Book Review: The Bad Guys Won

Doesn’t this cover just make you excited?

I found The Bad Guys Won at the thrift store, and for three bucks, I had to pick it up. I’ve been a Mets fan since before I can even remember, like my father and grandfather before me. My dad doesn’t even really like baseball (“it’s too slow!”), but he likes the Mets. We’re tried-and-true Mets fans, that special bunch that dislikes the Yankees just because they’re the Yankees (and because they win all the time, and because they’re kind of jerks, etc).

If you do the math, you’ll realized I wasn’t yet born for the 1986 season. I haven’t seen my baseball team win a World Series, although I watched them crumble in the Subway Series in 2000 and lived through those rough few years where we collapsed in September and missed the playoffs in the last weekend of the regular season. And for the last few years, I’ve followed the post-Madoff drama. I’ve lived through Mets teams that seem to have fun, but aren’t successful. I don’t know what it’s like to root for a team with swagger, with big personalities and the talent to back up their outrageous promises of winning it all.

(That being said, this year seems to be going pretty well excluding this losing streak. People are talking about the Mets without much disdain, and they’re having a good time and winning. Pitching is consistent, offense is getting there, it’s finally an exciting time to be a Mets fan again. For the time being.)

I think, it retrospect, I wouldn’t have been very fond of the players on the ’86 Mets. After all, don’t they embody all that I dislike about the Yankees now? But as Pearlman points out, baseball was different “back in the day”, so maybe I’d feel different if I’d lived through it. You could be loud and raucous and show your true self. No bland press conferences, no canned responses to reporters’ questions. It wasn’t about “they played a good game, the better team won, etc. etc.”, it was “we should have won because we’re ten times better and we have the balls to say it”.

Ok, so about the book itself. Pearlman did a great job of dividing up his time between the members of the team. There were a lot of loudmouths and a lot of issues (drugs, personal life and otherwise), and I’m sure it was difficult to balance all of those stories. The first few chapters served as a great setup, establishing why the Mets were so awful in the years before, and what the management did to fix it. Bringing in Keith Hernandez, a star big enough to make it in New York City, was a start. Cultivating a young pitching staff and a deep bench of position players helped them along too. The contrast served as a perfect backdrop for the saga of the ’86 season.

I knew a good amount about the players, especially the big names (you don’t listen to Hernandez and Ron Darling in the broadcast booth without picking up a few tidbits), but there was so much I didn’t know. No worries, Pearlman gathered an ample amount of quotes and anecdotes. Whether directly from the players, or from the management and even equipment staff, he left no base untouched.

Despite the fact that you know the story’s ending (spoiler alert: The Mets won the 1986 World Series), it’s a read that keeps you turning the pages. The writing is exactly what the subject calls for: a little blunt with hints of admiration. It’s probably not a book for those that just don’t like baseball (do those exist?), but you don’t need to be a Mets fan to enjoy it. My only gripe is that after the world series, the epilogue comes too quickly afterwards. I would have liked a little more time spent on the aftermath, why the team didn’t become a dynasty, and what their victory meant to the history of baseball. Alas, that’s not what Pearlman set out to write about, so I’ll let him off the hook.

I’ll leave you with this awesome music video. If this doesn’t entice you to read The Bad Guys Won, nothing will.

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