It is with mixed emotions, messages and metaphors that I go against the shift in front of me and attempt to safely swing away at a new batch of baseball book reviews for 2022*.
*- subject to our whims, whimpers and wistful memories of how much easier this once was.
Sixty one years after the 1961 season, and in my Year 61 of Life, we are all about the asterisk – that five-point heraldic star that just floats around the sentence to indicate “hang on, we need to explain more” or “don’t look at these missing letters because it can get nasty.* “
* Holy f***.
I intend to put my ass at risk, knowing there can be a huge downside to all this.
For those who aren’t up to our speed ball, it has been an exercise in empathy for the authors and efficiency on our end trying to crank out 30 reviews of new spring baseball books and post them, once a day, during the month of April. It was deemed something of a success for many years starting in 2011*.
*Our memory is fading and we weren’t actually sure, but that’s the best guess, since we’ve got The Wayback Machine to find things we’ve posted going back on InsideSoCal.com going back to our first posts in 2006.
For some context, here is what the list looked like in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, as various sources and websites have preserved these posts, if not the whole reviews. In ’19 we also got to expand it for the Los Angeles Times when it had more interest in such adventures.
COVID’s 2020 curveball brought major adjustments (and gave Dodgers broadcaster Tim Neverett a title of a pedestrian memoir about the 2020 season that didn’t come out until the middle of ’21, at which point no one wanted to really relive any of that).
In 2020, right after the pandemic began, the slew of reviews came early, starting March 17, reflecting the panic of those of us were forced to hunker down at home and get into survival mode.
Somehow, we ended up reviewing 60 books, all the way to October.
When 2022 showed up, we were miffed by this strange labor dispute playing out, told at one point the season’s first week of games would be wiped out and now we’re counting down to another abbreviated schedule. We put down the books we’d been reading and decided we’d go on strike ourselves.
Dread was hanging over as much as the fog had already rolled in over our coast line as it has been earlier and earlier. June Gloom starts in the spring and doesn’t break loose until after July now days.
Honestly, the one thing that got us through some of our grumpier moments was Joe Posnanski’s “The Baseball 100,” an 880-page volume released last September that took what he once posted on The Athletic. Longer than Homer’s “The Odyssey” but no where near JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” it made it into book form and Spitball Magazine, the literary baseball publication, gave this its CASEY Award for top baseball book of 2021. It has more than 900 five-star ratings on Amazon for good reason. Here’s more on Baseball by the Books’ podcast.
You know the book was influential when ESPN scrambled with its own cast of characters and did its own Top 100 list last February.
Compare, contrast, hand wring. Where ever you need to go with it.
We also applaud how ScrewballTimes.com is in agreement and has its own list of 21 new books to check out. (New-ish, actually, as in most of them were on our 2021 list, so …).
So if we do indeed start this 2022 review year now, halfway into April, what are hoping to accomplish? Will we attack our record of 60 reviews in ’21 by doing after 61* in ’22? Are we still the guardians of this annual exercise or is that name taken now? What if we work with a 28-man roster of books, taking into account all the call ups and demotions we might have to exceed, with all due respect to the luxury tax rules and who’s not yet eligible for arbitration? If we start pitching and find we’re knocked out early, can we still DH in either league? If we do go long, can we continue the list with a phantom ghost-written book review standing on second base? If the MLB is expanding the number of teams eligible for the playoffs from 10 to 12 – or 40 percent of the available inventory – do we have to expand our breadth and width as well?
We’ve been reading that the art of reading is back in vogue, a product of surviving the pandemic, as well as cooking, urban hiking, dog walking, learning new musical instruments, gardening and feeding the homeless. Reading is something to do when one wakes up, instead of checking emails or watching the news. Just 30 minutes in the AM and then before bed.
So we shall keep reading. And reviewing*.
*God help us all.
The plan is to launch next Friday — Jackie Robinson Day — with the latest and greatest prose on the subject, followed by a new slew of Dodgers-related books that either hit it out of the park or are under further review by those with the monitors in other cities.
Thank you for this opportunity again.