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January 16, 2013 5:00 am
An exegesis of Cage Rat, the Yankee hitting coach's treatise on being handy with a bat.
A ballplayer I know told me recently that Kevin Long’s Cage Rat (Ecco, 2011, 198 pp.) was a great book, so I went and got it from the library. I wasn’t at all surprised to discover that, whatever the reasons why the ballplayer called it a great book, they have nothing to do with the quality of the writing. By “great,” it’s necessary to keep in mind that what’s meant isn’t really Ulysses-great; people throw the word “great” around to mean things like enjoyable, not a waste of time, even serviceable. The word is a tool to denote general positivity.
Cage Rat is made of strictly functional, ugly prose—it’s often barely functional at all, in fact—rendered by as-told-to specialist Glen Waggoner in self-consciously vernacular style. Or maybe “vernacular”: it often sounds stilted, like a writer trying to sound like how he thinks someone like Long talks. That sections of it may in fact be transcriptions of actual Long speech is immaterial. It’s all clichés and received ideas cut into ribbons and reassembled. It’s probably exactly what all parties involved wanted.