Friday, August 19, 2005



Through the efforts of a friendly librarian I know, I recently was able to check out a Bill James collection from 1989, This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones: Bill James without the Numbers. There's some good stuff in there about 80s baseball, much of it still of interest and still applicable today.

But some of it is just plain fun as a trip down memory lane with the irascible James as a guide. I'll share some of it over the next few weeks, until the book's due back at Bezazian Library.

So here's James on Lonnie "Skates" Smith, writing in 1986, when Smith had been a Royal for a few years:

I wouold try to tell you what a bad outfielder Lonnie is, expect that I confess that I would never have believed it myself if somebody had tried to tell me. I will say, though, that the real cost of Lonnie's defense is not nearly as great as the psychic impact of it. He makes you wail and gnash your teeth a lot, but he doesn't really cost you all that many runs.

One reason for that is that he recovers so quickly after her makes a mistake. You have to understand that Lonnie makes defensive mistakes every game, so he knows hot to handle it. Your average outfielder is inclined to panic when he falls down chasing a ball in the corner; he may just give up and set there a while, trying to figure it out. Lonnie has a pop-up slide perfected for the occasion.

Another outfielder might have no idea where the ball was when it bounded off his glove. Lonnie can calculate with the instinctive astrophysics of a veteran tennis player where a ball will land when it skips off the heel of his glove, what the angle of glide will be when he tips it off the webbing, what the spin will be when the ball skids off the thumb of the mitt.

Many players can kick a ball behind them without ever knowing it. Lonnie can judge by the pitch of the thud and the subtle pressure through his shoe in which direction and how far he has projected the sphere.

He knows exactly what to do when a ball spins out of his hand and flies crazily into a void on the field. He knows when it is appropriate for him to scamper after the ball and when he needs to back up the man who will have to recover it.

He has experience in these matters; when he retires he will be hired to come to spring training and coach defensive recovery and cost containment. This is his specialty, and he is good at it.

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So you've got to "know someone" in order to check out books from the Chicago Public Library? Well, I guess that makes sense in the Land of Daley.

I'm halfway tempted to check this book out from the more egalitarian L.A. Public Library -- at my local equivalent of Levi's beloved Bezazian Library -- just so both members of would be reading the same baseball book at the same time, something we previously accomplished with The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. (although that was before was in existence).

But I don't need to do that, with Levi providing excerpts of all the good parts here. What if some other Angeleno was suddenly of a mind to read Bill James's wisdom and didn't feel like making the trek to the main library downtown to read the reference copy? (That's right, the L.A. Public Library has two copies of "This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones," one circulating and one not. Who says L.A. isn't a big literary town?)
To be honest, the only bad thing about this book is that I can't justify taking the time to type up and blog the whole damn thing. It's that much fun.-
Did you see that the ESPN series "Top 5 reasons you can't blame" is going to have an episode on the umpire who blew the call at 1st in Game 6 of the '85 series? I believe it was going to run Monday. It's a very well-done series, if you haven't seen it.
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