Less than a week remains until what was supposed to be Opening Day for the 2020 Chicago Cubs, and the rest of MLB, for that matter. It’s getting increasingly difficult to avoid getting down in the dumps about the fact that we don’t know when we’re going to have Cubs baseball back in our lives.
Knowing that there will be several more weeks of these doldrums, I’ve found myself looking for a fix in other ways. As I write this, I’m watching a replay of game one of the 2016 NLDS on Marquee Sports Network after listening to this morning’s Cubs Related Podcast, which provided a retrospective of that very game.
There’s still more time to fill, though, and not all of it can be consumed by coverage of one team. If you’re looking for some quality reading to keep you engaged with baseball over the coming months, I hope the following books fit your bill.
The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment in Building a New Kind of Baseball Team by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
I don’t identify as someone who is into the minor leagues, per se. I know the Cubs’ top prospects, sure, but I’ll never be able to hang with the prospect geeks in terms of what they know about the mid- and low-level talent across multiple systems. So for years, I passed on The Only Rule Is It Has to Work because it wasn’t even about the affiliated minor leagues. Rather, it focuses exclusively on the independent Sonoma Stompers.
Let me tell you, that was a mistake. Lindbergh and Miller, both of Effectively Wild podcast fame, created a wildly entertaining book about the application of out-of-the-box, sabermetric thinking and the wide array of characters involved in this country’s lowest levels of baseball.
My Cubs: A Love Story by Scott Simon
I may not be a minor league guy, but I am unabashedly an NPR guy. I’ll let you decide what that says about me. Simon manages to provide an entertaining and endearing look at the Cubs through history, or at least, his own history. The focus shifts to 2016 as the book continues, but Simon manages to give a lighthearted voice-of-the-fan perspective on the Cubs teams of his lifetime.
I found myself reflecting on my own experiences of various moments of Cubs history compared to his and generally found it to be a fun, easy read.
Ed. note: If you happen to to be interested in a second endorsement of this book, CI’s Evan Altman wrote a review once upon a time.
The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik
There’s no better way to understand the ways in which the game has evolved over the last five years or so than reading The MVP Machine. While a significant amount of shine has worn off of the Houston Astros, who get star billing here as a model franchise, Lindbergh and Sawchik still manage to give readers an informative glance into the kind of things that have made baseball’s best teams successful over the last several years.
The Cubs are mostly absent, but their string of analytics-focused hires this past offseason gives hope that the organization is catching back up to how the game’s elite franchises operate.
For my money, this is the definitive work on the 2016 Chicago Cubs, who, as people frequently forget, won the World Series. Managing to be both informative and nostalgic, it’s impossible for a Cubs fan to read The Cubs Way and be anything but pumped up throughout the process.
As is often the case in near-sighted championship retrospectives, Verducci probably over-hypes the team’s continued success. Even so, he manages to paint an enlightening picture of our all-time favorite team. If any book on this list is a must-read for Cubs fans, it is definitively this one.
That’s it, that’s the list. Got any other recommendations? Please leave them in the comments section below.