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The Bad Guys Won!

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Jeff Pearlman

<p>In <b>The Bad Guys Won</b>, award-winning former <em>Sports Illustrated</em> baseball writer Jeff Pearlman returns to an innocent time when a city worshipped a man named Mookie and the Yankees were the second-best team … see full wiki

Author: Jeff Pearlman
Genre: Sports & Recreation
Publisher: Harpercollins
Date Published: May 01, 2005
1 review about The Bad Guys Won!

Booze, Brawls, Busts, and Baseball

  • Nov 27, 2009
Rating:
+3
Pros: Portrays ballplayers back when they actually had fun, dammit!

Cons: Several members of this team were during the season...

The Bottom Line: Was this the best team ever? Maybe. Did they have the most fun? Definitely!

The New York Mets caught a very bad break. The team began play in 1962, when they concluded the regular season with more losses than any other team in modern baseball history. But time and seasons marched on by, and by any standard the Amazin' Mets haven't done badly - five division titles, four pennants, and two MLB titles have done the team's fan base proud. The problem is they play in New York City, and New York City baseball carries with it a lot more pressure than just ANY old standard. It's bad enough the Mets have to compete with the mighty Yankees (with their 16 division titles, 40 pennants, and 27 championships) for the capitol of the world's affections. But the whole reason the Mets were founded was to replace both the Brooklyn Dodgers AND the New York Giants, departed ball dynamos who, as of this date, now hold a combined 17 division titles, 41 pennants, and 11 World Series trophies. The Mets' owners, instead of trying to establish a separate identity, have decided to cling to New York City's NL past as much as possible. The Mets' logo is the old Giants logo, and their color scheme incorporates both Giant orange and Dodger blue.

  Gee, no pressure there. 

The problem with people who talk about the Mets is that they're always comparing them to the Jints and the Bums, which really isn't fair because it holds them up to a standard which most other teams wouldn't reach in an entire century. The yearly expectations for the Mets are absurdly high. Saying their fans expect a lot from them would put me into contention for understatement of the year. Yet, there have been years when the Mets have soared above and beyond even their most diehard fans' wildest dreams. In 1969, they plowed down a Chicago Cubs team which seemed destined for its first pennant since 1945 and ultimately beat the Baltimore Orioles juggernaut in the Fall Classic.

 Then there was 1986. In 1986, the Mets fielded what was unquestionably one the the greatest squads in baseball history. All the 1986 New York Mets knew how to do was win. So all they did was win. A lot. They won close, hard-fought squeakers of games. They won blowouts in which the poor opposing soul on the rubber was merely batting practice. They ran away with their division. They ran away with the best record in baseball, with a whopping 108 wins. They capped off the season with a hotly fought National League Championship contest against the Houston Astros. They thrilled fans in the World Series with an unexpected, bottom-of-the-ninth comeback in game six and clinched the title in the following game. And they swaggered, bragged, partied, drank, and backed it all up the whole time. For one glorious year, it was the Mets and not the Yankees who were simultaneously the most loved and hated team in baseball. 

 Thanks to Jeff Pearlman, we now have a chronicle of the most Amazin' Mets team in history, pun VERY intended. In the introduction of the book, Pearlman subtly implies that he chose the 1986 Mets as the subject of his first book because he was disillusioned with how corporate baseball teams had become. He had been raised with the idea that Ball Four and The Bronx Zoo were accurate accounts of any given locker room. But after performing a bit of research for a Sports Illustrated article about the wild, zany Oakland Athletics revealed a team of corporate, lifeless drones, Pearlman decided to take a trip down Nostalgia Lane to write about a time when ballplayers acted like Motley Crue members. 

 The 1986 title came with a hint of irony. The Executive Vice President of the 1969 Orioles, Frank Cashen, was also the General Manager who built the 1986 Mets. Cashen took the job to build a team and not just apply a few band-aids. It was Cashen who got the whole crew together - Doc, Straw, Mex, Kid, Nails, and Manager Davey Johnson. (Johnson was another ironic addition because he <em>played</em> for the 1969 Baltimore Orioles.) When the team came together, they were a group of kids enamored by the New York City nightlife, ruled by a laid back Manager who let them have their way as long as they kept winning. The result was a group of undisciplined wildmen who all seemed to think they were invincible.  

The Bad Guys Won! puts a lot more emphasis on the flippant, defiant attitudes of the Mets players than on their games. This is the only real flaw of The Bad Guys Won! Some details are in there, like the unusual series of events which followed a brawl against the Montreal Expos. But there is a general lack of in-game details. Oddly enough, however, this turns out to work in favor of Pearlman's sarcasm-dripping writing style. Pearlman seems more bent on telling us how the Mets acted than why or how they won, so more details would have been a real hinderance on the book's style. By describing the antics and not placing emphasis on the games, Pearlman is able to keep the read smooth and consistently brisk. It's only in the last few chapters when actual baseball begins to play a factor in the story at large, but this is normal in this type of book. It gives The Bad Guys Won! a dramatic Hollywood apex. 

 Pearlman gives us plenty of information on the backgrounds of most of the players, too. This, along with Pearlman's style, makes most of the characters leap off the page. It also makes most of the players endearing enough to root for even for the most ardent Met-haters out there. Hell, Pearlman even devotes a whole chapter to Bill Buckner, the infamous scapegoat of game six. The background information is important because it provides a glimpse of why many of the players acted the way they acted. Between themselves and the mix of other volatile personalities, someone was always getting on someone else about something. 

 There are few people in The Bad Guys Won! who come off poorly. Even George Foster, the most hated member of the team and the only real outsider on it, is shown a bit of sympathy. But Pearlman is also very objective about the way he portrays them. Darryl Strawberry, for example, is written as a nice guy but a boozer who is a mean drunk. Sid Fernandez is seen as a lovable idiot. Gary Carter is portrayed as a nice religious guy and a guy who cares more about endorsement deals than winning. Davey Johnson comes off as a likable, cool, laid back kinda guy who didn't know HOW to discipline his team and, even if he did, wouldn't because that was the way he acted while playing for the Orioles. 

The Bad Guys Won! takes its sweet time describing some of the more fun scenes from the 1986 Mets. The book uses the enitre first chapter to describe the food fight and the party after the Mets won the pennant - which all took place on an airplane, the damage being so bad the airline banned the team. Pearlman has great fun describing the various pranks the players played on each other, the awful song called <em>Get Metsmerized!</em> which George Foster tried to sell, and the fight in a Houston bar. 

 And that is really the whole point of the book. Jeff Pearlman isn't so much trying to immortalize the greatest season in Mets history here. He's trying to relive a long-dead baseball era, a time when ballplayers were gods who played twice as hard as they worked. The fast pace, sarcasm-laced writing style, and fun antics of the team will make any fan of the Mets want to return to 1986 and get Metsmerized once again with Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, and Davey Johnson all over again.

This review also appears on my OTHER blog, Lit Bases.

Recommended:
Yes

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