1. The Bill James Handbook (Acta Sports) – The cover of this book touts, “The complete up-to-date statistics on every major league player, team and manager through last season.” which is odd because that is by far the weakest part of this terrific book. The fact is there are hundred of pages of stats that any modern baseball fan can access in an easier and more manageable fashion. However, there are chapters in this book that you can’t find anywhere else and are simply a joy to read.
For example, ever since John Dewan started putting together his Fielding Bible Awards I realized how meaningless Gold Glove designations are. There is a chapter by Dewan in this book about the winners.
Did you know that Zack Greinke‘s average fastball velocity was 92.4 and he threw his fastball 53% of the time? Justin Verlander‘s average fastball speed was 94.3 and he threw that fastball 56% of the time. It’s all in the Pitch Repertoire chapter.
If pitching is your thing, Bill James’ next chapter provides analysis with gems such as the fact that Kyle Lohse gave up 156 line drives last season, the most of any pitcher, and that’s not a good thing.
There are chapters on Manager’s Records and there tactics and tendencies, Ballparks and Park indices, and so much more including even a section Instant Replays.
Look, I cannot deny, it is an awful looking book. It’s poorly designed, small print, and simply unwieldy to use. Don’t let that discourage you, it’s a must have for baseball fans.
2. If you want to be able to access, manipulate, and explore data from your computer, one great option (and much easier to read than the James Handbook) is the new edition of the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia by Lee Sinins. It makes an excellent gift and can be ordered at http://www.baseball-encyclopedia.com.
3. I’ve told you before and I tell you again, my colleague John Shiffert produces some compelling writing in his “19 to 21″ column and is worth the yearly online subscription.
4. If you are still looking for a book to read, I can again highly recommend R.A. Dickey‘s Wherever I Wind Up. This memoir helps you understand why Mets fans are so sad and why Toronto will embrace this Cy Young Award winner, excellent writer, and very decent human being.
5. If you are simply in the mood for a great baseball history book, that focuses on the New York Yankees, I’m telling you Marty Appel wrote the ultimate Yankees history in Pinstripe Empire. This is the book I continue to gift to Yankee fans. It’s truly a terrific book filled with stories you’ve never heard before.
6. If you are looking for Yankee stories, I spent one summer’s day at the beach reading Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers by Ray Negron. It’s filled with inspirational stories that Negron insists are true and I have no reason to doubt him. Really good stories that remind you about the heart and soul in baseball
7. Those books are nice, but the book on my coffee table is Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox by Harvey Frommer. Forget the words, it’s the pictures in this book that are as beautiful as the lyrical little bandbox of a ballpark itself. This book is $45 but right now on Amazon is just $18.
8. If you want something fun and good looking in your home, I’m a big fan of the artwork of Chris Speakman. His Sports Propaganda Art is unique in style and content. Each baseball screen-print is signed, numbered and includes the MLB authenticating hologram.
9. Membership to the Baseball Hall of Fame is the right thing for anyone who loves the game (and particularly if you don’t use PEDs). And if you want to figure out who belongs or who doesn’t belong in the Hall, join the Society for American Baseball Research. SABR as it’s more commonly known is not just for nerds and geeks, but for lovers of the game. If you really love your fan, give a year subscription to MLB.TV, it’s awesome!!!
So those are just some suggestions and one thing you should share with every baseball fan is a subscription to Billy-Ball.com. It’s free (at least for the time being) and worth every penny. Also follow my story announcements and the snarky comments on Twitter @BillyBall. I must admit to being frustrated that I’m in the low 900s and really want to have at least a thousand followers, so help a brother out.
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