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

  • Mateo, Sanchez, Judge rank among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects February 13, 2016
    Prospect season continued last night as Baseball America announced their annual top 100 prospects list. Dodgers SS Corey Seager sat in the top spot — he was the No. 1 prospect on every top 100 list this year — with Twins OF Byron Buxton and Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada behind him in the top […] The post Mateo, Sanchez, Judge rank among Baseball America’s top 100 […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Weekend Open Thread February 13, 2016
    Your browser does not support iframes.This is the final weekend open thread of the offseason (!) and I feel kinda bad I don’t have any links to pass along, but I was out of town these last few days and didn’t have much time to read. Instead I’ll pass along this Dave Cameron post explaining […] The post Weekend Open Thread appeared first on River Avenue Blues […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Rosenthal: Yankees, Aroldis Chapman avoid arbitration with $11.325M deal February 12, 2016
    6:43pm ET: The Yankees have announced the one-year deal with Chapman, so it’s official. 6:39pm ET: The Yankees and Aroldis Chapman have avoided arbitration with a one-year contract worth $11.325M, reports Ken Rosenthal. The two sides were scheduled to go to a hearing next Friday. Chapman filed for $13.1M while the team countered with $9M, […] The post Rosent […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Heyman: Chapman’s arbitration hearing set for Feb. 19th February 12, 2016
    According to Jon Heyman, Aroldis Chapman‘s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 19th, one week from today. He filed for a $13.1M salary last month while the Yankees countered with $9M. “If you can’t make a deal, someone else makes it for you,” said Brian Cashman to Brendan Kuty. The Yankees have not been to […] The post Heyman: Chapman’s arbitration […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Spring Notes: Tanaka, Sabathia, A-Rod, Castro, Nova, Davis February 12, 2016
    Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Spring Training in just six days. Many — or most, it seems — are already in Tampa though, so some early camp notes are starting to trickle in. This is good. I am ready for baseball. Here’s a roundup of recent news and notes from Tampa. Tanaka […] The post Spring Notes: Tanaka, Sabathia, A-Rod, Castro, Nova, Davis ap […]
    Mike Axisa
  • RAB Live Chat February 12, 2016
    The post RAB Live Chat appeared first on River Avenue Blues.
    Mike Axisa
  • 2016 Preseason Top 30 Prospects February 12, 2016
    For the first time in a very long time, the Yankees relied heavily on their farm system last season. Every time a need arose, the team opted for an internal solution and rarely went outside the organization. Eighteen different players made their big league debut with the Yankees last summer. Eighteen! Some were top prospects […] The post 2016 Preseason Top 3 […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Mailbag: Roark, Badenhop, Tanaka, Kaprielian, Guerrero February 12, 2016
    Eleven questions in the mailbag this week. I’ve gotta say, there weren’t many great questions in the inbox this week. Hopefully pitchers and catchers reporting next week will inspire everyone. Anyway, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send any mailbag questions. Brooks asks: What would it take for the Yankees to get […] The post Mailbag: Roark, […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankees outright Lane Adams to Triple-A February 12, 2016
    The Yankees have outrighted outfielder Lane Adams to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. He has been invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player. The Yankees will now have 26 non-roster players in camp. Adams, 26, was claimed off waivers from the Royals last month, then designated for assignment last week when the Yankees hilariously […] The post Ya […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Thursday Night Open Thread February 12, 2016
    You may have seen this by now, but if not, John Harper spoke to Brian Cashman, who broke down the Yankees’ offseason. He talks in detail about the trades they did make, and also discussed some other stuff that didn’t work out. I recommend giving that link a good old clickin’. Here is tonight’s open […] The post Thursday Night Open Thread appeared first on Ri […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 61,364 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: