Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Pat Jordan’s “A False Spring”

pat jordan BHC picture (2)Upon completion of my top 10 list of baseball literature, someone recommended to me that I read Pat Jordan’s book entitled, A False Spring, which was his real life account of the time he spent in the minor leagues between 1959-61 as a bonus baby prospect in the Milwaukee Braves organization.

Some refer to Jordan’s book as … Continue reading→

Top 10 Books in Baseball Literature

gehrig title

Immersing myself in baseball literature truly opens a window that plunges me into mostly times of baseball past, but also the present. This list is characterized by fascinating narratives – full of bigger than life characters and extraordinary stories of both major and minor league life – renewing ages of old and reliving the recent past. No other sport dominates the literature landscape quite like baseball, which to me, offers the opportunity to engross myself in the sport 365 days a year if I so choose. And believe me, I make every opportunity to do so especially during the offseason when sadly, no baseball games are played.

So, without further ado, here are my top 10 books in baseball literature… Continue reading→

The 2014 Blue Jays and Handling Pressure

Meet your 2014 bearded Blue Jays - they're good enough for all of 'em to appear on Ducks Dynasty!

Meet your 2014 bearded Blue Jays – they’re good enough for all of ’em to appear on Ducks Dynasty!

Here we are Blue Jays fans on the first day of the season, it’s a time of great anticipation and ever-longing hopefulness of a successful season. Many of our Jays had inspiring springs, and although we all know spring stats mean jack, the team headed north is mostly healthy and primed to rebound from last years dreadful season.

In fact, Jose Reyes recently told Brendan Kennedy of The Toronto Star, “Last year we had high expectations, we finished last. This year, we have no expectations, maybe we’ll finish first. Who knows?” Who knows indeed. What I like about his quote though is the acknowledgement that there is in fact no pressure on them this year because no body expects anything from this team.

There is cause for optimism though as Kennedy writes in the same article, “there is bona fide science behind the notion that the Jays may actually perform better this season simply because they have been around each other longer.” I too have alluded to this before and 500 Level Fan did a really nice write up on this notion as well.

I’ve also written before that the amount of fun a team or individual has, has to out-weight the pressure to perform. Intuitively, I knew this, yet couldn’t prove it until Kennedy wrote about this research in his article, which I encourage you all to read.

This leads me to two fascinating views on handling pressure in books I’ve read this offseason. The first of which is former NBA all-time great head coach Phil Jackson in his latest book, Eleven Rings, when he said,

“When a player isn’t forcing a shot or trying to impose his personality on the team, his gifts as an athlete most fully manifest. Paradoxically, by playing within his natural abilities, he activates a higher potential for the team that transcends his own limitations and helps his teammates transcend theirs. When this happens, the whole begins to add up to more than the sum of its parts.”

He later adds, “as a coach, I know that being fixated on winning (or more likely, not losing) is counterproductive, especially when it causes you to lose control of your emotions. What’s more, obsessing about winning is a loser’s game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way.”

Letting go of the outcome … that’s not easy considering the results-driven society we live in today. Interestingly though, Buzz Bissinger similarly writes in his book, Three Nights in August, as he covers the life and mind of soon to be inducted Hall of Famer, Tony LaRussa,

“…when you’re up there [to bat in a high pressure situation], focus on the process and not the result; don’t project into the future. Forget about the noble but irrational concept of going for broke [like hitting one out]. Put away the hero complex and simply try to get something started.

That, my friends, is what I’d like to see this season – for the Blue Jays to not get so anxious and try to pull everything out of the park; to not try and win every game with a home run. The ability to relax, to appreciate the moment, and to play within one’s own natural abilities may result in a better than expected run in 2014.

There’s already been evidence this spring with the likes of Adam Lind and Jose Bautista and many others hitting the ball up the middle or to the opposite field. That’s an approach that is both welcomed and refreshing to see.

And one final thought I have for the Jays before the first pitch is thrown this year is – go get those other AL East bastards!!

Book Review: “Great Expectations: The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season”

Great ExpectationsThis book was an easy read and absolutely enjoyable, it wasn’t at all what I first expected when I heard John Lott and Shi Davidi were going to release a book on the 2013 season. Instead of a boring recap of the Jays tribulations this past year, Lott and Davidi went behind the scenes and provided many previously unknown insights e.g. how hard they went after Anibal Sanchez, and gave glimpses into the psyche of Alex Anthopoulos, the team and other players. In particular, I enjoyed hearing Lawrie’s comments about how the team essentially tried too hard when instead all they had to do was play up to their own game individually. He alludes to the pressure they put on themselves and how that was a detriment to the team. Playing relaxed, my friends, pretty much sums up exactly what the Jays have to do in 2014.

Overall, the book flowed incredibly well, so it’s possible to finish reading it in two days like I did simply because I couldn’t put it down. Thoroughly entertaining! I highly recommend Great Expectations.

A Review of Dickey’s Book

It’s the off-season folks, and for me that usually means engrossing myself in some baseball books that add to my knowledge and enjoyment of the game along with its players, past and present.

With that said, I knew from the summer I wanted to read R.A. Dickey’s book (with Wayne Coffey) Wherever I Wind Up, and sure enough I got it right after the World Series was finished. I find it interesting now that he might be on the block since the Mets aren’t sure if they’re coming or going. That intrigues me a bit because he’s been pretty stellar since landing in New York and his best years are right now and perhaps even into his 40’s. If he is traded, I’m sure he’ll be able to deal with it given all that he’s been through in his life.

I discovered quickly that Wherever I Wind Up isn’t just about how he grew into the knuckleball but just as much about his struggle with what happened to him in his youth, and how he overcame it.  The sexual abuse that he suffered through as a boy was incredibly shocking to read about. His upbringing also reminds me of Dirk Hayhurst’s life as Dickey’s family also suffered through alcoholism and many turbulent times. Similarly, just like Dirk, he goes though bouts of supreme self-doubt and fears of never making it the game. Dickey grapples with possible suicide, and later on, discovers a love of nail salons to help him fix a broken nail so that he’s able to throw his knuckleball.

A big part of what intrigues me about reading various baseball books are the stories it shares of other players, managers and coaches thereby giving fans a glimpse into what they’re like as people. Several anecdotes are shared which include Buck Showwalter, Orel Hershiser, Charlie Hough, Phil Neikro, Tim Wakefield, Ichiro and how his routine, discipline and preparedness is next to none. Dickey includes an eye-opening account on Carlos Beltran which shows how good a player & leader he is – I wish he signed with the Blue Jays last year!! Dickey also praises Ron Gardenhire as one of the best managers around for being man-enough to apologize to R.A. after messing him up during one game. He says that takes guts and humility for a manager to do!! Last but not least, Dickey also confirms Alex Rodriguez is a pompous ass!!

Refreshingly, R.A. also admits to lying about being hurt in 2011, so that he’s not Wally Pipped which resulted in him taking pain killers for each and every start. (This has me thinking that lying might be more prevalent in the game than I ever thought before – see Romero, Ricky and Frasor, Jason).

I believe the pinnacle of good narrative is when an author gets the reader to slow down as they soak in their words. And at one point in his book, Dickey does this as he describes one knucklehead event that almost cost him his life, and subsequently sent him on a path of self-realization. Furthermore in a heart-touching moment, R.A. writes a note to his wife on the ball that he got from his first win in years as a Mariner during a game versus the Blue Jays. These adrenaline-rushing events and personal touches definitely help the reader feel an intimacy to Dickey which I appreciated.

Even though I enjoyed reading the book, there are some criticisms I’d like to share. An issue I had with the actual writing of it is the fact that Dickey (or Coffey) doesn’t use any quotation marks – at all – which I’ve never seen before and strikes me as quite odd. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still readable, but is very weird. Through some sections of the book, I felt he left the reader with some gaps in his personal life like how the hell did his relationship with Anne (his future wife) go from meeting her one day in high school to her flying in to see him pitch in a college game? While he deserves the right to some privacy in his personal life, and he no way has to divulge minute details about everything (even though he does reveal incredibly personal & shocking stuff), he wrote a biography that you would think might let the reader “in” more into his emotions and thought processes throughout his entire story. People might disagree with me on this, but I definitely felt like he left things out and therefore leaves me a little disappointed in it.

Overall, the book is an easy and interesting read about how he learns to harness the knuckleball and is finally able to achieve success in the big leagues and in his personal life. In the end, he learns to be authentic by not locking up his sadness and anger and facing the truth about the abuse that he’s hidden his whole life.  Ultimately, his faith in a higher power and his ability to develop presence – to be okay with whatever outcome comes his way – has him relax and therefore enables him to at last achieve the success that he’s been striving for.

Here’s to R.A. and his continued success baffling hitters with his knuckleball. That wouldn’t be so bad in the AL East, would it?