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Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups: A Complete Guide to the Best, Worst, and Most Memorable Players to Ever Grace the Major Leagues Paperback – June 2, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
The title says it all: by compiling lists of players in a baseball "lineup" format, the author, an ESPN.com columnist, manages to catalogue the game's all-time greats-and all-time bums. In the process, he also creates a kind of capsule history of every major league team. The secret is in the categories: along with the "All-Time" bests of each club, the book also includes such lineups as All-Rookie, All-Defensive, All-Traded Away (players who became great after their original team got rid of them), and All-Bust (players who never came close to living up to the hype). And because not even diehard fans can live on lineups alone, Neyer has also packed his pages with little sidebar essays, ranging from analytical (in which he explains how he chose Mickey Mantle over Joe DiMaggio as All-Time Yankees center fielder) to eye-opening (in which Reggie Jackson tells how his ASU coach warned him that the New York Mets would shy away from drafting him because he had a white girlfriend) to puzzling (Neyer suggests that the Chicago Cubs should have kept Rafael Palmeiro instead of Mark Grace to play first base-on the same page that he lists Grace as the Cubs' All-Time first baseman). It may be a book of lineups, but these colorful sidebars supply most of the real conversation pieces. This volume wouldn't be nearly as hard to put down without them.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"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
"You will argue with some of Rob's picks, and you will provoke many an argument with your baseball friends, but you will not be able to put this thought-provoking book down." - Jon Miller, ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball
"Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups is about baseball history, but Neyer's brand of cutting-edge analysis and objective evaluation is influencing baseball today." - Billy Beane
"Rob Neyer is one of those writers who can make his subject more interesting than anyone ever imagined it could be. He has written a delightful book for ardent baseball fans, but even people with a casual interest in baseball will find something to think about here." - Michael Lewis, author of Liar's Poker and Moneyball
"Mantle or DiMaggio? Spahn or Maddux? Terry or McCovey? Don't guess -- read Neyer's book and learn the answers. In these pages, it's production (not nostalgia) that matters, and the result is a cogent parsing of baseball's all-time greats (and worsts)." - Joshua Prager, The Wall Street Journal
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Top customer reviews
"Lineups" is a "comeback" book, after the self-published "Feeding the Green Monster" failed to make a splash. "Lineups" opens, really, with its appendix, a tremendously useful spreadsheet listing every team's top regular at every position from 1901 through 2002. This may be the first baseball book in years to print the name of Al Moran, the shortstop for your 1963 New York Mets (and what a shortstop!).
Working backwards from that chart comes a series of dream (and nightmare) teams from MLB's current 30 franchises. The downside of this is that you're only reading about the Los Angeles Dogers, or the Atlanta Braves. The now-defunct teams (Brooklyn, Boston/Milwaukee) don't get their own exclusive treatment, although the end of the book features joint chapters on the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers et al, which is not how I'd have done it.
This is a book best read in brief bursts, one team at a time. With the shifted franchises treated separately, Neyer is weighted toward discussing the last 40 years. However, there are some interesting "finds" here, especially for those less familiar with earlier baseball: The Yankees' best-ever left fielder is Charlie Keller, and the Cardinals' first-team rotation is rounded out by Lon Warneke.
The rest of the book is sidebars (mostly related to that page's lineup), and one feature article per team. Neyer debates managers a lot: for Kansas City, Dick Howser v. Whitey Herzog; for the Yanks, Joe McCarthy v. Casey Stengel. He also introduces current perspective into the spectacular flameout of the Mets' "Generation K", and the woeful roster moves made by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Obviously, there's lots to argue with here. Which is kind of the point. When Neyer chides a "Sports Illustrated" writer for bashing the playoff performance of the Atlanta Braves bullpen, he presents only line stats in their defense. He mentions the famous homers allowed by Charlie Liebrandt and Mark Wohlers, but neglects to mention the 1999 playoffs, when the Braves' pen blew late leads in 5 of 6 straight games against the Mets and Yankees. Later on, he states that the Brewers are the only expansion team to generate 2 Hall-of-Famers in their first 10 years: which is only true if you ignore the Mets, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.
The book's most innovative aspect is its "Traded Away" teams, which allow you to wince in pain with every passing name. Least interesting (to me, anyway) were the "Iron Glove" teams. Overall, though, like "Baseball Dynasties", this is a just plain nifty book to dip into. If I were a broadcaster, this is the book I'd want with me, when the score's 10-3 in the 7th inning and it's time to start talking baseball history again.
I'm sure there are similar problems with other teams; I know the Yankees best, so I gave Yankee examples. But this is the problem with any book of this type.
Still, it's fun to look at the lists in this book. I'm not sorry I bought it. 4 stars, yes... but certainly not 5.
This is a must book for a baseball fan. If you like to sit with friends and discuss baseball teams and players then this book will give you good info.
I have spent hours looking at it.
My only complaint is, its about 10 years old.. I think last active season listed is 2002.
Well worth the price and a great book for baseball fans.
Rob leaves no sacred cows. He is objective as possible. Points out the absurd and the over rated players and is more than fair to baseball's hard to track era of the early 20th century.
Rob REALLY dig deep in making these lists, providing comments, and the sidebars (text) and team essays will even the best fan learn something about their favorite team.
My favorite part is Rob's ability to take on lazy common baseball acceptance of fact and just shred it. Example?
Did drugs ruin Doc Gooden's career? No, over use and a shoulder injury had more to do with it.
Did a manslaughter case ruin Cesar Cedeno's career? Nope not even close.
Is the pre Jimmy Rollins Larry Bowa the best Philly SS of all time... no not even second.
This book was written in 2002 and was almost prophetic in Gary Carter and Bert Blyleven making the HOF (after years of old school voters missing their greatness) and also arguing Jack Morris does not belong and he never did get in.
Kudos to Rob. We can only hope for more and more books in the future.