Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: Miss baseball? Miscellaneously speaking, this could get you caught up

games too long
Do baseball playoff games take too long? It’s a question tackled in a 2017 USA Today story (using this Dodgers’ mound photo of manager Dave Roberts taking Yu Darvish out of a contest). It’s also discussed in Chapter 27 of this book. Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today

Baseball Miscellany
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Baseball

The author:

Matthew Silverman

The publishing info:
Sports Publishing/Skyhorse
205 pages
Released May 19

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the SimonAndSchuster site
At BarnesAndNoble.com
At Powells.com
At Target
At Indiebound.org
At the author’s website

The review in 90 feet or less

After all we poured through in our previous review of the Sports Publishing/Skyhorse refresh of “The New Baseball Bible,” this update of “Baseball Miscellany” by the same publishing house measures in at half the size, half the number of pages, far more colorful and graphically bent, printed on much better paper stock, a much tighter binding and, all in all, likely far more easier for a reader to navigate. (And it’s five bucks cheaper).

Smaller can be more useful, depending on the reader’s attention span.

Still, you’re at the mercy of the author’s construction and content decisions.

mattMatthew Silverman – not to be confused with the 44-year-old Harvard-educated President of Baseball Ops for the Tampa Bay Rays – has done plenty of other baseball books that involve collecting material, specifically with his work on New York Mets history.

Unlike the Dan Schlossberg “Bible” format of 20-plus chapters that break down the game historically and every other which way, Silverman’s approach is to pose 30 questions – the last three, in a category of “Extra Innings” – and then meander from from there.

Most chapters are filled in by quips, quotes and antidotes, enough that don’t directly  relate at all the chapter’s original focus, but none-the-less serve a purpose of continued educations.

How is this version new and improved from what was offered in 2011, or last in 2015? We can’t tell, not having those to compare. We’ll bank on the fact the cover illustration is basically the same, except the seven photos are re-arranged to make room for a blurb that shouts: “90 Incredible Quotes, Facts, and Terms!”

That’s something to celebrate? Are they new?

The assumption based on reviews of previous editions is that these last last three chapters – Why do Major League games take so long? Why do roster sizes change in September? What do the different classes in the minor leagues mean? – are essentially the cause for an extra 24 pages.

So, why do games take so long?

Since it would seem to be something a kid might ask, the adult in the room – Silverman – explains, in short: Fewer, if any, complete games thrown by a starting pitcher; more and more relievers are used for special situations, and players taking longer on defensive shifts.

“The amount of actual action in a game runs about 18 minutes,” Silverman notes. “For what it’s worth, the average NFL game features 11 minutes of action … of course, they don’t play seven games a week.”

He points out that three rules are to go into effect in 2020 – if such a season will exist: A pitcher entering a game must face three batters, the injured list goes from 10 to 15 days for pitchers, and rosters can expand to between 26 and 28 after September 1.

And then there’s his three unofficial suggestions to decrease wasted time:

= Instant replay “takes too long. If you can’t see enough replays in a minute, the call should stand.”

= More on replay: “Ditch the headset and the challenges for replays” since the final call comes from New York, so let it be known on the stadium scoreboard and keep the game going. Why congregate umpires to just listen in on a discussion?

= “Have actual penalties for being slow … Let them know Big brother is looking at his big ol’ watch.”

It comes with this caveat:

“Of course all this change assumes that the game needs improving. Fans who attend games frequently by and by say, that when they are at the ballpark, they are not overly concerned about how long a game lasts. They’re having fun! Baseball should concentrate on making it more affordable for people to go to games as opposed to speeding it up. … There are so many problems in today’s world that spending more time at the ballpark does not seem like a big deal by comparison.”

We raise our $15 beer to that.

How it goes in the scorebook

Quick, quippy, clean and conversational, without dumbing things down, in a format that serves its purpose even if things get tangential.

It would be interesting to poll baseball fans to ask what questions they have about the game — or create a website that accompanies this book that allows more questions to be submitted, and answered, that could be vetted for a future edition.

As for one review we read on Amazon.com (for the 2011 book, since it hasn’t posted a link yet to this book) by someone who only gave it two stars out of five: “It’s designed as feathery, harmless entertainment, and it meets that test.”

But one more Q: Why doesn’t the author do much to promote this book’s existence, either on his website or social media? We’re wondering if he, like us, wasn’t aware of this book’s latest update until we stumbled upon it at a trip to the local bookstore that just happened to open up to customers this past weekend after having been shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Surprise. It’s here.

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