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April 19, 2010

Joe's Blog

One Night in April

by Joe Sheehan

The epic Mets/Cardinals game Saturday provided more than just memories. It gave me the first concrete new-content idea for the upcoming book.

I've mentioned the struggle to decide exactly what the book will look like, what material it will include, what percentage of it will be original versus new. The process is a bit like taking four or five jigsaw puzzles and tossing all the pieces together in a single pile on the table. You know there's a good picture in there, maybe even more than one, but to get to the end you're going to have to not only make the correct pieces fit, but you're going to have to throw out three-quarters of the ones you start with.

Well, what I have now is a small section, one that's tinted red with a little piece of arch. See, it's not just that the 20 innings of baseball were entertaining and even mildly historic. No, it was that so many facets of modern baseball, good and bad, were encapsulated in that seven-hour contest: roster construction; starter usage; one-run-strategies; tactical shortcomings; player decisionmaking. The game certainly could have made for an entertaining column-a number of people asked for one-but that would be underselling it. Saturday's game invites a discussion of how baseball teams are built and managed from star to stern.

Throw in that one of the managers involved was Tony La Russa, about whom 1.3 books have been written praising his baseball mind-but who had a poor day in the dugout-and it becomes an irresistible topic. Frankly, I didn't see it at first. It was my friend and longtime colleague Rany Jazayerli who pointed out that this game was worthy of not just a column, but a chapter of its own. For one thing, it would have taken thousands of words just to get through the game as it was. But when you look down each of the roads that was opened up, when Kyle Lohse went to left field instead of the pitcher's mound, or when Luis Castillo bunted against Joe Mather, or when Francisco Rodriguez went to the bullpen mound for the seventh time…there's a staggering amount of material here. I look forward to writing it all.

As we get deeper into spring and closer to the actual writing, I'm getting excited. This intimidating idea of "writing a book" is taking on manageable proportions, the way I imagine a marathoner doesn't look at running 26.2 miles, but just taking the next step. My next steps? Finalizing the structure and putting together a chapter list.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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