27 February 2008

The Curious Logic of Tony LaRussa

This is an interesting time of year, in a remarkably interesting year for Major League Baseball. Since the MLB training camps are all open, and nobody has started playing actual games or releasing players yet, there is literally nothing else to talk about besides steroids. I mean, you can talk about position battles, how good each team's starters/lineup/bullpen/batboys compare to those of other teams, how well new managers are fitting in...but really, none of that much matters. That's all stuff the sportswriters usually use to pad their columns until Something Important happens.

But of course, one of the most Something Importants in MLB history happened two months ago, when the Mitchell Report was released, and people are still talking about it, as they should be. Everyone has his own take on it. Most of us haven't read the whole thing, but we know enough about it to be dangerous, and of course we can follow the fall-out from the report in the daily news media. Some people think the players mentioned in it were all cheaters, some think they were all innocent, or that if they did use performance enhancing drugs, it wasn't cheating because it wasn't banned at the time. Most of us are somewhere in between.

But Tony LaRussa?

Believe it or not, the MLB manager most closely associated with steroids and the proverbial Steroid Era, doesn't believe any of it. Not a word, it seems.

With credits due to Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (who interviewed LaRussa) and to ESPN's Rob Neyer, who made reference to the story in his blog, I would like to take a few moments to analyze the odd thought processes (or lack thereof) that allow LaRussa to maintain his innocence, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Burwell: When you were deciding on bringing in Juan Gonzalez, were you at all concerned about his name being linked to the Mitchell Report? This isn't even a moral issue. Just from a pure baseball standpoint of not knowing what kind of guy you're getting now?

La Russa: "There are a lot of players who have done something to enhance their performance who don't have that swing. It's one of the best swings of our time. [...] The issue of that stuff from the Mitchell Report doesn't cloud my mind because we're going to evaluate him only on what he does now."
That initial response makes it sound like LaRussa's saying, "Heck with the cheating rumors...look a that swing!" but really he's saying that Gonzo has enough talent still that he might be worth the risk, and really, for the Cards, the risk is minimal, since he's only got a minor league contract. That makes him something of a bad example. Now, if they had Barry Bonds (whom LaRussa wanted but upper management nixed) and were paying him millions of dollars in guaranteed money, that would be a different story.

And as for "evaluating him only on what he does now" well, fair enough. If you presume that he's clean now because there's a pretty stiff testing program now, then you can evaluate him purely on what he does now. Of course, you should do this anyway, shouldn't you? With a guy who's trying to make a comeback, what else would you use to evaluate him? "Well, he's hitting .163 with no walks and no extra base hits...but he did win MVP awards in 1996 and 1998...let's give him another month!" Not gonna happen, and it should not be a surprise.

Burwell: You have more than your fair share of Mitchell Report guys on this team. Does it bother you that there's a perception that you give safe harbor to steroid guys?

La Russa:
"No, and I'll tell you why not. One way I was taught to survive is my No. 1 accountability factor is myself. This is my 30th year doing this at the major league level. There isn't anybody — the commissioner, our owner, the fans, you — there isn't any person, man or woman, who can make me any more accountable than I am now right now because of myself. And I know there isn't anything we've done in all those years that was — with one small exception where we stole signs, a little hiccup — there isn't anything else that has happened on our ballclubs in Oakland or St. Louis that there's a hint of illegality. There isn't anything that we didn't actively and proactively attempt to do it right."
Ummm...Tony, I dunno if you've been paying attention or not, but there have been LOTS of hints of illegality. There is a huge, 400+ page report, several books (including Juiced, by Jose Canseco, who played and cheated for you in Oakland). Heck, there was a column by Tom Boswell of the Washington Post over 15 years ago alleging that Canseco was using steroids at the time. how many more "hints of illegality" do you need?

Burwell: But that's not what most of us think.

La Russa: "You're missing my point. If I'm going to base the way I survive on everything that others think, I have no chance."
Bryan Burwell is right: most of us don't agree with Tony's view. Because we can read. And we've been paying attention for the last 20 years. Tony, it seems, has taken to focusing only on what he thinks and feels in order to ignore everything going on around him that he might someday be held accountable for. By someone besides his own, strange mind.
And besides, that wasn't his point at all. His point was that he doesn't think he did anything wrong, or allowed anyone to do anything wrong.

Burwell: Does it bother you that rightly or wrongly, you and (assistant coach) Dave McKay have gained the unflattering label as the so-called godfathers of baseball's steroid era with your connections to Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire?

La Russa: "That's one of the crosses you have to bear, but let me tell you something about Dave McKay (the strength and conditioning guru of those Oakland and Cardinal teams). Dave McKay has as much or more integrity as any man I've ever met. He's so pure in his integrity, and that's why I fight so hard to defend what we've done. There's no chance that what happened officially at Oakland was tainted. Does it mean that we were policemen or that when our guys are not in our facilities, are not in our weight rooms that guys didn't experiment? No, you can't make that claim.
Kudos to Burwell for the follow-up question, which is basically a re-phrasing of the previous one.

And as for, "There's no chance that what happened officially at Oakland was tainted."? Really, Tony? Because one of your own players wrote a book about how essentially his entire career was owed to his use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone, and that he taught McGwire to use it too. That means that his "official" AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1986 and his MVP in 1988 were in fact "tainted" along with (probably) McGwire's 1987 RoY award, plus your three AL pennants and the 1989 World Series win over the Giants. We're not talking about third-party allegations, here. Canseco has confessed. He's proud of it! I mean, sure, he could be lying, but why? And in any case, I think that at least qualifies as a "chance", don't you?

If, for your own emotional well-being, you need to plead ignorance of those events, that's one thing, but you can't pretend they didn't happen. Canseco, unlike Clemens, has admitted his usage.

Burwell: Would you have cared if you did know they were "experimenting"?

La Russa: "Yeah, I would care because when I saw a guy who got stronger quickly without working hard, oh yeah, that implies a lot of other things about what he's willing to do."

What other things? Isn't cheating with banned substances enough? What else does he have to do? Doctor baseballs? Steal signs? The Hidden Ball Trick?

More from Burwell. LaRussa's assertion that both McGwire and Roger Clemens' success was due solely to their fanatical work ethics:

"There's a certain amount of credit that should be given to a guy who's worked hours and hours to get stronger and bigger," he [LaRussa] said.

I [Burwell] reminded him that the whole point of using many performance-enhancing drugs is to increase the ability to work and train harder. "So working hard doesn't give you an alibi that you didn't use drugs," I told him.

"Well, that's what you believe and you're probably right according to testimony, but that's not what I believe," La Russa said. "I watched Mark McGwire work."
Welcome to the Post-Modern world, boys and girls! A wonderful place where you can believe anything you want, as long as, well, you believe it a lot. You can ignore any evidence that disagrees with your own worldview simply by saying that it is someone else's worldview, and therefore does not apply to you. There is no absolute truth excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth. It's great! Unless you don't think so. In which case it's not. But only for you, get it?

Pat Jordan wrote about some interactions he had with Clemens in 2001, while he was profiling him for an article in the New York Times, and suggests that Clemens' maniacal workout routine was perhaps because of the PEDs he was taking (though Jordan never actually says this outright). Jordan cites himself and Tom Seaver as world-class athletes who, at a similar age, could not do a fraction of what Clemens did in his training regimen. That's just anecdotal evidence, of course, but it's still evidence. LaRussa, in support of his own opinion, cites no evidence at all.

Speaking of Evidence, here's some:
Now (or about a year ago):

The first picture is, presumably, from the height of the Steroids Era, i.e. the late 1990's. The second picture was taken about a year ago (I think), at Cal State-Fullerton, and is the best example of a recent picture I can find of McGwire. McGwire doesn't look all that much bigger than the guys he's with, who's just a kid from the college newspaper, not a fellow athlete. Big Mac is still big, and he appears to be in great shape, but he could lose 40 lbs of muscle from his peak playing weight and you might still not necessarily notice it if he had a suit on instead of the double-knit, skin-tight baseball uniform. In any case, I think his face looks a little thinner.

Interestingly, with the exception of that appearance, last January, which he probably scheduled before he knew about the Hall of fame vote, and the one before Congress last year, we've hardly seen anything of McGwire since he retired after the 2001 season. I think he's been keeping a low profile in order that people would not use his appearance, whether its changed much or not, to support their arguments for and against his use of PEDs. That's just a theory, of course, but it's a sound one.
Getting back to Burwell, his piece ends with a he-said, he-said about whether or not McGwire's physical appearance has changed appreciably since he stopped playing, which is hilarious. I would read the article just for that. But it basically ends with the two agreeing to disagree about the steroid stuff, and "talk baseball" as Clemens said we should yesterday.
But this conversation is not over.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

20 February 2008

Andy Pettitte Interviews Self, Disappointed in Self

Embattled New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte appeared in training camp after a delay that the Yankees had granted for him to deal with the congressional hearings about the Mitchell Report, in which he is a key figure.

Then, in a move reminiscient of Woody Allen in Bananas, Pettitte posed questions to himself about the controversy surrounding his use of PEDs. For nearly an hour, Pettitte patiently and thoroughly answered questions he had posed about the Mitchell Report, steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, his relationships with Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, and the season ahead.

Pettitte began his interview with himself by stating that,"Part of me was a nervous wreck and scared to death to come up here today."

Pettitte did not clarify whether it was the "Pitcher" part or the "Interviewer" part of him that was nervous, though both guessed that it was the other. But Pettitte reassured himself that "we're all friends here" and that he need not be apprehensive, that he would be fair with himself.

With that assurance, Pettitte had the following dialogue with himself:

"Was it stupid? Yeah, it was stupid. Was I desperate? Yeah, I was probably
desperate," he said. "I wish I never would have done it, obviously, but I don't consider myself a cheater, no."
Pettitte justified this to himself this way:

"I didn't do it to try to get an edge on anyone. I didn't do it to try to
get stronger or faster or throw harder. I did it because I was that it might be
able to help me," he said.

When he challenged himself on the issue, however, Pettitte had to admit to himself,

"Well, I guess I did it to get an edge on the guys who couldn't or wouldn't use
HGH to try to recover from an injury faster. But that doesn't count, does it?"
"If people think I'm lying, they should call me a cheater," Pettitte said, before he reminded himself that there have been literally thousands of articles, columns and blog entries calling him exactly that.

Pettitte had no comment to himself on that.

Changing his own subject, Pettitte said, "I felt like I need to come out, be forward with this. Whatever circumstances or repercussions come with it, I'll take and I'll take like a man and I'll try to do my job."

He then clarified the statement for himself:

"No, my job as a pitcher. This interviewing gig is just a hobby."

Pettitte then brought up Roger Clemens' name and asked himself if there's any animosity between himselves and Clemens.

"Obviously it's put a strain, I think, on our friendship. I love him like
a brother."
Pettitte agreed that there was a strain there, though it was unclear which Pettitte had been responsible for the rift. When he asked himself about the allegations levied by Clemens that he had "misremembered" one or more conversations with Clemens about steroids and HGH, Pettitte responded,

"I'm just not going to go there. I've had to testify under oath. So has Roger. And, you know, I don't think that's anything I need to sit here and try to elaborate on with anyone else."
"Or even myself," he added.

Pettitte then apologized for bringing up the issue, but promptly forgave himself.

"I am relieved … [because] I felt like I had all this bottled up inside me," he said as he handed a urine sample to a testing technician for Major League Baseball's drug program.

Later in the afternoon, Pettitte got into uniform and worked out for the first time this spring, including throwing 35 pitches off a mound, also to himself.

"I'm hoping that, now that this HGH thing is behind us, I can focus on baseball, and that as I get into game shape, my fastball will return and I won't be able to do that anymore," he said.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

18 February 2008

Clemens Controversy out of Control, Credibility Questionable

The steroid controversy surrounding Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, their former trainer Brian McNamee and others has spiraled way out of control.

Originally, there was The Mitchell Report. Everyone had something to say about it. Some of them had even read it. Or, you know, some of it.

That was almost two months ago. At the time, Roger Clemens said he was "...shocked, SHOCKED, to find that his name was going on in there." He said that he had no idea that he was named until the report was issued. He said that he would have spoken to the Mitchell investigators if they had let him know that he was going to be named. Well, that was a load of crap.

Last week it came to light that Brian McNamee had tried to warn both Pettitte and Clemens that they were going to be named in the Mitchell Report, and that he had been the one to finger them, even though federal investigators had warned McNamee not to talk to anyone before the report came out. McNamee spoke to one of Clemens' many lawyers, and Clemens even heard a taped recording of the conversation, as much as a week before the Mitchell Report was released. Now, he says, he didn't talk to the Mitchell people because he didn't think they'd want to talk to him. These are the same people, it should be noted, who had repeatedly tried to get in touch with Clemens while they were researching the report, just like they had everyone else who might have had any tied to steroids and the like. So that, too, is a load of crap.

In the last two months, Roger Clemens has tried just about everything to deal with this situation, short of taking any actual responsibility and/or telling the truth. He's tried:

1) Righteous Indignation
This tactic rarely works, even when it's appropriate. It didn't work for the Hollywood Ten, half a century ago when the Red Scare had everyone hunting for Communists under their couch cushions. It didn't work 35 years ago when Richard Nixon and some of his top aides were found to been complicit in the burglary of their political opposition's headquarters. It didn't work 14 years ago when both sides of the pending MLB strike kept insisting that the other side was already getting too much of the profits and should not be entitled to any more than that. It didn't work a decade ago when President Clinton told us that he "...did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now. Usually, this is because the person exhibiting the righteous indignation is not, well, righteous. But even if they are completely innocent, the approach generally proves ineffective, if only because nobody likes to see someone act like that. The public likes humility and contrition and a perspective outside oneself, which the Righteous Indignation approach typically makes you look like a pompous jerk.

2) Discrediting the Witness:
Brian McNamee's been called a "drug dealer" and his criminal history has been brought to the forefront, even things of which he was accused but never convicted. In addition, there are indications that he was pressured into helping the Mitchell investigation, though it's not clear that they had any authority to get him convicted of anything, given that this was, in fact, a private investigation. He was not, however, offered immunity.

A standard legal defense, this one actually has some merit. If you can make your accuser look like something less than a fine, upstanding citizen, or if you can demonstrate that they had some reason to make up lies about you, you can gain some ground. In the court of public opinion, where this fight has mostly been staged to this point, this will win you some supporters, or it will at least give the people who already wanted to support you an excuse to do so. In criminal court, painting your accuser in such a bad light can be just enough to establish a reasonable doubt, and therefore get you off the hook. In a government hearing, however, especially one in which a report written by a formerly high-ranking member of that governing body is being discussed, it's unclear how much this does to help you, other than force people to take sides. Which brings us to tactic #3...

3) Divided We Conquer
If you can't beat 'em...get 'em to beat each other! A lot has been made of the apparent situation that has Republicans generally believing, or at least supporting Roger Clemens, and disparaging the name of Brian McNamee, while Democrats tended to believe McNamee more and regard Clemens' statements with greater skepticism. Though there are various possibilities as to why this might be the case, I think Occam's Razor will help us a lot here, i.e. the simplest answer is usually also the correct one:

The Democrats who run the committee brought Clemens in because they're concerned about this whole Steroid Thing and Clemens has publicly stated that the allegations made against him in the Mitchell Report are not true. They want to know why he thinks that (or at least says it). And the Republicans? Well, they're Republicans. So if the Democrats are going to bring in Roger Clemens and accuse him of doing something wrong, then he MUST be innocent, and by golly, they're going to defend him. It's their duty to the Fox News Channel! Or America! Or something.

If the Democrats were going to haul the sky into a congressional committee hearing and accuse it of being blue, the Republicans would line up to scoff at them and tell any reporter they saw that the sky is so obviously green that they can't even believe they're still talking about this. And naturally, it works the other way around, too. It just happens that the Dems are in charge of Congress right now.

And then, as if this were not enough, we get to hear one of Clemens' 5,237 lawyers telling a reporter that he's convinced that Clemens will get a Presidential pardon for anything he's done wrong, because he's such good friends with the Bush family. That's not wholly implausible, since Roger apparently knows G.H.W. Bush (i.e. Bush-41) from all the time that the the former president spent at Houston Astros games whil Roger was one of those. Bush-43 (the one everyone hates) is a huge baseball fan, and surely appreciates Roger Clemens' legacy to the game, even if he couldn't appreciate Sammy Sosa's potential when he was the GM of the Texas Rangers. (I'll bet he gets tired of hearing about that.) Of course, this Bush is presumably a Rangers fan, and Clemens never pitched for them. In fact, he beat them 18 times in his career, so George Junior may just let him fry. Revenge, served cold. Another problem with this approach is, rightly or not, if Bush were to pardon Clemens, he would essentially HAVE to pardon Barry Bonds. Their cases are so eerily similar: Both were world-class athletes, winning the highest award for their positions three times in their younger days, and both had a late-career resurgence allegedly fueled by performance-enhancing drugs. Both won 4 more awards in that timeframe, played well into their 40's, and then got slammed with drug allegations. Whether we like it or not, whether it's appropriate or not, the Public will see them as the same, and for Bush to pardon one and not the other would be unforgivable. And because one of them is white and one of them is Barry Bonds, at least some of the public will have a reason to call President Bush a racist. I mean, someone other than Kanye West. Of course, if Clemens' lawyers had any brains at all, they would not count on that. Rob Neyer, whose job it is NOT to figure out these kinds of things, pointed out that by the time the dust settles on this case, there won't be a Bush in the White House any longer, and therefore nobody with any reason to pardon him. Well, if the Yankees are in the Series next year and Hillary Clinton decides to be a Yankee fan that week, she might do it. On the other hand, if John McCain gets elected, Jason Grimsley might have a shot at getting off the hook. 4) Try to Look Cooperative Even if you're not going to be helpful, it's helpful to look like your being helpful, you know? So Clemens goes to the hearings, he meets privately with committee members, he answers questions at a public hearing. He even holds his own press conferences and brings tape-recorded phone calls PROVING that he didn't do anything wrong, because, you know, in any 15-minute telephone conversation he has, if he's done something wrong, either he or the other party would definitely mention it, right?

5) Weapons of Mass Distraction

If you can't beat 'em...get 'em to focus on something else!

This is slightly different from tactic #3 in that instead of making your accusers focus their energies on someone else, you make them focus on something else. Like, for example, you take a 400+ page report with dozens of witnesses and pages of references and volumes full of appendices...and you use the questionable nature of one little statement in that report (namely, whether or not Roger Clemens actually went to a party at Jose Canseco's house one day ten years ago) to call the veracity of the entire report into question. This is basically the same approach that got O.J. Simpson acquitted in his criminal trial, and we don't have anywhere near as much evidence that the Rocket's a Juicer as we did that the Juice was a killer.

In the same vein, there was also a so-called statistical analysis report demonstrating that Clemens' late-career success was not so unusual. Of course, when you actually looked at it intelligently, this wasn't really true, but in any case, it gave people something else on which to focus for a while.

With that said, we do have plenty of evidence. Proof? Proof doesn't really exist, not in a scientific sense. All you have is evidence for and against something, and you have to figure out which weighs more. What it comes down to is this:

In order to believe that Clemens was clean all those years, you have to believe:

A) That Brian McNamee, Kirk Radomski, Andy Pettitte, Jose Canseco, and several other people are lying or that they "mis-spoke" or "misremember" the facts. (Personally, I find it easier to believe that Clemens is full of "mis-malarkey".)

B) That, whether he suggested it himself or not, Roger Clemens would allow his wife to take HGH in order to get her in shape for a photo shoot, but that he would never consider taking it to improve his own game.

C) That Clemens played a whole season with Jose Canseco in 1998, watched Canseco have one of the best years of his career, but never asked him how he did it, never heard him when he talked about steroids (which, if you read Juiced, you know he did all the time) and never tried the same things himself.

D) That George Mitchell and all of his investigators, professionals whose job it is to root out the truth, were all duped by a amatuer like McNamee.

E) That Andy Pettitte, a self-avowed devout Christian, who therefore values the truth, would either lie about his good friend Roger Clemens or would risk telling a falsehood based on sketchy recollections and/or misunderstandings. You'd have to believe that Pettitte would risk pissing off both Clemens and Jesus by doing something like that.

F) That Clemens' resurgence late in his career was either the result of his maniacal workout regime, which in itself shouldn't even be possible for a man in his late 30's or early 40's without a little chemical help, or that it was a fluke.

There are probably a few other intellectual gymnastics you need to do to buy the Clemens party Line, but those are the big ones.

On the other hand, if you want to believe the opposition, all you really need to believe is that

A) Clemens is lying, and

2) He's getting others to lie for him. People like his wife, and highly-compensated lawyer-types.

That's not so hard to believe, is it?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

02 February 2008

Book Review: Harvard Boys, by John Wolff and Rick Wolff

I wanted to like this book.

I was offered a chance to review Harvard Boys back in November, and I finished reading it weeks ago, but I'm just getting around to reviewing it now. That should tell you something.

John Wolff went to Harvard, like his father, and was drafted in the later rounds as a secondbaseman, like his father. So, like his father, he decided to write a book about his experiences in the minor leagues. (His father's book, What's a Nice Harvard Boy Like You Doing in the Bushes? had a much better title.) Like his father, he's going to have to make a living doing something other than playing baseball, because he hit .207 in the Frontier League in 2006, and did not do much when he got signed by the Mets for the 2007 season.

John does have some interesting experiences here and there, and meets a few interesting characters. He has some successes and failures in his rare opportunities at playing time. He has a lot of ups and downs: getting signed by the White Sox and reporting to Spring Training, then getting stuck in extended Spring Training for two more months, getting assigned to a Rookie League team in Virginia...and then getting released two weeks later. He then got signed by an independent team in Michigan, and was doing pretty well when his shoulder got injured. Trying to play through the injury trashed his stats and eventually ended his season, though he did get signed by the Mets (as noted in the epilogue.)

But none of that, or almost none of it, is anything we haven't heard or read before. Another review of this book (I won't embarass its author) suggested that Harvard Boys was interesting because there aren't many other books that give insight into the lives of professional baseball players, besides Ball Four, of course. But really there are lots of books that do exactly that, and most of them better than this one. Pat Jordan's A False Spring, and A Nice Tuesday, and Jim Brosnan's The Long Season and Pennant Race, are classics of the genre. Newer variations on the minor league, "prespective of a nobody" theme incude Brett Mandel's Minor Players, Major Dreams, Steve Fireovid's The 26th Man, and Neal Karlan's Slouching Toward Fargo. On the major league level, Sparky Lyle's The Bronx Zoo gave unprecedented (and much more irreverent and biting) access into the clubhouse, and there are autobiographical books by Goose Gossage, Bill Lee, Mickey Mantle, Robin Roberts, Carl Erskine, Jim Kaat, Bob Gibson, Don Zimmer, John Kruk, Dick Allen, and Jose Canseco, just to name a few. Harvard Boys has nothing that these books did not have, John Wolff's personal feelings notwithstanding.

I tried to like Harvard Boys. I really did. John Wolff and his dad went to Harvard, a college with an academics-first mentality, much like my own (though I make no pretense that Lehigh is anywhere near as good a school as Harvard), so I had a soft spot for them before I ever picked up the book. I read the whole thing, cover to cover, unlike many book reviewers. I kept thinking that I must be missing something, that it would get better, but it never did. I tried and tried, gave it my best shot and all that, but alas, Harvard Boys never rose much above "mediocre" on my Book-o-Meter.

It's written reasonably well. No problem there. John Wolff has a Harvard education, a degree in psychology (at least he does now, having returned to finish his degree after his first stint in pro ball). So he can write. His style is mostly proper, though informal, but it's not terribly clever or interesting. He doesn't have many creative turns of phrase or quirky expressions or other literary goodies that make a book enjoyable to read. The book was compiled as a series of journal entries that John sent to his father, Rick Wolff, via email during the 2006 season, and it reads exactly that way: like he was sending emails to his dad, with no need to impress anyone with his mastery of the English language, no efforts to wax eloquent in any way. In and of itself, this might not be a bad thing, except that his subject matter does not make up for it either.

John Wolff repeatedly tells us, on almost every page, it sometimes seems, than minor league baseball is boring. The long bus rides, the long practices, long rain delays, long games with obscure players, the long waiting between chances to play, long nights and days off in cities and towns of which you've probably never heard, where there isn't much to do...yep, sounds pretty boring. You've got us there, John...but do you have to keep telling us so? The minor leagues are bad enough without being constantly reminded of how bad they are, don't you think?

One of the major differences between John's book and the one his father, Rick wrote (with Phil Pepe's help) about his time in the Tigers' minor league system back in the 1970's is that John's book includes his father's reflections and insights as well. Most of John's journal entries are followed by a brief response from his dad Rick, and some of these are interesting stories about amusing or odd things that happened to him back then, but sadly, many of Rick's insights aren't all that insightful. Some selected observations from Rick Wolff:

"Playing baseball is all about...playing." (p. 68)

"Even minor leaguers
have to pay rent and buy groceries." (p. 127)

"Travel in the minor
leagues is not glamorous." (p.184)

"John's right." (p. 202)

"Bottom line? It's boring." (p. 242)

"Nobody cares that you
tried hard. All that matters are the results." (p. 245)
Unfortunately, that last one is also true of this book. It was, to be sure, a very good idea for a book, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Generaly speaking, I'd rather not review a book than give it a bad one, but with this book, I felt that it would be a disservice to my readers (the six or eight of you who regularly tune in here), not to tell you of my disappointment with Harvard Boys.

Stumble Upon Toolbar