The Last Nine Innings a one-game chronicle of baseball evolution

For four and a half years, I have tried to forget about the events of Sunday, November 4, 2001. But as a Yankee fan, that will always be impossible. I remember every detail of that game, and I still can feel the shock of watching the impossible become possible as Mariano Rivera proved that every now and then he is human.

It hasn’t helped my psychological healing process too much that baseball writers keep insisting on writing books about that fateful game. First, Buster Olney penned The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty in 2004. Olney’s book was a masterful and personal look into the Yankee clubhouse during their remarkable run from 1996 until Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single in 2001. Olney, a long-time Yankee beat writer, used his clubhouse access to further humanize what was already a very human team and show at what cost success came to the players and coaches from the last baseball dynasty.

Now, Charles Euchner, a city planner and former college professor, has revisited Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in his latest book entitled The Last Nine Innings. Whereas Olney’s book focused on the Yankees, Euchner’s book uses Game 7 of the World Series as a launching point for an examination into the various forces behind the evolution of the modern game of baseball.

First up comes a look at the latest legal strength and conditioning techniques sweeping through Major League Baseball. Euchner uses the experiences of Steve Finley to examine how current knowledge about muscle use and muscle strengthening can lengthen a player’s career. Finley, Euchner explains, works with chiropractor Edythe Heus to strengthen the balancing and tiny core muscles along his spine. Finley doesn’t lift mega-weights, but he has honed his body in such a way that has enabled him to play, for better or for worse, past his 40th birthday.

Finley’s technique is the anti-steroid approach, according to Euchner. Heus’ regimen focuses on “creating a better sense of time and space” instead of focusing on “the execution of an isolated task,” as Euchner claims steroids do. Finley’s training regiment helps him in the field as he dashes and lunges after elusive fly balls, and it helps him focus his swing at the plate.

Next up is a look at the fundamentals of the game: hitting, pitching, and fielding. Euchner breaks down the mental aspects of these tasks. Using extensive interviews with many of the participants of the Yankees-Diamondbacks World Series, Euchner delves into the minds of some of the game’s top players. He discusses Curt Schilling’s penchant for data and scouting reports, Randy Johnson’s efforts at controlling his extremely tall and thin frame early in his career, and Roger Clemens’ picture perfect motion and nearly-insane conditioning work.

Euchner gives the other two areas of the game the same treatment. He looks at positioning fielders, swinging styles and hitting approaches. The book provides a deep examination into the psychology of baseball, an area of the game often ignored by those who follow it. Chuck Knoblauch, one of the key cogs in the Yankee dynasty, was certainly a victim of baseball psychology.

Baseball, all 162 regular season games, 30 spring training games, and the October spring, can be grueling on the players. By examining the states of mind of those playing in the ultimate game of the season, Euchner shows how the sport’s premiere players prepare for an eight-month marathon.

Moving away from the personal, Euchner looks at the sabermetric revolution encompassing the sport. What is refreshing about Euchner’s book is that the stats can co-exist with the psychology. While the players say they do not follow the new stats, it gives those watching the game from General Managers to scouts to journalists and bloggers an insight into the game. He touches upon the never-ending Derek Jeter fielding debate and looks at the improbable events of the bottom of the 9th through the lens of Win Probability. (Tony Womack’s double with one out to tie the score shifted the game in the Diamondbacks favor from 35.4 to 84.3. It was by far the single most important play of the game.)

Finally, Euchner ends with some ruminations on globalization. Alfonso Soriano, a Dominican who played in Japan, was almost the hero of the World Series while a Panamanian took the loss and an American-Cuban delivered the game winning hit. But Euchner does more than give lip service to the ever-expanding international reach of baseball. Many Latin American players sign up for a few thousand dollars to play for the Major League academies. While some Latino players have gone on to be big stars, Americans never hear about the hundreds of players who do not make it and must return to a life of abject poverty. Other Latino players are picked up by Major League teams simply to fill out roster spots in the Minor Leagues. They will never fulfill their Major League dreams or share in the dollars that the sport’s upper levels have to offer.

In the end, Euchner, unfortunately for me, cannot rewrite history, and the last 30 pages of the book were the toughest to read. I kept hoping that maybe this time the roof at the BOB would be open, and Shane Spencer’s deep fly ball would be a game-changing three-run home run. Or that the Yankees would play the infield back and Derek Jeter would catch Gonzalez’s dinky hit. Or that Scott Brosius would complete the double play giving the Yankees a chance to move that infield back with two outs instead of playing up with one. But alas, it was not to be.

Personal feelings aside, Euchner’s book provides insight into the game at a whole new level. While he touches the surface on a variety of topics that could stand on their own in a 250-page book, as Andrew Zimbalist, baseball economist notes on the cover, you will never a game with the same thoughts again. You’ll be eyeing the pitchers, looking for the physics described in the book or watching an outfield twist and turn like a dancer catching up to a seemingly uncatchable deep fly ball.

The Last Nine Innings, by Charles Euchner, is published by Sourcebooks. It is available online at Amazon.com or at your nearest local bookstore.


RSS River Ave. Blues

  • Vidal Nuno’s Big Chance April 23, 2014
    Through the first three weeks of the season, the starting rotation has been the clear strength of the Yankees’ roster. The lineup and bullpen have been solid overall too, don’t get me wrong, but the starting staff has really stood out to me. That rotation took a hit yesterday when it became all but official […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees b […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Tanaka leads Yankees to 9-3 win over Red Sox in series opener at Fenway April 23, 2014
    That win was much easier than the last one. The Yankees jumped out to early lead against the Red Sox on Tuesday night before piling on in the middle innings and walking away with a 9-3 win in the series opener. Early Runs This game started almost exactly like I hoped it would: with a […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogTanaka leads Yankees […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Judge and Bichette continue to rake in losses April 23, 2014
    Got some notes to pass along: RHP Ty Hensley threw a bullpen session today, according to his Twitter feed. He missed all of last year after having surgery on both hips, and he’s been slowed by a hernia early this year. Not sure how long he’s been throwing off a mound. RHP Shane Greene will […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogJudge and Biche […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Game 20: Tanaka takes Fenway April 22, 2014
    This game is a Very Big Deal. Or at least that’s what we’ll hear all night (and all series, really) because it is Masahiro Tanaka‘s first career start in Fenway Park. Everything is bigger when it comes to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and acting like mid-April games are more meaningful than they really are is […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees b […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Surgery recommended for Ivan Nova following second opinion April 22, 2014
    After being re-evaluated by team doctor Dr. Ahmad on Monday, surgery has been recommended for Ivan Nova‘s partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, the Yankees announced. An MRI arthrogram confirmed the original diagnosis. Nova, 27, left Saturday’s start with a sore elbow and initial tests revealed the partial UCL tear. Rest and rehab never seems to […]Post […]
    Michael Axisa
  • 4/22-4/24 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox April 22, 2014
    For the second time in a little more than a week, the Yankees and Red Sox meet for what is sure to be a tense, time-consuming, over-hyped, and over-analyzed series. This time the scene shifts to Boston and Fenway Park. The Yankees won three of four from their rivals in the Bronx the weekend before […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blog4/22-4/ […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Yankees activate David Robertson off 15-day DL April 22, 2014
    As expected, the Yankees have activated closer David Robertson off the 15-day DL, the team announced. He missed the minimum 15 days with a groin strain. Robertson threw in the bullpen last week and pitched in an Extended Spring Training game over the weekend. Bryan Mitchell was returned to Double-A Trenton yesterday to clear a […]Post from: River Ave. Blues […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Thoughts following the off-day April 22, 2014
    There was no update on Ivan Nova yesterday after he had his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament re-evaluated in New York during the off-day. It’s tough not to assume the worst and it has nothing to do with the lack of an update. Partially torn UCLs almost always result in Tommy John surgery at some […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogT […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Judge, Severino have big days in Charleston win April 22, 2014
    RHP Bryan Mitchell was named the Double-A Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. Not a bad week for him. He struck out 12 in six innings on Monday, turned 23 on Saturday, got called up to the big leagues on Sunday, and was named Pitcher of the Week today. That one day in the show […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogJudge, Severino have big day […]
    Michael Axisa
  • It’s official: NYC Football Club will play home games in Yankee Stadium in 2015 April 22, 2014
    As expected, the New York City Football Club will play its home games in Yankee Stadium during the 2015 season, it was announced. The expansion Major League Soccer franchise was unable to build a stadium of their own, so they will play in the Bronx for the time being. The Yankees co-own the team along […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogIt’ […]
    Michael Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 60,015 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: