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

  • DotF: GCL Yanks drop decisive Game Three of GCL Finals on final day of minor league season September 2, 2014
    This is the final DotF of the year, folks. The 2014 minor league season is over for all six of the Yankees’ affiliates. The Arizona Fall League season starts on October 7th — the Yankees are sending several high-profile prospects to the desert this year — and the other winter leagues start, well, in the […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogD […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Labor Day Open Thread September 1, 2014
    For the first time since 2005, the Yankees have an off-day on Labor Day. That is kinda weird. Not bad though. It’ll be nice to spend the holiday doing something else besides focusing on baseball. We’ll post any breaking news or whatnot, plus we will have the final DotF of the season later tonight, but […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogLab […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Injury Updates: Tanaka, Ellsbury, Phelps, Beltran September 1, 2014
    The Yankees are off today, and when they regroup at Yankee Stadium for the series opener against the Red Sox tomorrow, there figures to be a bunch of extra players in the clubhouse thanks to expanded rosters. Here are a bunch of injury updates in the meantime, courtesy of Wally Matthews, Ken Rosenthal, George King, […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Y […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Fan Confidence Poll: September 1st, 2014 September 1, 2014
    Record Last Week: 3-4 (29 RS, 22 RA) Season Record: 70-65 (535 RS, 562 RA, 64-71 pythag. record) 9.0 GB in ALE, 3.5 GB of WC Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Red Sox (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Royals (three games, Fri. to Sun.) Top stories from last week: The week started with […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogFan Confidence Po […]
    Michael Axisa
  • DotF: GCL Yanks force Game Three in GCL Finals September 1, 2014
    Just as a heads up, tomorrow will be the final DotF of the season since none of the full season affiliates nor Short Season Staten Island made the postseason. The Arizona Fall League begins in early-October. Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended due to rain in the top of the eighth inning. They’ll finish it tomorrow. […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New Yor […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Sunday Night Open Thread August 31, 2014
    Your browser does not support iframes. Here’s your open thread for the rest of the night. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Indians at the Royals (T.J. House vs. Danny Duffy), which, uh, I guess is a good matchup to hide on a holiday weekend. I know Kansas City is contending, but geez. Anyway, […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogSunday Nigh […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Yankees acquire Chaz Roe from Marlins for cash considerations August 31, 2014
    The Yankees have acquired right-handed reliever Chaz Roe from the Marlins for cash considerations, the team announced. Chris Cotillo says Roe will likely join the big league team when rosters expand tomorrow. The Yankees will have to clear a 40-man roster spot to accommodate him but that shouldn’t be much of a problem. Roe, 27, […]Post from: River Ave. Blues […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Yankees drop another winnable game, lose series finale 4-3 to Blue Jays August 31, 2014
    Source: FanGraphs Remember when the Yankees won five straight games a week ago? They’ve followed that up by losing two of three to a wildcard competitor in the Tigers and two of three to a struggling Blue Jays team that played themselves out of the race this month. The Yankees have had a knack for […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogYankees […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Game 135: Win the Series August 31, 2014
    The Yankees were one-hit for the first time in five years yesterday, but they still have a chance to take this series from the Blue Jays this afternoon. There’s an off-day tomorrow and then rosters expand, so grab this win, get some rest, then add some new players. Nice and easy. Here is the Blue […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogGame 135 […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Rosenthal: Yankees unlikely to call up Jacob Lindgren in September August 31, 2014
    Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are unlikely to call up left-handed reliever and 2014 second round pick Jacob Lindgren in September due to workload and 40-man roster concerns. The team acquired Josh Outman on Thursday to upgrade over Rich Hill and add more lefty depth. Outman joins David Huff as Joe Girardi‘s two southpaw options […]Post from: River Ave. Blue […]
    Michael Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 60,395 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: