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Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning
Think You Know Baseball?
The Red Sox finally won a World Series, in a triumph of unconventional wisdom. They rethought the batting order and committed to Johnny Damon as lead-off. Saw the talent in David Ortiz that other teams overlooked. Had the courage to trade one of the game’s top shortstops for the good of the team. They knocked over the sacred cows of RBIs, sacrifice bunts, the hit-and-run, and hewed to the new thinking about pitch count—allowing Pedro Martinez, arguably baseball’s best pitcher ever, to excel. Weaving statistics, narrative, personalities, and anecdote, Mind Game reveals exactly how this group of “idiots,” led by Theo Epstein and Terry Francona, was in fact the smartest team in the league, and revolutionizes the thinking fan’s understanding of how baseball games are really won and lost.
All-Star Analysis, Replacement-Level Writing
- October 7, 2005
I eagerly anticipated this book, and was only slightly let down when it finally shipped.
On the positive side, it condenses into one volume all of the decisions that went into the making of a championship team. It's especially insightful because Baseball Prospectus has a similar understanding of the game as Sox' GM Theo Epstein. I also appreciated the fact that it's not a pure "stathead" book, and delves into things such as why it's sometimes sensible to overpay a player such as Jason Varitek, why (at the time) it made sense to sign Matt Clement in place of Pedro, and why team chemistry matters (it doesn't always help, but it rarely hurts.)
On the down side, it could have used a lot more proofreading and copy editing; there was at least one paragraph that I had to re-read three times before I could figure out who "him" was (Frank Crosetti). Maybe we need a new stat, "Typos Above Replcement Writer," or "Grammatic Efficiency Ratio."
Perhaps most... read more
Some good analysis, but it's no "Moneyball."
By A. Pagano
- March 1, 2006
I like to think of Theo Epstein's philosophy as "Moneyball with money." He applies many of the same principles espoused by the sabremetric crowd, but he does so within the context of a fairly rich ballclub so he can afford to make a mistake or two.
What "Mind Game" does very well is analyze what made the 2004 Red Sox different from all the failed clubs that came before it. Theo Epstein had a plan, he stuck to that plan, and he had a manager in Terry Francona who believed in the system and understood how to execute it. He didn't build a collection of superstars in the Yankee mold, but rather a team of players with specific strengths placed in roles that exploited those strengths.
There are some very provocative ideas in the book, several of which have been mentioned in previous reviews. Is Pedro really the greatest pitcher of all time? Is Derek Jeter really overrated? Is Keith Foulke really a better pitcher than Mariano Rivera? The authors make their case, and... read more
Daring premise, good execution
By Diane B. Firstman "dianagramr"
- November 25, 2005
Once again, the folks at Baseball Prospectus have tried to (re)examine the basic precepts of winning baseball. Once again, they have succeeded.
The naysaying reviewers criticizing everything from political jibes (I think I saw *2* in the whole book) to a supposedly *obvious* point (Rivera being solved by the Sox due to their familiarity with him) are being hypercritical. There are plenty of announcers out there (the likes of Joe Morgan and such) who would NEVER draw the conclusion on Rivera that BP has.
I *liked* the essay format, as a distinct change of pace from the "on April 15, they did this ... on April 21 they did that" tomes. The book DID have a flow to it, logically and chronologically. Analyses were sensibly connected to what the Sox were dealing with at the time ... injuries, brawls, offense vs. defense. The "stathead" stats were presented with a minimum of "even if you don't understand it ... just go along with it". There was a *logic* to the... read more
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