Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Did Mariano Rivera really call the old Yankee Stadium 'a loud and frenzied cauldron of pinstriped passion'?

There was a rather spirited discussion on my Facebook page yesterday regarding my Squawk about Mariano Rivera's new book, and about the great Robinson Cano/Dustin Pedroia debate. I also noticed something my friend, popular author Jerome Preisler (see his Amazon page), said on his own Facebook page. He had gotten to read an e-sampler of "The Closer," and didn't think that Wayne Coffey had captured Rivera's voice. And after reading some of the quotes and an excerpt from the book, I completely agree. Coffey did a great job with R.A. Dickey's book, which is one of the best baseball books I have ever read. This one, not so much, if the quotes show what  Mo's book is about. Very disappointing.

Here is the most cringeworthy passage that I have seen so far, of Rivera talking about the new Yankee Stadium vs. the old one:
"It doesn't hold noise, or home-team fervor, anywhere near the way the old place did," he said. "The old Stadium was our 10th man -- a loud and frenzied cauldron of pinstriped passion, with a lot of lifers in the stands. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's hard to see that the new place can ever quite duplicate that."
While I mostly agree with the sentiment (but also think that some of the lack of noise is due to the changing fanbase, not just the stadium itself) I don't think for a minute that Rivera said that exact quote. That is sportswriter speak, not real-life speak. Not only does Mo not talk like that, but most people don't. Except for florid sportswriters like Coffey.

Not to mention the bizarre digression in the book discussing the greatest second baseman ever. According to the ESPN article about the tome, "Rivera cites Roberto Alomar and former teammate Chuck Knoblauch as second basemen he'd consider alongside Cano in the debate over the best at the position." Knoblauch? Really? Not only was he in the Mitchell Report, but he had to stop being a second basemen in what should have been the prime of his career because he couldn't make the throw to first anymore (Remember when he accidentally hit Keith Olbermann's mother in the stands?) Knoblauch is a sad story, but he doesn't even belong in any part of the discussion of the best second basemen ever. And the fact that Rivera included him makes me question Mo's judgment a little.

Anyhow, when a publisher releases information about a book's contents, they should leave you wanting to purchase the book, not leaving you scratching your head why nobody seemed to realize that Mo's "voice" in the book sounds nothing like him. What should be a poignant excerpt -- Rivera talking about his difficult childhood -- is flawed because it just doesn't sound like the way Mo talks.

In retrospect, as Jerome and I discussed on Facebook. Rivera and Coffey would have been better taking their time with this book, instead of doing such a rush job. Did they think people would so quickly forget the greatest closer of all time? If they had spent, say, six months to a year more on this, or even just waited for time and perspective before putting pen to paper, they had the material with Rivera's life to make what could have been a great book. Instead, they pushed out a book with groaners like "a loud and frenzied cauldron of pinstriped passion" and fomented controversy for no reason with the stuff on Cano. They should have had more confidence in Rivera's story and given him the type of great book that his career warranted. A dignified one.

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