MIND GAME: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created A New Blueprint for Winning

Today I got my advance copy for MIND GAME: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created A New Blueprint for Winning. This is by the writers of Baseball Prospectus, with Steven Goldman editing it. I plan on bringing you this book chapter by chapter. I also have another book that was sent to me, The Numbers Game : Baseball’s Lifelong Fascination with Statistics by Alan Schwarz that I’ll be reviewing once I finish the book.
Here is the synopsis of what the book is, as written in a letter to me along with the book.

MIND GAME reveals: WHAT the real curse of the Boston Red Sox was. WHY the historically dismal performance of the Red Sox during pennant races is only a figment of fustrated fans’ imagination. HOW the Red Sox rethought the age-old conventions of the batting order to maximize their offense and put Johnny Damon where he could do the most damage. WHAT would have happened to the Boston Red Sox had they signed Alex Rodriguez before the 2004 season. WHY David Ortiz’s success in Boston proved the value of accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative and not messing with Mr. In-Between. THE TRUTH about baseball brawls. A statistical examination of baseball’s great braws and how they really affected team play in their aftermath. THE NAME of the best pitcher ever, as determined by the most accurate metric ever, Runs Allowed Plus. WHY Mariano Rivera was NOT the best relief pitcher in the American League between 1999 and 2003. WHY a player’s or a team’s season strikeout total really doesn’t matter. THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE of winning and losing streaks, and why, for the 1998 Yankees and the 2001 Mariners, winning 22 out of 25 games was almost inevitable! HOW a cadaver helped the Red Sox come from behind to beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. HOW Terry Francona seriously out-managed Joe Torre in that series. WHY the Cardinals’ finesse pitching was no match for the kind of batters Boston had in its lineup in the World Series. WHY Richie Phillips, head of the major league baseball umpires union in 1999, turned out to be the Most Valuable NON-Player of the 2004 World Series. WHY the Red Sox now are a lot more like their archenemies in New York than most fans think.

Should be an exciting read. I knocked off the Acknowledgements, Comforting Note About Statistics (all you need to know to read the book are the slash statistics – .AVG/.OBP/.SLG and Value Over Replacement Player and what it means – which is explained quickly and simply), Introduction, and Prologue.
Two notes about the Intro and the Prologue. The Introduction states that the following are not true at all:
-Leadoff hitters have to have speed
-Character is more important than talent
-The more RBIs a player has, the greater his contribution to the team
-Some players hit better in the clutch
-Teams that hit a lot of home runs don’t win as many big games as those that bunt and steal bases
-Bullpen pitchers fall into two categories: regular relievers and those who can close
-The closer is the most important man in the bullpen
-A player who can’t hit but is an above-average fielder is just as valuable as a good hitter who is an average defender.
Think on these for a while.
The Prologue was just a heart-warming rendition of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, but they do contend that Dave Roberts sat a ton and was only there for steals. I agree on the latter, but he did play a fair amount in regard to the former. But here’s a quote I like:
“…if you built the right kind of team, Roberts’ skills set would be largely extraneous. Except – and this was the key part of it, the flexible part of it that most people didn’t get – except when it was neccessary. … It was a desperate moment, but nonetheless a moment that had been planned for. That was the difference between this time around and 1949, 1978, 2003, and all the other dissapointments of the last century. God was in the details, and so were playoff victories. And the Red Sox were finally looking after the details.”
I’ll leave MIND GAME there for the next time.
The game last night. The comments sum it up, so I won’t and I’ll just bring you pictures and two movies.
MOVIE: Craig Hansen comes in! He pitches! Okay, he didn’t do too hot, but I was still excited.
MLB’s resident Goonie, Gustavo Chacin, delivers with his funky delivery.
Jason Varitek drops a pearl of widsom into Hansen’s hat after the inning, A strike is called to Russ Adams off of Craig Hansen, Hansen comes into the game (yes, I’m high on Hansen), Hansen throws a warmup pitch (the big version of this picture is nice), Happy 86, Johnny!, John Gibbons complains Koskie was hit in the first and I still don’t know if he really was. Anyone? Oooh, Manny wanted that pitch!, Renteria is very happy he scores, Tony Graffanino at bat, Curt Schilling takes the hill to start the game.
By the by, anyone know the answer to this question a reader sent in to me?
I am also a fan of Jeremi Gonzalez, and always see writing under the brim of his cap when he’s pitching. Do you know what it says?

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