Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball

Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball - George F. Will Originally seen on my book blog

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.

Before I dive into the review of the book, I should mention that this is not a book for someone that isn’t already an active fan of baseball. This is not a book to read if you are trying to learn about baseball. You will get utterly confused by the baseball language in the book and will probably drop it. I had to read it slower than I would normally so I could take time to picture certain things in my head while I was reading. This book is more for the fans that already love the game and want to see it from the perspective of four important Baseball People.

I gave this five stars from the beginning. It never went down from five stars and it never disappointed me. Will wrote this book in a way that made sense. There are four “chapters” in the book. The first is “manager” the second is “pitcher” the third is “hitter” and the fourth is “defense.” He had one man that is important to each of those categories and the chapter focused on them.

I said that this book wouldn’t be as enjoyable for someone that isn’t an active fan because it’s a tag bit outdated. This book was published in 1991. To put that into perspective, there are five current major league players that were born after this book was published. If someone is not an active fan, they may not know a lot, or have even heard, of the men mentioned in the book. That’s no fun for readers.

The manager that the book focused on was Tony La Russa. La Russa is the third winningest manager in MLB history. Obviously, Will did not know it at the time but he picked the best man for the book. La Russa mentions different styles of play for every different pitch and every different batter. As fans, we don’t see all the work that managers have to do before, and during, games. After reading this book, I appreciate managers even more now.

But this book is not only La Russa talking about how he’s going to have his outfielders lined up against a power hitter with a runner on second (they go into detail about these types of things), it’s also a book about the awesome history of baseball. Things that I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t have read this book. Every chapter has a lot of quotes and stories from the man that the chapter is centered on, but it also has a lot of stories about history. And awesome quotes.

“Baseball is not, like basketball or hockey or soccer, a game of steady flows. Rather, it is an episodic game of explosive exertions.”

When it’s put like this, it makes perfect sense and makes me love baseball a little more.

And then, there is Orel Hershiser. Hershiser was one of the best pitchers in the early 90s and was also a great choice. I liked being able to read about pitching when it was coming from him. I also didn’t realize how many thoughts they have on the mound. They need to have great memory to remember how they got hitters out the last times and what pitches the hitters don’t like.

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

An important thing to live by if you’re a pitcher.

For hitters, Tony Gywnn was the main guy. This was probably my favourite chapter to read. Hitting mechanics are difficult and frustrating at times, but when they are explained by a great hitter, it’s a fun read. Gywnn and Will did a great job of making it understandable while also explaining the important parts of hitting. This chapter also talked a lot about the history of bats, home runs, and hitters slumps.

I found it hilarious and ironic that I read stories about corking the bat and doctoring the baseball while the whole Michael Pineda pine tar fiasco was happening.

The last chapter is about the most underrated part of baseball: defense. It should be obvious that Cal Ripken was the focal point of this chapter. At this point of the book, they had no idea that he would break “The Unbreakable Record” of most consecutive games played. If anyone is going to teach me more about defense, I would pick Cal every day of the week. After reading this chapter, it really hit me that defense is still not seen as important- not important enough in my opinion. Sure, we have guys that are great at defense, but not many of them are known for their defense only. The only person that comes to mind is Andrelton Simmons.

This book is a must read for all baseball fans. Even though it’s old, there are still so many good stories in this book.

When I finished the book, I thought of who the four men would be if this book was re-written this year.

Manager: Terry Francona

Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw

Hitter: Miguel Cabrera

Defense: Mike Trout