There are quite a few baseball season reviews/previews out there. If you’re more a fan of an individual team, however, and don’t really care about how some anonymous BP author evaluates the 2008 Seattle Mariners or what somebody thinks the Washington Nationals will do in 2009, you can end up paying for a 600 page book that may provide twenty pages on your team. Or sort of the reading value equivalent of the Barry Zito contract.
Stepping in to remedy this situation for White Sox fans is White Sox Outsider 2009 by Jim Margalus. Margalus is a long-time White Sox blogger at his site Sox Machine and is also well-known to SSS readers for posting here under the name of site.
The 226 page book is logically organized into six sections: Transaction Register, 2008 Season in Review, Down on the Farm, Batting Cleanup (player departures), Stories of the Season, and Looking Forward.
Transaction Register provides an introduction to some of more notable “characters” we’ll be reading about in the ensuing pages – such as Orlando Cabrera or Ken Griffey Jr. – while also giving some of the “extras” – such as Jim Brower or Ray King – their moment in the sun. The section uses the official White Sox transaction register from the end of the 2007 season to January 2009 to tell the stories of the players appearing on it.
2008 Season in Review is exactly what it purports to be: a month by month look at the 2008 season. Unlike some other season reviews, the length of the book and the team-specific nature allows Margalus to provide a more narrative style of review, which likely will appeal to Sox fans interested in re-visiting the highs and lows of the season. While also including the numbers that any baseball book requires, the color added from the re-telling of infamous/famous plays such as Mark Teahen’s inside the park home run or Griffey’s throw to the plate in Game 163 sets the book apart.
Down on the Farm gives the reader a recap of the organization’s players in the minor leagues using a “winners and losers” format, then introduces the 2008 draftees, and concludes with prospect rankings for both this season and a take on what the ranking might look like in 2010. For someone unfamiliar with the youngsters, this section provides a handy reference in one place for the names to keep an eye on in the future.
Batting Cleanup eulogies the players who have left the organization, from Joe Crede on down to Paul Phillips. Here, Margalus cleverly engages in one of the best ways to get a positive review: favorably utilize larry’s The Law of Conservation of Masset. Well-played, Jim. Well-played.
Stories of the Season goes into even greater depth on some of the major talking points of the 2008 season. The dissection of the brief stay of Nick Swisher, the “personality issues” that led to his departure (and the departure of other players), and the questions this all raises regarding player evaluation by the front office marks a high point of the book.
Looking Forward wraps up the book. The lengthiest section supplies a 2008 recap and a 2009 outlook for all the players on the 40 man roster. Like the Down on the Farm section, this provides a useful one-stop reference, especially for players, such as Brent Lillibridge or Dayan Viciedo, with whom the reader may not be familiar.
Overall, White Sox Outsider 2009 is a well-researched, well-written book with a good bit of wit that any diehard Sox fan (read: reader of this site) would find engaging. Further, unlike the more general season review/preview books, the depth with which Margalus examines the memorable 2008 season causes me to suspect that a reader will occasionally take it off the shelf long into the future to re-live some of the magic. The book may be purchased here.