Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Its that time again

Book review. My very late June Entry.

This month’s entry – Three Days in August by Buzz Bissinger.

Three days in August is basically the Tony Larussa story as told by Bissinger (author of Friday Night Lights). The “angle” taken in this book is that it alleges to examine in great detail a specific three game series from Larussa’s perspective. I say alleges because the book covers a myriad of baseball topics that only marginally relate to the games at hand. In fact, the actual games in the series I barely remember the details. What made the book enjoyable were Larussa’s opinions and views on the various topics.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I consider myself a student of the game and I read quite a few baseball books. Usually I avoid the standard biography, However I agreed to give this one a shot due to the supposed insiders look that would be offered. I think the book came up short in that capacity, but made up for it in many, many ways.

Continued in the comments section.


  1. A few quick hits – the 3 game series was Cards v Cubs. Now the writer is from Texas and grew up in the Midwest, so his views are slightly different that ours. But he did say that the Cubs Cards rivalry is biggest in baseball (and managed to take a shot at Sox Yankees rivalry). There is obviously a lot of history there, I just disagree that is bigger even if you invoke how the entire Midwest follows these teams. I won’t dwell.

    Larussa is portrayed as this incredibly old school baseball type. Shuns money ball. Shuns OBP. And while the Cards have tons of video men, Larussa relies on matchup stats – what has Moises Alou done versus Steve Kline type of stuff. Funny to read this in light of all the sabermatrician stuff we see lately. They don’t really take shots or discredit money ball. He just doesn’t seem to believe it.

    A real funny quote at the beginning – Larussa is talking with Kerry Robinson who is filling in for the injured JD Drew, but wants to be a full time player. Larussa thinks he is clearly not and tells him as such. Then goes one further and says that if Robinson wants to play full time he says essentially “good luck – go find a team that will play you full time and I hope they are in our division so we get to play against you 19 times.”

    An interesting chapter in the book deals with beanballs and Larussa basically states that he orders all. Always knows when they are done by his team, because he gives the orders and no player would ever take the matter into his own hands. Interesting because the Sox had a little scuffle with them in their visit to STL earlier this year and Larussa gave quotes saying it was not intentional.

    There is a touching chapter on the death of Daryl Kile. Very moving. And really makes you think about life. Kile is like a brother to these guys. And dies suddenly in his hotel room. The team got that day off and played the next night. I know you can’t stop the sport, but imagine having to go back to work full time starting the next day after a close friend died (apparently Kile was a very well liked guy in the clubhouse, not that I would expect anyone to write that he was a dick). But if this situation happened to any of us, it would be very hard to deal with.

    There is an interesting Afterword to the book that talks about the WS loss to the Sox. There was a lot of bitching about the hotel that the Sox put STL in. I guess it was out in Quincy. Sure that is weird and I guess I would be pissed as well, but they actually almost make it seem like they were using it as an excuse. Totally BS. Had they been able to actually hit or pitch, they would have been spouting off about how the Sox disrespected them and they used that as motivation. That part annoyed me the most.

    The real showcase of the book, was that the job of the manager is portrayed really as a shrink/motivational speaker/baby sitter for the modern players. Larussa estimates that the best manager (in game tactician) is responsible for at most 4-5 extra wins per year. The real job is to deal with the personalities and egos – guys who want to play every day, not come out of games late, etc. Plus there is a real (understandable, even if in theory a b bit preposterous) notion that the guys do not naturally get up for all 162 games. Guys give away At bats and Innings pitched. Tino was a bit singled out. As I first was reading it, I was thinking no – not really true, but there really is some truth to it. I look at a lot of managers and I think the most successful generally seem like fatherly types that you can see doing the most to bring along their kids. Guys like Larussa, Torre, Pinella, Scioscia, even Francona to an extent (with his protection of players). It really was about figuring out what motivated a guy and using that to get the execution.

    It probably does not come out well in this (long) forum. But it did give me a new respect for managers. Its easy for us to second guess guys and decisions, but it is a thankless job. With the exception of an occasional post now and then (lately from Mr. grieve), how often do we notice/compliment the manager when they make the right move (take a pitcher out/leave him in/pinch hit). Not very often, but we do say a lot about when we should have PH for Cora. Or taken out Embree, etc.

    Overall, I would say a solid A-, and I was only hoping for a C. Sorry for such a long one.

    Sorry I was a few weeks late. My next review stays along the topic of manager/coach books. Except it goes to the complete other end of the spectrum And I should have that up in a week or so.

  2. Fascinating post X. It makes perfect sense to me that a manager's primary role these days is to function as a "motivational" tool.

    Speaking for myself I have enough trouble getting motivated to play soccer once a week. I can hold the focus for maybe a couple games running, but inevitably I lose it. Now, I am not being paid millions to play so there is that factor, but sports is a lot like performing in theatre, you have to pump yourself up. It takes a good manager to know when guys need a day here and there to get their "head back in the game".

    Makes you think about Trot sitting out last night. Maybe he's not hurt, but Tito saw something in him and say "take a load off" we'll use you if we have to. Ok. that's probably a bad example.

  3. Wow, thanks. May have to read it, I guess. I wasn't going to, since it's Joe Morgan's favorite book. Not sure if Joe's actually read it, but it's his favorite. He sees it as a smackdown to Moneyball, which was written by Billy Beane, that showboating sonofabitch who doesn't understand how The Game of Baseball Should Be Played.

    What's the next book? The new one by Steven Goldman? (No wait, that's not out yet.)

  4. Does Joe Morgan know how to read?

    He sure doesn't read anything (stats, game stories, etc) in advance of the games he cover.

  5. As for Trot getting the night off - four straight lefties in a row probably was the main factor.