Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Book Review: "The Yankee Years"
Amazon.com: The Yankee Years
Joe Torre and Tom Verducci. The Yankee Years. New York: The Doubleday Publishing Group, 2009, 512 pp., $26.95
At first, it was hard to tell whose book this is. Obviously, Verducci is the professional writer, so the words are his. Torre's words do appear in the book, but they're actually quoted in third person. As the book goes along, however, Torre's mood comes through, with Verducci providing the legwork of the research.
It's difficult to get engrossed into the book at first. It's largely chronological, and the beginning doesn't have the intensity of the later chapters -- either because the details are long forgotten, or the negativity had not yet emerged, or both. But, as the relationship between Torre and the Yankee organization begins to deteriorate, the book becomes more interesting, as well as very bitter.
And, yes, as much of the hype claimed, the authors are not afraid to include harsh opinions about players, organization leaders, and the owner. There's almost a clear dividing line between the players Torre respected and the ones he didn't -- it boils down to who played on the championship teams and those who didn't. The theme that Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, Derek Jeter, Scott Brosius, Bernie Williams, and Paul O'Neill were the gold standard of champions (and everyone else wasn't) is repeated throughout. And while there's a significant section about how great Derek Jeter is, there's an entire chapter about how impossible Alex Rodreguiz is.
Verducci's years covering the Yankees and the steroids scandal for SI add some interesting research on both steroids and the change in teams' philosophies on scouting.
Generally, it's very well written, and it gets better as it goes along. However, it is a bit too long, and occasionally it becomes bogged down with too many details. Also, the reader really needs to be an avid fan of baseball in order to keep from getting confused. For the most part, it's about the business of baseball, with the game of baseball firmly in the background, which is unfortunate, because the parts about the game of baseball are the most enjoyable. It's also pessimistic and bitter; the authors clearly believe the Yankees' officials have pushed the team into a large hole from which it will be difficult to emerge.
I recommend it for true baseball fans. I give it a solid B+.