QuesTek for Your Baseball Library: Meet the Mets 2008
I have long planned to bring a modicum of respectability to this blog by engaging in informative, thought-provoking reviews of every book ever written about the Mets or baseball. While I now have quite a collection of baseball books, nary a peep has been heard from me. The original launch date of this fabulous feature was going to be this past off-season, but between the bipolar lows of the collapse and highs of the Santana landing, I never got it off the ground. Also, I set my standards too high. I read books for a living. So, unlike the daily content of this blog, I'd have to think through and edit what I wrote about the books I reviewed, seeing as the authors or editors most likely put some effort into them, and it would be unfair to treat them with the dismissive and jocular tones I treat the rest of reality with (let's face it, reality deserves it). Plus, maybe they'd get mad. Anyhow, in the future I plan to evaluate books inside and outside of the baseball literary cannon for quality and Mets content, as well as bring to your attention more obscure baseball related writings when possible. Like QuesTek, these entries will strive to be impartial if fallible, sometimes a pain in the ass, but ultimately provide a baseline for your decision to tear yourself away from the TV and pick up a damn book. Of course, also like Questek, I hope to piss off Tom Glavine at every opportunity.
Meet the Mets 2008: An Annual Guide to New York Mets Baseball. Edited by Matthew Silverman and Greg Spira. Maple Street Press.
Why start here? (other than the book was sent to me gratis?) Meet the Mets is the kind of book that, though it could be enjoyed on the beach late in the summer, for full effect should be read before, or in the early stages of the season. Since it's kind of time sensitive, I thought I'd weigh in and give you my opinion as to whether this is worth buying. Better late than never.
These type of annuals, often published to make a quick buck by some obscure publishing house's editorial board that has equal expertise in the fields of auto racing, marijuana, and recipes, are often filled with shoddy content, shitty photos, and dated, forgettable analysis. They are normally disappointing both because of the lack of care put into their design, and the real time alternatives available on the interwebs. The editors of Meet the Mets have avoided these pitfalls, producing a spunky little number chock full of useful, mostly illuminating pieces. And I don't throw around the phrase chock full without reflection. The best move, for my money, was to spice up the 22 or so features with a historical feel: vintage photographs and articles on seasons past give the volume heft that would be missing if it was entirely devoted to the club's recent travails, capsule team reviews, and future predictions. The guide seems to have started production a bit earlier than the completion of the Santana saga, so the editors should be commended for pulling off relevancy in the midst of ground-shaking change. The annual is divided into three sections--2008 Mets, the farm system, and Mets history--that don't quite capture the content, but that's a minor quibble to aim at such a nice package. The 112 pages are glossy and without advertising. And whoopie, you'll find familiar names from high-quality Mets blogs on the table of contents.
There is plenty of unique content here to set Meet the Mets apart. In honor of Shea's final season, there are several articles that deal with Shea's legacy and look ahead to Citifield's impact, architecturally and otherwise. Tara Kriegler's article and the accompanying photos put Citifield in context nicely. Vince Gennaro's piece on the economics of qualifying for the playoffs, broadcasting, and opening a new stadium is thought provoking, particularly how the dynamics of Citifield debt will lead to a situation where the post-2009 clubs "can no longer afford to lose."
Most helpful, psychologically speaking, are the handful of articles devoted to a retrospective on "the collapse." Reading these, I realized how thoroughly I had repressed all memories of September; I remember only the unreality of the event, not the details. With the help of articles like Greg Prince's "Rouges Gallery," which reminds us of the villains and their crimes, I can face my demons and let the healing begin. I always remembered why I hate Ronnie Belliard, but now I recognize why the utterance of the name "Greg Dobbs" makes me clench my fists. Metswalkoffs anonymously contributes a nice little encapsulation of their blog's content. Perhaps less useful a couple months into the season are the articles assessing the 2008 Mets and their competitors (current 1st place St Louis Cardinals "unlikely to be a factor"), yet these are thoughtful and competently presented too.
In sum, I'd recommend picking this up for the beach or a long commute--it's only 13 bucks anyway. The content has been selected with care, obviously the work of experienced, loving fans. If you need evidence, I will only say that there is Ralph Kiner content. There are standard questions I intend to answer for every book I review, such as "would I buy this if it wasn't sent to me for free/loaned to me?" I might have overlooked it on the newsstand, but after reading it, yes, I would. I look forward to next season's edition, where the editors will face the challenge of duplicating their success without the "benefit" of a monumental collapses (cross fingers) or Shea's final season, perhaps scoring some more interviews and continuing to exploit bloggerland for articles.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 Mookies
You can visit the book publisher's hype here. The book is available on NY area newsstands, pharmacies, supermarkets, and if that fails, online.
Labels: baseball library Questek