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Audio Book Review: The Cubs Way by Tom VerducciThe Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci
Published by PRH Audio on March 28th 2017
Length: 12 hrs and 52 mins
Format: Audiobook
Genres: Non Fiction, Sports
Source: Penguin Random House Audio
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four-stars

With inside access and reporting, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer and FOX Sports analyst Tom Verducci reveals how Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon built, led, and inspired the Chicago Cubs team that broke the longest championship drought in sports, chronicling their epic journey to become World Series champions.
It took 108 years, but it really happened. The Chicago Cubs are once again World Series champions.
How did a team composed of unknown young players and supposedly washed-up veterans come together to break the Curse of the Billy Goat? Tom Verducci, twice named National Sportswriter of the Year and cowriter of The Yankee Years with Joe Torre, will have full access to team president Theo Epstein, manager Joe Maddon, and the players to tell the story of the Cubs' transformation from perennial underachievers to the best team in baseball.
Beginning with Epstein's first year with the team in 2011, Verducci will show how Epstein went beyond "Moneyball" thinking to turn around the franchise. Leading the organization with a manual called "The Cubs Way", he focused on the mental side of the game as much as the physical, emphasizing chemistry as well as statistics.
To accomplish his goal, Epstein needed manager Joe Maddon, an eccentric innovator, as his counterweight on the Cubs' bench. A man who encourages themed road trips and late-arrival game days to loosen up his team, Maddon mixed New Age thinking with Old School leadership to help his players find their edge.
The Cubs Way takes listeners behind the scenes, chronicling how key players like Rizzo, Russell, Lester, and Arrieta were deftly brought into the organization by Epstein and coached by Maddon to outperform expectations. Together, Epstein and Maddon proved that clubhouse culture is as important as on-base percentage and that intangible components like personality, vibe, and positive energy are necessary for a team to perform to their fullest potential.
Verducci chronicles the playoff run that culminated in an instant classic Game Seven. He takes a broader look at the history of baseball in Chicago and the almost supernatural element to the team's repeated loses that kept fans suffering but also served to strengthen their loyalty.
The Cubs Way is a celebration of an iconic team and its journey to a World Championship that fans and listeners will cherish for years to come.

How do you objectively review an audiobook about a subject you’ve waited your entire life to experience? How do you take a thing like the Chicago Cubs finally, dramatically, and perhaps unbelievably winning the World Series after 108 agonizing years and write an analysis of The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci as a piece of work independent of the oh-so-personal and meaningful relationship I have with the Cubs? Not easily, thank you very much.

The Cubs Way published in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats on March 28 chronicles the Chicago Cubs’ historic path to the 2016 World Series Championship with a scrutinous detail that only an insider like Tom Verducci could. Verducci, a Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer and FOX Sports analyst, describes the Cubs rise beginning with the hiring of former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein as Cubs’ President of Baseball Operation and ending with the epic Game 7 between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. All seven games of the 2016 World Series frame the narrative of The Cubs Way. The in-between chapters make up the bulk of the book and are incredibly analytical and descriptive.

Verducci’s enthusiasm and expertise throughout The Cubs Way are evident in the narrative portions of the book, (there are moments when he describes his perspective during World Series games and interactions between himself and a few of the players,) but it often veers extremely “inside baseball” at times. The book takes moments to provide a brief biography and narrative on nearly every member of the twenty-five-man roster as well as extensive histories of both manager Joe Maddon and Epstein. These sections are a delight. Then things get complicated. Even the most casual baseball fans understand batting average and pitcher ERA, but when Verducci describes pitch selection, ball rotation rate, scouting metrics and defense schemes, The Cubs Way starts to feel a little exclusive.

For the die-hard baseball lover and heart-on-your-sleeve Cubs fan, the minutiae of how Eptstein, GM Jed Hoyer, and the rest of the Cubs operation engineered an industry standard scouting and player development machine and won the most elusive championship in sports, The Cubs Way is a gem. It is as specific and detailed as the subject matter warrants. However, as dense as it is, and at nearly thirteen hours (384 pages,) it is not for casual readers/listeners. By now there are already four or five books about the Cubs’ championship that are much more palatable for the casual fan.

That said, I’m not a casual fan. So how do you write an objective review of The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci? You can’t. You’ll either love it, like I did, or give it a few chapters and find something shorter.

Note on the audiobook: The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse audiobook is narrated by the author, Tom Verducci. A FOX Sports employee, Verducci has a great voice for baseball analysis. His enthusiasm for the subject matter is infectious. Some of the more detail-laden chapters might work better in print; sports statistics are meant to be glanced, compared, and digested slowly. The audiobook format makes this difficult. It’s always fun to hear the author read his or her own work, but this book is meant for print.

 


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four-stars