So I just finished reading John Feinstein's newest baseball book, Living on the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams, One Season to Remember.
The two pitchers in question are none other than lefty Tom Glavine and righty Mike Mussina. But don't let the title fool you, the book is mostly about Glavine.
Glavine and his emotional dealings with leaving Atlanta. Glavine and his journey to rediscover how to pitch on the inside part of the plate. And, most central to the book, Glavine and his journey to get to "the number which will not be named."
The whole tale is an examination of the 2007 Major League season from the perspective of two of the winningest, not to mention, most intelligent, pitchers in the league. And frankly, given the seasons put together by both the Mets and the Yankees, the drama there could have been enough to fill several books.
Feinstein had me convinced by page30 that Moose and Tommy were without a doubt two of the most cerebral pitchers in the game, but also two of the most sincere.
From Tommy's perspective the year could not have gone better for him and his Mets. They had tanked down the stretch the year before, but with everyone returning and a pitching staff led by Glavine, newcomer John Maine and wunderkind Oliver Perez, the Mets figured to be a sure-fire bet to make it to the playoffs, especially when they surged to an insurmountable lead after the All-Star break.
During the regular season, Glavine has possibly the most underrated season of any pitcher in 2007. Yeah, he only went 13-8, and struck out not even 100, and yes he finished with an ERA of 4.45, but he finished near the top of the league in quality starts and save for a few bad games, kept his team in nearly every single game.
Feinstein's depiction of his race to 300 wins and the joy of all when he finally got there are one of the books many highlights.
While Glavine's season was filled with highlights, Mussina's was filled with turmoil and disappointment. He started the season in perfect health, feeling as great as he had in years, only to see his body let him down.
Injuries plagued him for most of the first-half, and when he finally returned to the rotation he was so bad, that manager Joe Torre moved him to the bullpen to make room for rookie phenoms Phil Hughes and "that Kennedy kid."
One of the best parts of Feinstein's work is the self-analysis recorded by Mussina on his own pitching. Having attended Stanford, Moose is clearly no slouch at observation, but his attention to detail and no-nonsense style provide the book with most of it's Moose-related high lights. Moose's quest to get to 250 wins is just as fun to build up to as Glavine's 300.
Unless you've had you're head stuck in the sand for the past two years, you all know how the 2007 season ended up for the Mets, and reading first-hand, eyewitness accounts of the Met's "collapse," for lack of a better, more attributable word, gives you more insight to what really happened and how it happened.
Feinstein was quite a lucky guy to catch both these pitchers on such a interesting year, and honestly, he could not have found two better subjects to study. The book is quite the read, best baseball book I have read in some time, and definitely worth your time and $18.50.