Our friends over at Jays from the Couch have decided to get off the couch and write a book. Okay, it’s quite possible that they remained on their couch while writing said book since you can do everything online these days, but I’m sure that they got to the point where they actually had to get off the couch in order to stretch their collective legs and take a pause. Because putting together a book like this is a massive undertaking, even when you’re writing from an enormous couch (that wouldn’t fit in any living room that I know of) that enables no fewer than eight credited writers to sit and work comfortably.
In their Guide to the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays, Shaun Doyle and his writing staff at JFtC pull off a great and informative tome, helping us recap the 2017 season and look forward to the 2018 season with great style and complexity. There are interviews, profiles and opinion pieces, as well as a tribute to Roy “Doc” Halladay and a foreword from the great Jerry Howarth, giving this Guide a start on the right foot.
Doyle and his crew go straight to the top to start the book, giving us an insightful interview with Blue Jays President and CEO, Mark Shapiro. Shapiro talks about the offseason, the minor league system, the status of things in Dunedin, and the art of communicating with the fans in this wide-ranging interview.
A review of the 2017 season follows and then we get another interview with broadcaster Hazel Mae. In this interview, which attempts to give us a different perspective on the club, we read as Mae provides pretty much the company line about injuries and how the team is expected to perform in 2018, but also gives us a few thoughts about preparation from the broadcaster’s perspective.
The book also gives us profiles on the new Blue Jays signed or traded for this offseason, from Grandy to Grichuk (and others), while then providing a primer on advanced stats and looking at each player slated for the Blue Jays in 2018 through the lens of sabermetrics. This section makes up a large chunk of the book, taking us to an interview with Anthony Alford while visions of wOBA and O-swing% dance in our heads.
The next section takes us to the 2018 season, profiling all of the returning players. At this point, the profiles start to be a little bit repetitive, given the 30-page section that profiled each player from a sabermetric perspective that preceded it. This section is even longer (running about 42 pages) and gives much more biographical information than the sabermetrics section.
The next section deals with the future as the Jays from the Couch staff prognosticate and give us some information about the Blue Jays’ farm. It begins with an interview with Ryan Borucki (who I think will probably start games in Toronto this year at some point) and goes into a prediction of a home-grown 2020 lineup. I won’t give it away but it’s fun to imagine! The staff at JFtC examine a brief depth chart (a few players deep at each position) to give you an idea of what’s in the minor league system right now. You’ll learn about Hagen Danner, Yeltsin Gudino, Chavez Young, Justin Maese, Jackson McClelland and more!
The final section of the book is an interesting essay about roster construction. But we don’t know who wrote it. Which brings me my biggest philosophical objection about this book. While we get a ton of useful and interesting information as well as some strong opinions, we don’t know which of the eight credited writers is responsible for each essay or each section or subsection. We don’t know who to praise when there’s a well-written article or who to rail against when we completely disagree with his or her position. Because this book is an anthology (multiple articles/sections written by different writers), the tone and quality of writing vary widely. In my background in academia, the ability to trust a source of writing is of the utmost importance, particularly in the age of “Fake News.” Without knowing the source of the writing of each section in the JFtC Guide to the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays, it’s hard to know how certain sections are meant to be taken. Whose knowledge of sabermetrics are benefiting from? Who is writing about the Jays’ minor league system (and I’m sure you can understand why this is important to someone like me)? While I can guess that a lot of the section on the Jays’ minor league system is by Ryan Mueller, without a byline, we really don’t know.
Aside from my desire to know who is behind the writing of each article and section, the Jays From the Couch Guide to the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays is a very strong debut entry to the field of publishing about the Toronto Blue Jays. They cover all of the ground that is expected in such a publication but also go far beyond by bringing us insights from Mark Shapiro, Hazel Mae, Anthony Alford and Ryan Borucki. I really liked the sabermetrics angle but you don’t have to be a stat-head to learn something from this book; there are some great human interest stories, helping you get to know a couple of the Blue Jays’ minor leaguers better and there’s plenty of information to chew on as the Blue Jays gear up for the 2018 season.
The Jays from the Couch 2018 Guide to the Toronto Blue Jays is available at Amazon.com.
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