BATS by Davey & Peter Golenbock Johnson

BATS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A querulous, dugout-level log of the New York Mets' near-miss performance during the 1985 baseball season, which suffers by comparison with a similar, wider ranging entry from the club's first baseman, Keith Hernandez (above). During his first two years as field manager, Johnson guided the Mets to a pair of second-place finishes in the National League's Eastern Division. To do so, he had to overcome formidable handicaps. At the start of the 1985 pennant chase, for example, the team had an inexperienced pitching staff and a bench manned largely by untested rookies. Once the season was under way, injuries sidelined or hobbled such key players as Gary Carter, Ray Knight, Darryl Strawberry, and Mookie Wilson. As often as not, moreover, bullpen personnel provided little relief, while usually reliable sluggers like George Foster and Hernandez suffered through lengthy slumps. Johnson, though, takes little evident pleasure in his accomplishments with a club that finished 1983 in the league cellar. Indeed, every silver lining seems to have had a cloud for him. Complimented by general manager Frank Cashen for a good job in an important 5-3 win over the San Diego Padres, the touchy Johnson wonders whether his boss is unhappy with the way he handles other games. Also eyed with varying degrees of suspicion are official scorers, umpires, inquisitive sportswriters, and superstars who won't play in pain. Apparently, one of the few people and things that failed to drive Johnson bats during his long campaign to keep the Mets in contention was starter Dwight Gooden, whose 1985 won/lost record was a dazzling 24-4. Most of last season's larger issues--e.g., revelations of drug abuse, a brief players' strike, and the installation of a new commissioner--are all but lost in Johnson's narrowly focused account of his squad's abortive effort to overtake the St. Louis Cardinals for a divisional championship. In short, a parallax view whose attention to mean-spirited, exculpatory detail limits its appeal to confirmed fans of the Mets.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1986
ISBN: 1429663596
Publisher: Putnam