A searching portrait of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2013 season, from ESPN Magazine writer Knight.
When the Guggenheim Partners purchased the Dodgers in mid-2012, they paid $2.15 billion for a fixer-upper ball club with a ramshackle stadium to match, its concrete bones as osteoporotic as those of Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. But the firm’s deep pockets would help turn the Dodgers around, on the field, in the front office, in mood, in chemistry, and in paying big for stellar talent. It wouldn’t buy them a World Series, that year or the next, but the talent made for an exciting season, which Knight chronicles with style and discernment. She knows the science of the game, its strange geometry and freakish physics, as well as its history and etiquette. She knows the patois, and she administers it discriminately: a pitch’s deception, the “lack of sock in his swing.” Knight also understands the giddiness and awe experienced by fans throughout the season; each new day is cause for hope, with each blunder—and loss—causing a great ache. Many personalities emerge as the season progresses—e.g., pitching great Clayton Kershaw and odd fellow Yasiel Puig, so culturally oblivious that he “hailed from Cuba but he may as well have been from Mars,” albeit a Martian adept at “smacking home runs and gunning down runners and generally playing like an inspired maniac fans couldn’t take their eyes off.” There’s also general manager Ned Colletti, who “preferred cowboy boots to calculators”—so much for analytics—and “refused to suffer coddled ballplayers.” Throughout the book, the author offers interesting nuggets for baseball fans, from gamesmanship to the bravery of closers to the stage 4 cancer a fat salary or ego can inflict on the clubhouse.
With acumen, Knight delivers an elegant précis of a baseball team’s season, and you don’t have to be a Dodgers fan to enjoy it.