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on June 13, 2003
Rob Neyer chose the publishing of "Big Book of Baseball Lineups" to offer the world a new photo of himself. site-goers had been treated to the same photo of Neyer in a flannel shirt since his column debuted. Only John Kuenster of "Baseball Digest" used the same photo for longer. Now Neyer's got a blue T-shirt and an eerily wide grin. Why is this man smiling?
"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.
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on May 1, 2004
Anyone who has a knowledge of baseball can easily pick the best first baseman in New York Yankee history: Lou Gehrig. But how about the best centerfielder? Mantle, or DiMaggio? In my lifetime, I've been a fan of both, so either one might qualify... and yet, whichever you leave out, you're leaving out one of the Yankees' greatest players. By restricting your all-time best Yankee team to one at each position, you're forced to choose, and yet, at other positions (like left field or third base), the best one you can find is nowhere near the SECOND-best centerfielder. (I'm assuming, when I talk of left fielders, you consider Babe Ruth a RIGHT fielder, as Neyer does: he played left on the road and right in Yankee Stadium!)
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.
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on August 18, 2003
This is a book that is not intended to sit down and read from cover to cover. Instead, just open it up, browse to a team, and read what Rob Neyer has written.
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.
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on September 20, 2004
At the risk of being slightly indelicate, this is the perfect "smallest-room-in-the-house" book for the inveterate baseball fan. Whether it's memories from your childhood, thought-provoking fodder for argument or hilarious nicknames (and their provenance) you're looking for, this book has it all and much more. An easier read (and a more manageable size) than some other weightier baseball tomes, it is both a pleasure and an education to read.
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on November 16, 2012
I love it. Greatest lineups of each team. Rookies, gold gloves, etc. Well researched thought out and laid out.
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.
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on March 25, 2013
It's getting a bit dated but it's fun to reminisce about the old greats and near greats that played for teams past. Whimsical lineups like "all stone-hands" and "all home-grown" are a fun read. I was looking for a little more but I was entertained.

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on February 18, 2013
Not as good as I expected. I did more research on my own and came up with better lists. okay
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on June 1, 2014
Hands down one of the best baseball books I've ever read. Casual fans can peruse it and enjoy and hardcore fans like me can enjoy every single table and word.

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.

Mike Sherwin
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on July 18, 2003
It seems that Rob Neyer is still looking for an argument.
Last year he published BASEBALL DYNASTIES, in which he and co-author Eddie Epstein discussed the relative merits of some of the great teams in the long history of the game. Such "absolute" declarations fairly beg knowledgeable fans to take umbrage and offer counterpoint. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Meaningful discussion (i.e., anything that doesn't end with a beer bottle broken over your head) is an ancillary benefit of rooting for your favorites.
The author picks up where he left off with his fun new offering, ROB NEYER'S BIG BOOK OF BASEBALL LINEUPS. A senior writer and baseball columnist for, Neyer takes a very calculated measure of each team in creating these various lists. These include the greatest players for every ballclub (along with an "all second" team); players who enjoyed one especially fantastic year; an all-rookie team; a line-up of players who came up through the organization's minor leagues and another consisting of those traded to other teams; a best-defensive lineup, along with those who sported "iron gloves"; a roster of the worst players and another of those who were great at one time --- for other teams; and finally, a collection of the greatest "nicknames" at each position.
The lists consist of thumbnail sketches elucidating the author's choices and sidebars for those selections requiring a more extensive explanation. Neyer finishes off each chapter with a brief essay on a topic dear to his heart.
The enjoyment (or frustration) begins as the reader thumbs through each section. "Hey, why was Joe Shlabotnick left off of the list of all-time greats?" one might ask. Conversely, the fan might want to know why someone was placed on the "all-bust" squad when it's obvious to anyone who has ever even heard of baseball that this paragon of athletic ability would have done so much better if it wasn't for that pesky ingrown toenail.
Neyer pulls no punches and his style might strike some as bordering the realm of "I'm an expert and you're not," but he makes up for it with a sense of humor and a keen eye for detail. Thanks to a group of contributors close to each team (whom he credits, to his credit), he is able to produce this amusing volume. Long on opinion and short on the litany of statistics that many writers use to hammer home their points, ROB NEYER'S BIG BOOK OF BASEBALL LINEUPS might become one of the most useful collections of commentary to grace a fan's bookshelf.
--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
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on June 18, 2003
Rob Neyer's "Book of Baseball Lineups" is a solid addition to any well-stocked baseball shelf. It goes right next to Bill James' glorious Historical abstract.
Lineups basically goes through the major leagues team by team. We're given an all-time lineup for each team as well as best homegrown players, gold gloves, iron gloves, all-bust, all-name and used-to-be-great -- which catalogues what great players eeked out their declining years on a certain club. This is accompanied by little essays in the margins detailing certain selections and a short essay for each team addressing some topic. The essays are actually pretty good, sort of like little columns that you might have missed on his espn gig.
Neyer has put together a rather unique look at the game. Most books of this type look at the best players of all time from all of baseball, but Neyer's book focuses on *teams* and gives you a sense of the ebb and flow of each team's history. You'll see how all thre greatest players in Royals history bunched up in the late 70's and early 80's, how Atlanta's best players all came in the 90's. The traded away section will detail eras of stupid management for each team. And in the back, you get year to year lineups.
I can't think of any other book that does this. Most books focus on the history of one team (usually the Yankees) or one great year (Yankees again, '27 or '98). But this book will give you your first real sense of the history of other organizations like the Expoes and Brewers and so forth -- teams I didn't know HAD a history before I read this.
It's not as big, bad and beautiful as the Historical abstracts but this is a book you'll find yourself leafing through frequently. Definitely worth buying.
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