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The Rotation: A Season with the Phillies and the Greatest Pitching Staff Ever Assembled Paperback – March 6, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


J.B. Library Journal
"…a breath of fresh air for Philadelphia fans and beyond."

The Times of Trenton
“Authors Jim Salisbury and Todd Zolecki have written a can’t-put-down story of the 2011 Phillies filled with insight, inside knowledge of the club’s history and overall knowledge of the game that even non-Phillies fans will enjoy reading.
“The Rotation” is a crisp, in-depth look at how a team, particularly its pitching staff, prepares for a season and handles its triumphs and adversities, and is a must-read for all serious baseball fans."
The Trentonian
“… most likely had been written with a much different ending in mind, but it manages to somehow make you forget about the ending and enjoy the historic pitching milestones of the regular season…. The real highlights of the book come in the behind the scenes accounts of how Lee came to the team (both times) and their long pursuit of Roy Halladay. …This section is worth the price of the book alone…. The blow-by-blow account of the unexpected deal that brought Cliff Lee back to Philadelphia is captivating and a must read for any Phillies fan.”
Baseball America
“The book, penned by a pair of long-time Phillies' beat writers, does an excellent job of explaining how each of the Phillies Fab Five reached the big leagues. It also does a great job of taking the reader into the front office to detail contract negotiations, trades and the other moves that were needed to bring the rotation together. All of this makes for an excellent read. It's the kind of detail, scouting stories and back-room negotiations that diehard baseball fans like Baseball America readers, love.”

About the Author

Jim Salisbury is the Phillies' beat reporter for CSNPhilly.com and appears regularly on Comcast SportsNet-TV in Philadelphia. Previously, he had covered the Phillies for more than 13 years for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Todd Zolecki covers the Phillies for MLB.com. Previously, he served as the Phillies beat reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer for nine years. The National Sportswriters Association named him Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year in 2008. He lives in Philadelphia.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press; Original edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762444002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762444007
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig VINE VOICE on April 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have to admit that I was a little skeptical upon beginning this book, expecting another team-focused book that would be all sunshine and positives without providing any depth. Fortunately that was not the case, and instead the authors have provided an insightful look into the assembling of that staff while providing great insight into the pitchers themselves.

The structure of the book works well. The authors provide chapters on each of the big four (Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt) as well as a chapter on the possible fifth guys (Blanton, Worley) before reviewing the season chronologically in a month-per-chapter format. The chapters on the individual pitchers are, to me, the best part of the book because we get to learn about their motivation for coming to the Phillies, their work habits, and some of their personalities. It's clear that the authors admire the work habits of a pitcher like Halladay, but I appreciated that they didn't leave out issues like Hamels' bar fight during his early years, or the tough negotiations and temporary hard feelings between Lee and the ballclub. Including things that some might construe as negative just gives the book more credibility.

We all know how the season ended for the Phils, but that doesn't make the review of the season any less enjoyable. It's a credit to the authors that they can make a season review interesting, again by including details that go well beyond the boxscores. There's no shortage of books focusing on one team or one particular season, but among that group this one is a standout. I'm a Jays fan, and I couldn't put this book down. I would recommend this to any fan of the modern game, Phillies fan or not.
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Format: Paperback
Like the 2011 Phillies, this book could have been so much more. It turns out, however, that Zolecki and Salisbury don't write any better when they're not on deadline. It's a great read if you prefer reportage on clubhouse hijinks and rookie hazing rather than in-depth analysis of each of the pitchers' actual craft and repertoire. Each of the 'Big Four' is given an introductory background profile, which is useful enough in tracking the specifics of their careers, but very little effort is made to get into these players' heads, to show how they actually succeed within the games themselves. We are able to glean insight into their workout regimens and pre-game preparations, but that's as far as it goes.

The one notable strength of the text is an excellent, involved account of how Cliff Lee ended up leaving and coming back to the Phillies in successive off-seasons. After the introductions, the book really becomes more about the '11 Phillies (with frequent digressions pertaining to teams and players long past) than the 'Rotation' itself. The authors don't stray much beyond their beat writer mentalities, typically giving only the facts without the 'why' or 'how' elements. You can expect to read "Cole Hamels pitched a masterful two-hit shutout on August 22" without the slightest glimmer of detail outlining what made him so effective in that particular game; there are virtually no interviews with opposing hitters who have faced the pitchers. Too often, this is a lightweight book which could have been far more interesting in more capable hands.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The 2011 season is still fresh in the minds of Philadelphia Phillies fans. Perhaps baseball's best rotation ever of Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt (along with fifth starters Joe Blanton and Vance Worley) compiled a team-record 102 wins. And, although the Phillies were favored to make it to the World Series, they were upset by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. Having Halladay pitch the decisive Game 5 in Citizens Bank Park seemed to be the perfect setup. The Cardinals, however, plated a run in the first inning and went on to beat the Phillies, 1-0, behind a three-hitter by Chris Carpenter. What a disappointing finish to a great season.

Veteran sportswriters Jim Salisbury and Todd Zolecki do a great job of portraying the Big Four, the fifth starter and the supporting cast while chronicling the season. The portraits cover the first 100 or so pages, while the season, beginning in spring training, is detailed in 130 pages.

While much of the story is familiar to die-hard Phillies fans, Salisbury and Zolecki manage to add some interesting behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes. Perhaps the most interesting section of the book deals with the complicated negotiations and maneuvering to sign Cliff Lee after having sent him to Seattle. I also had forgotten about the controversy of S.F. Giants manager Bruce Bochy pitching Halladay and Lee each more than one inning in the All-Star Game while resting his starters.

The chapter, "One of the Best," details the many superlatives of The Rotation and seeks to rank them among the greatest pitching staffs ever. The starters compiled an ERA of 2.86, the best in all of baseball since 1985.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This helped me get through a very snowy winter with dreams of championships dancing in my head. This book contains the greatest quote I've ever read....

High school pitching coach "Cole, we want you to walk this guy to get to their weak hitter."
Cole "Can't I just hit him??"
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