Let’s begin with what BP’s Mind Game is not. Sadly, it is not a new service for teenage male subscribers in which Joe Sheehan shows up at your high school, junior high school, or middle school, seeks out your current crush-object and says, “Whatcha gonna do, Peggy Sue? Bobby really likes you. You going to go out with him or not?” and when she doesn’t answer, yanks open his chest cavity and deploys a Davenportamatronic FauxFemale to hang on you until Peggy Sue gets really jealous and dumps that annoying guy Kevin, the one who looks like he’s going to grow up to be some kind of park squirrel.
Mind Game is a book about the Boston Red Sox and how intelligent team design helped them to surpass the Yankees, sustain the winning effort despite all the obstacles and setbacks typically encountered by every team during the championship season, and lay to rest nearly a century of self-defeating mismanagement. Mind Game is a deconstruction of the Theo Epstein-era Sox–where they came from, where they’re going, and how they got where they are, to the title of World Champions.
Before visions of the 6,782 Red Sox championship-exploitations that came out back in April blow your mind, be assured that Mind Game is not another onanistic knock-off along the lines of “Cursebreaker: How My Shamanistic Rituals Won the World Series for Red Sox Nation”, by Johnny Damon‘s cousin’s ex-boyfriend. Mind Game is something new. We’ve brought the full roster of Baseball Prospectus authors to bear on the Red Sox and the 2004 season, using it as a prism through which we can throw light on the real lessons of the championship.
For the mainstream media, 2004 meant that Red Sox Nation finally got some satisfaction. Indeed, this was the effect of the season, but, as usual, it ignores the causes. By looking for the reasons the Sox won, we can explore controversial issues such as the Alex Rodriguez trade that didn’t happen, the bullpen-by-committee failure of 2003 that resulted in the acquisition of Keith Foulke, the popular theory that brawls win pennants, the real reason the Red Sox were able to make their historic comeback in the American League Championship series, and so on. Included in the book are:
- Steven Goldman on 80 years of Red Sox failures; the position-by-position battle with the Yankees; and Varitek vs. A-Rod and the correlation between on-field fighting and winning.
- Chris Kahrl on the hiring of Theo Epstein and the early deals that built the team; the Moneyball rivalry between Epstein’s Sox and Billy Beane’s A’s; offense vs. defense and the headline-grabbing Garciaparra deal.
- Nate Silver on the A-Rod deal that wasn’t and what it cost the Red Sox; the World Series and the Finesse Number.
- Derek Zumsteg on Foulke and the misunderstood committee experiment; the hirsute Johnny Damon; Jason Varitek‘s career opportunities.
- Jim Baker on early-season panic; scary losing streaks; why star players shouldn’t hurl themselves into the stands; why strikeouts don’t matter; how curses function in the real world.
- Rany Jazayerli on the end of the pitcher abuse wars.
- Jay Jaffe on the strange career of David Ortiz; why Pedro Martinez often struggled against the Yankees.
- Jonah Keri on Kevin Youkilis and the Holy Gospel of on-base percentage; the fall of Nomar Garciaparra.
- James Click on seemingly impossible winning streaks; beating Mariano Rivera.
- Keith Woolner on long road trips.
- Will Carroll on Curt Schilling‘s ankle and the corpse that saved Boston.
- Joe Sheehan on the shifting tides of battle in the ALCS.
- Dayn Perry on sustaining the magic.
And, if you’ll pardon the infomercial-speak, that’s not all. Because we’re Baseball Prospectus and we can’t stop writing when we’re this excited, we’ve added “extra innings,” supplementary discussions of everything from the non-curse of Tris Speaker, the strange case of Dan Duquette, Calvin Schiraldi, and much more. We’ve also included appendices with multiple leader boards for every BP statistic and for the first time anywhere, a comprehensive list of bench-clearing brawls in baseball history, thanks in large part to the work of the late, great Doug Pappas, who had “BP author” as one of his many titles. All of this is served up with BP’s customary insouciance and humor.
The Red Sox not only won a championship, they opened a door. Not just catnip for Red Sox fans, Mind Game asks and attempts to answer the questions that every fan, beat writer, and general manager should have been asking in the aftermath of the season. Not only is the last championship to be found in these pages, but the next championship as well.
Mind Game will reach bookstores just in time for the stretch run. To buy Mind Game, click here. If you’re a member of the media and would like to request an advance copy of the book, please e-mail Steven Goldman by clicking here.