Pretty good book, but lacked the quality GIFs necessary to make it a bestseller.
When it was revealed that Jeff Blair was set to publish a book on four decades of Blue Jays baseball, it was seen as the cherry on top of a perfect off-season for Blue Jays fans. The release of the book has been kind of a mess. There’s been been confusion over the release date, April 5th, and the lack of marketing hasn’t helped with that. Blair himself was under the impression a month ago the book wasn’t coming out until this week. My local Chapters had 56 copies of Full Count sitting in a box in their storage room and I had to fight (read: beg) someone to let me buy a copy. That can’t be good for book sales.
While it’s possible that the book was quickly pushed through to publication in order to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the 2013 Jays, it’s a tribute to the quality of Blair’s writing that the book never feels like it was rushed.
Four decades of Blue Jays baseball are indeed mentioned in Full Count but more accurately, Blair really starts up where Stephen Brunt left off in Diamond Dreams (the strike-shortened 1994 season). The first 15 years features some great stories from Paul Beeston, but mostly those years are used to not-so-subtly point to Alex Anthopoulos as the heir to Pat Gillick’s “Doing It The Right Way” crown, as the man who will eventually lead the Jays to the promised land– a major theme throughout Full Count.
There is, of course, a couple of chapters on the World Series Championship teams of 1992 and 1993. Blair absolutely shines in his retelling of Roberto Alomar’s franchise-altering home run off of Dennis Eckersley in game 4 of the ’92 ALCS. It’s the kind of storytelling, full of context, that allows the reader to fully capture the greatness of the moment.
The meat of the book, however, is written on the 20 mediocre years that followed the Blue Jays’ last playoff appearance: Gord Ash and his years with a few excellent individual players, the sale of the Jays to Rogers, the Riccardi era, and finally AA and the bumps along the way that lead to THE trade.
Blair expertly crafts interviews with all the major players over this span into a compelling story that makes all the Oral Histories that are currently in vogue seem lazy. His in-depth look at Ted Rogers and the inner-workings and motives of the Rogers corporation as owners of the Blue Jays is especially intriguing. But it is Blair’s balanced treatment of the polarizing J.P. Riccardi that stands out in the book. The criticism of how J.P. handled his players, staff and the media is there, but so are J.P’s successes. Most importantly, the reader gets a feel for the complexities of running a sports franchise.
The book isn’t perfect. The attention given to baseball in Canada, and Lawrie in particular, in the introduction and final chapter of Full Count, though somewhat interesting, seem out of place. At times, because Blair is trying to connect the dots for new Blue Jays fans, it did feel like the reader was being talked to instead of part of the conversation. And if I never have to read about the Farrell saga again, I’ll feel pretty good about how my life turned out.
As a Jays fan, having this kind of reporting to go through is nothing but fun. There are so many fascinating rumours (the ‘93 Jays went after Randy Johnson?? Whaaat!), needed reminders (Carlos Delgado was mind blowingly good) and odd tidbits (AA only made $38,500 in his first year as AGM of the Jays? That’s nuts!). How many fans of other teams get to read a history of their team’s down years written by one of the best sports columnists in the country?
Throughout the book, while writing about almost 20 years of mediocrity, all the hurdles and missteps and bad luck, Blair is constantly pointing to the messiah that is Anthopoulos and this 2013 team. His positive view of the current team and belief that AA is making the right decisions is contagious.
I put Full Count down, excited for the season to come. I wish I had read it in beginning of April, when it apparently came out.
For those interested, Opera Bobs tweeted out yesterday that they’re holding a book launch for Full Count tonight at 6:00pm.
Thanks to Dave Burrows for the post. I repeat, this is a guest post.