Playing for a Winner

How Baseball Teams’ Success Raises Players’ Reputations

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SKU: 9781476665382 Categories: ,

About the Book

“He never felt like a Hall of Famer.” “You can’t argue with championships.” “If he was so good, why were his teams so bad?”
On talk shows and in sports bars, statements like these are often made about both underrated and overrated players. It’s generally accepted that being in a bigger market or on a winning team can cause a player to be overrated, while the opposite can leave them underrated. Examining pennant races to show how much attention a team receives and which teams are getting the most attention provides a context to this familiar commentary. This book studies the effects of the sports media spotlight (and its absence) on the fortunes of teams in pennant races and Hall of Fame inductees. Along the way, the author brings to light accomplished players most non-fans have probably never heard of.

About the Author(s)

Brandon Isleib is a legislation editor for the City of Seattle. He maintains baseballspotlight.com and has written about baseball for The Hardball Times and Baseball Prospectus. He lives in Tukwila, Washington.

Bibliographic Details

Brandon Isleib
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 392
Bibliographic Info: notes, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6538-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2701-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vii

Foreword by Craig Calcaterra 1

Preface 5

Introduction 7

— Part I —

Momentum, Statistics and Numbers

 1. Bird, Plane or Dynasty? 9

 2. The Math of Perception 11

 3. Momentum, Spotlight and SpWAR 17

 4. SpWAR and the Hall of Fame 24

 5. The Most Famous Players 35

 6. Baseball in the Dark: The Best Players Outside the Spotlight 66

— Part II —

Momentum, Seasons and Narratives

 7. The Early Narrative, 1871–1900 76

 8. A Permanent Rival Emerges, 1901–1917 100

 9. A Call to Arms and an Arms Race, 1918–1934 128

10. The ­Post-Ruth Era, 1935–1951 155

11. The Yankees and Dodgers, 1952–1968 183

12. Divisions of Labor, 1969–1981 212

13. A ­Post-Strike World, 1982–1993 243

14. Playing Your Wild Cards Right, 1994–2002 276

15. No Change but Steroids, 2003–2011 304

16. The Last (?) Changes, 2012–2015 335

17. Modern Playoffs: Better for Fans, Worse for Everyone Else 351

Chapter Notes 355

Index 367

Book Reviews & Awards

“does something no other baseball book that I am aware of has ever done: it seeks to quantify the way in which media coverage impacts a player’s fame and, in turn, his Hall of Fame chances. I’m recommending it because it’s a fascinating new way to look at players’ legacies…a fresh and rewarding look at baseball history which sheds light onto some of the historical conundrums we still argue about today”—NBC Sports.