Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Book Review – Men At Work by George Will

Friday, May 6th, 2011

The full title of this book is “Men At Work – The Craft Of Baseball”. It was written by George F. Will and was originally published in 1990. I read the 20th anniversary edition of this #1 New York Times bestseller, which the front cover identifies as “A Notable Book of The Year, as per The New York Times Book Review”

As you are probably already aware, author George F. Will writes a news column which appears in over four hundred newspapers nationwide. He also writes for Newsweek magazine. He appears on ABC News and has written twelve books in addition to “Men At Work”. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977.

George F. Will earned my everlasting respect when he made a guest appearance on Stephen Colbert’s TV show. He handled himself and Mr. Colbert admirably. I’ve never seen anything like it.

And, George F. Will is a Cubs fan.

Mr. Will has constructed “Men At Work” with four major areas of attention: managing, pitching, hitting, and defense. Each of those topics are illuminated by the author’s presentation of one major individual practitioner: Tony La Russa, Orel Hershiser, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr., respectively.

This 20th anniversary edition was released in April of 2010, and contains a new introduction by the author. In it, Mr. Will allows that, were he going to write “Men At Work” today, he might choose as his four subjects: Mike Scioscia, Manager; Tim Lincecum, Pitcher; Albert Pujols, Batter; and Chase Utley, Fielder.

Among other things, the author points out that the baseball draft is a highly unscientific, uncertain plunge, because of which there is no shame in being selected deep in the draft. Two players picked in late rounds who turned out to be good investments include Andre Dawson (11th round), and Ryne Sandberg (20).

Mr. Will includes Ryne Sandberg’s terse summation of the prerequisites for a good infielder: “Quick feet and soft hands.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
– “To me, the secret of scoring a lot of runs is, as many times as you can get a guy into scoring position, do it.”

– “It’s not correct to sit and wait for extra-base hits.”

– “Speed comes to the park every day. The three-run home run doesn’t. Speed is the most consistent thing you have.”

– “If you execute the fundamentals, you can win.”

– “…the four important things in baseball, in order of importance, are: play hard, win, make money and have fun. The problems start when the third and fourth take precedence over the first and second.”

– “Spring Training is delightful everywhere but it is best in Arizona.”

– “’Don’t give this guy anything good to hit – but don’t walk him.’ That is what is meant by pitching around a batter.”

– “Control without stuff is far better than stuff without control.”

– “You don’t listen to parents when you are growing up, so my dad found other people for us to listen to.”

– “Throw strikes, change speeds, work fast.”

– “The beauty of the game is that there are no absolutes. It’s all nuances and anticipation, not like football, which is all about vectors and forces.”

– “Of course, sport includes some young men and some not-so-young men who have never grown up, who are self-absorbed, willful, vain and arrogant….but precisely because competition at the pinnacle of American sport offers many temptations, and because physical abilities can carry an athlete far without a commensurate portion of good character, the achievements of the genuine grown-ups…are all the more to be admired.”

– “Baseball is not an ‘enemy’ sport. You do have certain rivals and certain people you do not like. But for the most part it’s not a contact sport, it’s a pitcher-hitter confrontation more than anything else. The people who come into second base, you have so many things in common with them. It’s a friendly sport, I guess.”

– “As Casey Stengel would have put it, a lot of times people don’t always tell the truth.”

– “La Russa says, ‘Be aggressive offensively – when in doubt, push. But defensively, it’s the opposite. Be very basic, take the outs that are there, don’t gamble in a way that will open up a big inning for the other team.”

– “Then you hear somebody screaming in the dugout ‘How can you play me there?’ – to me, that’s more gratifying than getting a bases-loaded hit. That’s the game within the game.”

– “But as the Yankees (and Atlanta Braves) have recently shown, the absence of baseball acumen in the front office can be a great leveler, regardless of financial assets.”

My dad (“The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan”) read this book a few years ago. He said it was possibly the best book about baseball that he had ever read, but that there was so much in it, he couldn’t begin to tell me about it. Similarly, I have barely scratched the surface in telling you about all this book contains. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

I thank HarperCollins Publishers and Joe Aiello for making a copy of “Men At Work” available to me for reading and for review.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Video Book Review: Electric Barracuda

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Video Review: The Tenth Inning – “Top of the Tenth”

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Cubbiedude chimes in with a video review of…a video.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Video Book Review: No Angel

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Book Review: Now I Can Die In Peace

Friday, January 7th, 2011

The complete title of this New York Times Bestseller is “Now I Can Die In Peace – How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation, With a Little Help From Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank and the 2004 Red Sox”. It was written by Bill Simmons and was published in 2005.

The inside back jacket cover contains the following bio of the author:
– “Bill Simmons writes the popular Sports Guy column for’s Page 2 and ‘ESPN The Magazine’. A former sports reporter for the ‘Boston Herald’, he founded the award-winning website in 1997 and was a writer for ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’. He commutes between his home in Los Angeles and Fenway Park.”

“Now I Can Die In Peace” consists of Sports Guy columns which Mr. Simmons wrote between October 1998 and April 2005. Additionally, updates, which occurred to him upon rereading those columns, are included in the margins and form a running commentary on his writing and on Red Sox History.

The page layout consisting of text in the middle with running commentary in the margins looks hard to read, but it works out OK.

While reading this book I came to the realization that there are many similarities between the histories of the Boston Red Sox and of the Chicago Cubs – between Cubs Nation and Red Sox Nation – similarities of which I was not aware. I’m amazed at how similar Bill Simmons’ thoughts about his Red Sox, and my thoughts about my Cubs, are turning out to be.

That is the most striking aspect of this compilation of columns: change a name here and a date there and this book could very well be about the Cubs. In fact, as I was reading “Now I Can Die In Peace”, it WAS about the Cubs. My brain automatically transposed names, places and dates, and I found myself reading about my experiences being a Cubs fan.

As the bumper sticker might say: Same Stuff – Different Names.

One writing technique which Mr. Simmons employs – he very effectively weaves pop culture references into his storytelling. Those references include “The Shawshank Redemption”, “The Godfather” movies, “Rocky IV”, “Karate Kid”, etc.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
– “…if there was a God, the Red Sox would have won a World Series by now.”

– “Finally, the home plate ump raised his hands and started waving everyone off the field, like Bruce Willis waving the ‘Die Hard’ hostages off the top of the Nakatomi Building.”

– “I feel like I’m getting a great break on a used car.”

– “There is no such thing as a great break on a used car.”

– “The lesson, as always: Don’t get married.”

– “Through the past seven decades, through all the heartache, we’ve only seen two constants with the Red Sox – the ownership and the ballpark – and both have needed to go for years.”

– “Give me a crazy-competent owner over a cheap-quiet-incompetent owner any time.”

– “Just because they support a superior baseball team doesn’t mean they’re superior. Keep telling yourself this.”

– “We spend 10 minutes trying to remember if anyone won the World Series with an incompetent manager, finally taking solace that it happened with Arizona and Bob Brenly just two years ago.”

– “Lemme ask you – why does MLB ban HGH and steroids, but allow cadaver surgeries for blown-out elbow tendons that give pitchers stronger and more durable arms? What’s the difference?”

– “…you only have so many chances to win a championship, so you do what you have to do. It’s that simple.”

– “That’s the thing about baggage as a sports fan – you can shed this stuff. You just need a few breaks.”

– “First of all, it was released in 1986 – the same year the Pats lost in the Super Bowl…”
(I really enjoyed reading this quote.)

– “Q: What do you call 25 guys watching the World Series? A: The Yankees.”

I truly enjoyed reading this book. A lot more than I expected to.

Anyone interested in experiencing what it’s like to be a CUBS fan, should read “Now I Can Die In Peace”, by Bill Simmons.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: