Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Reveiew of "The Cubs Way"

Having been a fan of Tom Verducci's work for Sports Illustrated and ESPN, I was thrilled to learn that he wrote a book on the 2016 Chicago Cubs.  Then when I saw he also narrated the audio version of the book, I knew I had to pick up a copy of the audiobook. Sometimes when I look so forward to a book like this, it lets me down because of the high expectations.  That was not the case with this one - an outstanding book on an outstanding baseball team. Here is my review of "The Cubs Way."

“The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse” by Tom Verducci

Baseball, history, Cubs, championship, audiobook

Publish date:
March 28, 2017

396 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Nearly everyone, including non-baseball fans, is aware of the story of the Chicago Cubs during the 2016 season.  Having not won the World Series since 1908, the team was led by a core of young position players and not only compiled the best record in baseball, they broke the so-called “curse” and defeated the Cleveland Indians in a thrilling 7-game World Series.  The story of how this championship team was built is told in this outstanding book by Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci.  He also narrated the audiobook, which was also done well.  Authors who narrate the audio version of their books help to lend an air of authority to the work.

The story of the team is told mostly through extensive interviews with Cubs president Theo Epstein and field manager Joe Maddon.  Both of them have ideas and viewpoints that go against the traditional way of building and managing a winning team, something that is noteworthy in the usually conservative business of baseball.  For example, many teams try to build their teams through pitching as there are plenty of clich├ęs and conventional thoughts that state pitching is more important. 

However, Epstein didn’t follow that model.  Instead, he concentrated on obtaining a core of talented position players who would live up to his standards for talent, character and leadership.  Between trades and the draft, Epstein found his core players.  First baseman Anthony Rizzo (trade), third baseman Kris Bryant (draft), catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber (draft) and shortstop Addison Russell (trade) make up that core and Verducci tells the reader why each of these players are so important to the team.  Oh, and as for pitchers – through some shrewd trades and free agent signings of veterans like Jon Lester and Jake Arrietta, that was addressed as well.

The best and most extensive writing, however, is saved for the lengthy passages about Maddon and his unorthodox approach to running his team.  Having already achieved success with the Tampa Bay Rays, Maddon’s complete story with the Cubs is captured with humor, detail and inside information that he was more than happy to share with Verducci. The reader will feel like he or she is part of the Cubs clubhouse – which is one of those important details that helped change the culture of the team after it underwent a multi-million dollar upgrade.

If Cubs fans read only one book about their team’s magical 2016 season, this is the one they must read.  Even readers like me who are not Cubs fans but want to read about an excellent baseball team, this book should be added to their libraries.  Verducci can certainly fly the “W” with this winner of a book.

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