brock and the Astro's sending off Joe Morgan. Then there are bad decisions by managers like Leo Durocher not settling his pitcher Hugh Casey after the dropped third strike in the 1941 World Series, John MacNamara not removing Bill Buckner in the 1986 series, Gene Mauch pitching his studs on two days rest as the Phillies lost the 1964 pennant, etc. Finally, there are overlooked superstars that teams didn't draft, instead choosing some amateur that expired in the lower minors. The author doesn't condemn each offending decision maker - sometimes their blunders seemed sensible but didn't pan out for reasons hard to predict. Of course, other times they were just plain foolish. Neyer uses statistics like OPS (on base Pct plus Slugging Pct) plus Win Shares in his analysis, far better illustrations than batting averages. I wish the author had examined each blunder in great detail (some get a mere brief mention) plus included foolish franchise relocations and questionable stadium designs. We could use a second edition. Still, this is a readable and informative book.
on February 13, 2009
I'm a huge Rob Neyer fan. I've read almost every (free) column he's published on the Internet since 1997, and I've read most of his books (and plan to buy and read ALL of them, past and future). So it's with a little regret that I give this one a mediocre review. (I'd give it 3.5 stars if possible.)
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.
Rob Neyer's book of baseball blunders is sure to please any baseball fan with a sense of history. Neyer analyzes 50 trades and decisions from 1917 through 2003. They range from well-known events such as Grady Little's decision to lift Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of the 2003 American League Championship series and the trade of Roger Maris from the Kansas City Athletics to the New York Yankees in 1959 to lesser-known events such as the sale of Pee Wee Reese from the Boston Red Sox to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939 and the Kansas City Royals' signing of pitchers Mark and Storm Davis in 1989.
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.
on April 16, 2007
Rob Neyer is a heck of a baseball book writer. What he writes about is interesting, informative, and innovative, in the sense that he makes "Big Book of Baseball Blunders" a very good read. Why is that, you ask? (Or more likely, "What do ya mean by that, Bunny?!!!") Well, I'll tell you this: everyone has their own opinion on what the biggest baseball blunders are. People can easily identify the top 4 or 5, most can figure outnext few, they can split on the several after that, and to finish off the top 25 blunders, it's everyone for themselves. There have been a LOT of blunders in baseball, almost all of which seemed like a good idea at the time but turned out bad for any number of reasons. Therefore, you'll never get a unanimous opinion on the top 25-50 biggest blunders in baseball. But, while I may not agree with Neyer's list in totality of the worst blunders in baseball, on each one he offers compelling evidence of why it should be considered one of the worst blunders, in ways that perhaps I hadn't considered before. That's what makes this book interesting, and informative - and innovative in the way the facts are presented to show why each was a bad, bad blunder. And that's why Neyer ranks up there in my list of baseball writers - he gives you something new to look at and think about.