Rob Neyer has written about baseball for ESPN.com since 1996 and appears regularly on ESPNews. He has written four baseball books, including The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (with Bill James) and Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups. His website, www.robneyer.com, contains additional material related to this and his other books.
At the same time, endearing practices infused baseball with lightheartedness, kindness, and laughter. Fans ran onto the field with baskets of flowers, loving cups, diamond jewelry, gold watches, and cash for their favorite players in the middle of games. Ballplayers volunteered for ôbenefit contestsö to aid fellow big leaguers and the country in times of need. ôJoke gamesö reduced sport to pure theater as outfielders intentionally dropped fly balls, infielders happily booted easy grounders, hurlers tossed soft pitches over the middle of the plate, and umpires ignored the rules. Winning meant nothing, amusement meant everything, and league officials looked the other way.
Mark Halfon looks at life in the major leagues in the early 1900s, the careers of John McGraw, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson, and the events that brought about the end of the Deadball Era. He highlights the strategies, underhanded tactics, and bitter battles that defined this storied time in baseball history, while providing detailed insights into the players and teams involved in bringing to a conclusion this remarkable period in baseball history.
The former ESPN columnist and analytics pioneer dramatically recreates an action-packed 2017 game between the Oakland A’s and eventual World Series Champion Houston Astros to reveal the myriad ways in which Major League Baseball has changed over the last few decades.
On September 8, 2017, the Oakland A’s faced off against the Houston Astros in a game that would signal the passing of the Moneyball mantle. Though this was only one regular season game, the match-up of these two teams demonstrated how Major League Baseball has changed since the early days of Athletics general manager Billy Beane and the publication of Michael Lewis’ classic book.
Over the past twenty years, power and analytics have taken over the game, driving carefully calibrated teams like the Astros to victory. Seemingly every pitcher now throws mid-90s heat and studiously compares their mechanics against the ideal. Every batter in the lineup can crack homers and knows their launch angles. Teams are relying on unorthodox strategies, including using power-losing—purposely tanking a few seasons to get the best players in the draft.
As he chronicles each inning and the unfolding drama as these two teams continually trade the lead—culminating in a 9-8 Oakland victory in the bottom of the ninth—Neyer considers the players and managers, the front office machinations, the role of sabermetrics, and the current thinking about what it takes to build a great team, to answer the most pressing questions fans have about the sport today.