Patrick Dubuque is an author and editor of Baseball Prospectus and leads our new Short Relief column.
Patrick Dubuque: Hi, my name is Patrick, and welcome to what will perhaps not be the most informative chat ever held. If you're looking for prospect advice from 1983-1988, or the kind of crack fantasy knowledge that has allowed me to win my league twice in the past sixteen seasons, look no further. But maybe instead of that, let's talk about baseball books, fiction or non-fiction.
k3o3r9n0 (Boston): What is your second favorite baseball book (after Veeck as in Wreck)?
Patrick Dubuque: I actually went through my library and did a quick ranking, and Veeck As In Wreck came in fourth. It's a really, really good book. What's interesting about it is that when you look for baseball bios, what you want most is authenticity, the feeling that you're being held in confidence. Veeck doesn't do that; he's obviously self-aggrandizing to the point of straight-out lying. But the creativity is so obvious, in how he looks at the game, that you can't help but marvel.
ES (MI): Top baseball books in the fiction category?
Patrick Dubuque: This one is easy, for me. I'm generally not a big fan of baseball fiction: the game itself is either a clumsy plot device meant to get a reader to buy the book, or it basically simulates the drama of a usual game. But Universal Baseball Assoc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. uses baseball as a really unique metaphor for life, and deals with it in a very mature, thoughtful way. It's the kind of existentialism that I like, instead of the shruggy aren't-we-all-terrible type that you'd find in, say, Malamud's The Natural.
RickFunaro (Connecticut): Obviously Moneyball is the holy grail of books following a team on its journey of implementing advanced stats. And more have popped up over the years like The Extra 2% (Rays) and Big Data Baseball (Pirates). What's another team you want to read about in a book like those I mentioned above? I think one about the Royals would be fun to read about.
Patrick Dubuque: Though I can understand why it would never happen, because people who publish books would like to sell books, it would be nice to see a post-mortem on some of the "revolutionary" subjects in previous books, particularly the A's and Rays. Moneyball 2 would be a dark, dark sequel, but I would read that in a heartbeat.
Mary (Texas): Which Topps card font is the worst: 1959, 1972, or 1986?
Patrick Dubuque: The answer, of course, is none of the above. The worst Topps fonts are 1979, because 1979 is the worst everything of Topps cards, and 1995 with its proto-comic sans foil names. (The best font on a Topps card is 1971. lower case forever.)
nschaef (NYC): What criteria do you use to determine what baseball book to pick up next? Author, subject matter, peer recommendation etc.?
Don't have as much time to read as I'd like, so the opportunity cost of choosing the "wrong" book can be high.
Patrick Dubuque: This is a really important question! As an old person with small children, whose reading time is in no small part consumed by figuring out where on the page I was when I fell asleep, I feel this. But I'm also someone who tries to approach works with as few pre-determined notions as possible, so it's difficult. I admit I still pick pretty much at random, which will lead to some bombs, but also lead to some unexpected gems, like Jim Brosnan's 1959 The Long Season. What I really need to get better at is abandoning ship fifty pages in if it's not working.
Brandon (Chicago): What are some of your favorite pieces of baseball short-fiction? (non-Kinsella)
Patrick Dubuque: My favorite physical collection of short-fiction work is Dayn Perry's chapbook, Drinking With Boileryard Clarke. Perry is the best. I don't know if you can buy them still, but you should definitely try. The original link is here: http://www.fangraphs.com/not/drinking-with-boileryard-clarke-dayn-perry-celebrates-himself-baseball/
snidog (Utah): A couple years ago, my son wrote a book for school about some feat of strength, I can't remember what, and all the Dodgers pitchers tried unsuccessfully to do it, until finally Clayton Kershaw took over and did it. My question: Do you think this book contributed to Zack Greinke leaving the Dodgers? I mean, he was called out by name -- I believe the page said, "Then Zack Greinke tried to lift it, but he wasn't strong enough."
Patrick Dubuque: I want to believe that there was just some sort stuck in a rock sitting outside the stadium one day, no explanation, and if Zach Lee had been the one to pull it out he'd be the ace of the Dodgers now. Maybe Greinke left the Dodgers as part of a vision quest, looking to build up his strength and defeat the man who bested him, and fulfill his destiny. It also might have been the money.
MoBjonski (Nearby): Did you ever read Jim Palmer's book about him and Earl Weaver?
Patrick Dubuque: I haven't, but I should. I've always wanted to know more about the relationship between the two of them; they were stuck with each other forever. Weaver does show up in the book I am currently reading, Extra Innings by David Whitford (about the 1989 Senior League). It's interesting to read first. There's a passage after Weaver gets thrown out of a ballgame arguing with umps, doing the usual Weaver spectacle:
Paul Blair caught his eye. "Earl," he said, "You're in the wrong sport. You shoulda been a placekicker."
Blair laughed, and Weaver smiled wearily. Then the outer door opened and Bill Madlock poked his head in.
"Where's Earl?" Madlocked asked, grinning wildly. Then he saw him. "Earl, you're gonna have a heart attack in the f***ing Senior League!"
Weaver raised his head. "That ain't funny 'cause you're f***ing right."
ZacharyMoser (your menchies): Patrick, can you please opine on your favorite work of baseball-centric or baseball-related fiction? I'll take my answer off the air.
Patrick Dubuque: After Universal Baseball Assoc., my second-favorite is a classic that tends to get forgotten these days: You Know Me Al, by Ring Lardner. I'm a big Lardner fan in general; his reputation suffered in his own time because he chose to "slum it" in sportswriting while his pals like F. Scott Ftizgerald were off in France trying to write the Great American Novel. But Lardner's work is earthy and smart and abrasive, and for being a hundred years old, holds up incredibly well. Go find a copy in a thrift store.
Chris (Baltimore): Posey is always a target of mine. 16 team league, straight draft with 2 catchers. 5 x 5 with half of the top 10 catchers already kept. Can I take Posey with the 15th overall pick if maybe players...ie Betts, Bryant, Correa, Turner, Seager are already kept. Posey won't be at #31...I'm thinking.
Patrick Dubuque: #15 is early for Posey, but you know that already. It's possible he's there at 31; he went #28 in the mixed LABR draft. But you know what? You've got to draft your own team, Chris. If you feel that Posey is the man to build a team around, and you don't want to even have to consider the name Nick Hundley all year, you build the team you want to win. Follow your heart.
johnklein (northeast): A False Spring by Pat Jordan is a good read.
Patrick Dubuque: I haven't read it. I don't even own it, because I have Suitors of Spring (also by Jordan) and I keep thinking they're the same book when I spot one on the shelves. Mental note!
Martin Alonso (Lima, Peru): With the Hardball times and BP annuals, is there any room for books like Moneyball or Baseball Between the Numbers to be published (aside from the books that SABR publishes every year)?
Patrick Dubuque: Oh, sure. They're almost completely different markets: the annuals are very good at giving a broad overview of the state of the game, while your BBTNs and Extra 2%s and Big Data Baseballs are great for drilling down into a single concept. They're especially interesting when it comes to the creation and implementation of those singular missions; like The Only Rule, they're almost as interesting as business/management books as they are baseball books, in the same way that everyone with a suit and tie was reading The Art of War in the eighties.
Ryan (NJ): Gleyber or Amed? WHy?
Patrick Dubuque: People keep asking me prospect questions, and they're not even from 1985. It's like you folks don't even read the intro. Trueblood's chatting on Thursday; he'll give you actual useful information.
David (Ask Siri): What are your thoughts on Michael Lorenzen? Is he worth holding onto in a 16 team H2H with only 2 RP slots when I got 3 closers?
Patrick Dubuque: Depends on how many bench spots you have to work with, but almost certainly not. Even if a couple of your closers fall, and you somehow don't nab their replacements, there'll be as good a chance of another middle reliever stepping up as Lorenzen breaking out this year.
Ed (Cranford, NJ): Who will get more saves this season, Hector Neris or Shawn Kelly?
Patrick Dubuque: I think Kelley gets the job and keeps it; he's had a strange career path in terms of repuation, but he's really quite good. Neris is also talented, but Kelley's path to opportunities is clearer, and when it comes to chasing saves it's an unfortunate truth that, just as in real life, fortune trumps talent sometimes.
Scooter Hotz (Philadelphia, PA): It's not a book, but did you see the Robert Pinsky poem called Branca in this week's New Yorker? Thoughts?
Patrick Dubuque: I did not see it before now, but it's wonderful. It's surprising to me, really, that poetry and baseball aren't more closely linked. People say poetry is just prose with line breaks, and they also find the "real" poetry of older times, the blank verse, too stilted to read. But Branca works because it's a poem: only in poems can you so efficiently cut apart a pair of thoughts, slice them to ribbons, and reassemble them in a different shape that triggers a reflection. Baseball is this way, too; it's pantomime, a very opaque theater. It makes you work to really understand it, and rewards that understanding. Those are often the good things, I think.
Brandon (Chicago): Who's the prospect from 1983-1988 that went bust but you really wanted to succeed?
Patrick Dubuque: The prospect busts that I hated the most were the ones who were too talented to disappear. You have your Charboneaus and your Hamelins who have their one great season and are gone; they don't bother anyone. But then there's Ron Kittle, whose expectations and talent were so great that he was able to hang on long enough to remain a punchline for years. I wish Kittle had lived up to that one minor league season, when he slashed .345/.442/.752 in Triple-A with 50 home runs. We all peak somewhere; it's just sad when it's right before everyone decides it counts.
R.J. (Tampa): Enjoying Short Relief, Dubs.
If Taylor Motter and Shawn O'Malley were both trapped in a burning building, and you could only rescue one, which one would you rescue and why?
Patrick Dubuque: They're both so gritty, it's hard to believe they wouldn't be able to MacGyver their own way out. But given the sheer flammability of Taylor Motter's hair, I'd have to save him first.
Patrick Dubuque: OK, that's it for me today. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. A note of congratulations for BP's own Meg Rowley, who won the SABR Research award for Contemprary Baseball Commentary. And if you have a chance, check out our daily non-informational baseball review, Short Relief. Thanks!