Power Ball by Rob Neyer

So I’m a Dodger fan. Been so since I was born. Thus, as of 2017, anything related to the Houston Astros has earned my disdain. So let’s just get this part out of the way: In 2017, the Houston Astros cheated by stealing signs via a camera in centerfield. No players received any type of punishment for their involvement. Vacating their 2017 championship is a moot point, their legacy is tainted. I don’t know why they cheated, the 2017 club was stacked with immense talent.

I bring up the Astros cheating scandal, because the narrative of this book, Powerball by Rob Neyer, follows a seemingly insignificant game between the eventual champions and a lowly Oakland Athletics. From moments in the game, Neyer veers onto different subjects concerning the history of baseball and the modern approaches to the game.

So having the privilege of hindsight, it’s frustrating to read this book and listen to the author gush over the Astros players. Again, the Astros were good because of their talent, and in this book, they were the visiting team so they probably didn’t use their illegal sign-stealing system (as far as we know). Spoiler alert: the Astros lose the game in the book in the bottom of ninth.

Additionally, I have grown tired of the baseball game narrative; this approach is stale and clunky now. Neyer usually starts a chapter discussing the pitcher and hitting match-ups then he veers off onto a thoroughly interesting aspect of a baseball. Then, abruptly, he has to switch back and finish the inning, and by this time, I have forgotten what is going on in the game (because ultimately I didn’t care about this insignificant game).

All in all, I enjoyed the book, but I just couldn’t tell what the book was trying to say. At times, it felt like an old-school baseball manifesto, and other times it seemed like a sabermetric proselytizer. It’s like the book lacked cohesion in thought.

So, a good not a great book.

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