Dave Winfield, Hall of Fame outfielder for the Padres, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Twins, and Indians and now a Padres executive, decided that baseball had a lot of problems. And he had some ideas on how to fix them. And he spends a little over 200 pages writing (or having Levin write them out for him) about the problems and trying to fix them.
For the most part, Winfield doesn’t come up with any problem that most baseball fans haven’t heard of: the players are disconnected from the fans, the game isn’t marketed well, kids don’t want to play baseball, African-American kids really don’t want to play the game, players don’t do the “little things” anymore.
While it’s clear that Winfield feels passionately about these issues, I would have thought he would have had a little bit more insight into the game’s problems. But there’s nothing here that is groundbreaking, although that’s not what Winfield is trying to achieve.
Winfield’s plan to fix baseball is called “Baseball United” and like the name implies it involves getting management and players working together more closely and in a less antagonistic manner. There are also plans to make the game more popular with kids by improving youth coaching and encouraging more unstructured play.
The best idea Winfield has is the creation of what he calls “Jackie Robinson Grants”, which would be corporate sponsored scholarships for inner-city youths to play baseball, which has severely limited scholarships in the NCAA. This may be a worthy idea, but I think the NCAA might be hesitant to allow it, especially after other sports wonder why they can’t do it (e.g. golf and tennis) and also Title IX restrictions would require a comparable program for women’s sports.
The book comes with an endorsement by none other than George Steinbrenner, or at least a PR person for Steinbrenner. The book jacket also uses this description, “Urbane and entertaining, this is a trenchant, thought-provoking, and uplifting analysis of what can be done…” Apparently the publisher believes that if you use a lot of adjectives, more people will buy the book. At least that's my belief in my planned novel "The Giant, Incredible, Super-Nice, Friendly Book Reviewer Who Thought That His Big, White, Super-cool Automobile Could Save The Endangered Green Planet from Destruction."
The Amazon.com entry contains a review by ghostwriter Levin himself, which seems a bit odd. But he likes the book! What a surprise!
I wish I had Levin’s enthusiasm for the book. But it all seems like a lot of filler. Winfield obviously loves the game of baseball and wants to do something good for it. But I don’t think a 200-page book was needed to explain a 6-page theory. And I don’t know if Dave Winfield were playing today, he would be the guy being asked to hit behind runners or lay down bunts (he had 19 sacrifices in his career). I never realized that I had finally gotten old enough that I player whose whole career I remembered would write a book bemoaning how today’s players aren’t as good as his generation. Man, I’m old.