Book Review: The Yankee Years – Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

Note: From now on whenever I finish a book on baseball, I plan on sharing what I thought of it with all of you. Hope you find them useful in determining you own reading selection.

I have always been interested in measuring how managers affect ballgames, so when I saw Joe Torre wrote a book, I went and put it on hold at the library because I am cheap. There were 76 people who had reserved the book before me – Who says reading and baseball are dead? While putting it on hold, I saw that it was co-authored by Tom Verducci, which peak my interest even more. Besides being a writer for Sports Illustrated, Tom is also famous for having a stat named after him, the Verducci Effect.

 

I began reading the book thinking it would be stories of Joe's when he was with the Yankees. Boy was I wrong. I thought for a while I had picked up a book about David Cone or Theo Epstein, since there were whole blocks of pages of quotes from them, with nothing from Joe. Torre's name as an author was pretty much only a ploy to sell more books and nothing about the majority of the book's content. The book should have been named Joe Torre's Yankee Years by Tom Verducci.

With a mindset that the book isn't 100% Torre, or even 10% Torre, it was enjoyable, especially for those who are sabermetrically inclined.  While most people know of the rise and fall of the Yankees while Torre was there, here are some the stories I didn't know of before reading the book:

  • Allen Watson was having having a bagel fight with other teammates when he hit George Steinbrenner by mistake. George asked who hit him and Allen fessed up. George said he figure it was Allen because it didn't hurt.

  • Roger Clemens' pregame ritual of turning into a lobster in the whirlpool, having hot liniment rub on his testicles and snorting like a bull.

  • When Pedro Martinez threw Don Zimmer to the ground Clemens thought it was David Wells rolling around on the ground.

  • Kevin Brown once curled up in the corner of a storage area, refusing to go out and pitch anymore after pitching a bad first inning.

  • Ron Guidry and Catfish Hunter drinking beers when they pitched day games.

The book also has several references to some sabermetric ideas, especially Chapter 6 which is entirely devoted to how numbers were used to shape the Yankees and their competitors, mainly Boston. Here are some more examples of how numbers are used throughout the book.

  • The Pythagorean Theorem was used several times showing the how the Yankees record was better than expected considering the number of runs they scored and allowed over a season.

  • Run Expectancy is used when describing the effect of Mariano Rivera's error in the 9th inning of the 7th game of the 2002 World Series.

  • Biometrics, a system of tracking a pitcher's complete motion, is said to be the next area that teams can can an advantage in for determining injury potential for pitchers.

  • The use of defensive numbers by the Red Sox determined the Nomar Garciapara was the worst defensive shortstop ever from the players in their database.

  • Discussion on not allowing pitchers to exceed certain pitch counts, such as done with Joba Camberlain. I am sure Verducci wasn't going to let the chance go by to show how to protect young pitchers.

  • The Indians' proprietary software called Diamond View which tracks every player in the majors with injury news and stats.

  • Effects of aging and injuries on a team over a season.

  • Need for a starting pitcher to be able to throw strikes and the effect on winning games.

As a whole, I enjoyed the book mainly because it was very refreshing to read a book that doesn't just talk about RBI's and Wins.  If you want to read about the Yankees, without all the stats being dumbed down, you should enjoy The Yankee Years.

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