It probably shouldn't come as any great surprise that Selena Roberts' A-Rod takedown has floundered and fallen off the sales charts, only weeks after its debut.
Last month, we had some time to kill at a Chapters megastore, and being the incorrigible baseball fan that we are, we couldn't help but saunter over to the sports section of the store to see what books we could add to our mounting pile of shamefully unread tomes. What we were met with was depressing enough to make us literally (and I mean literally) recoil and walk away.
The baseball section was a wall that was almost completely filled with books focused on steroids, fallen superstars, and fallen superstars who took steroids. It was more than a little depressing, and it really made us wonder if book publishers truly think that there is such a huge market for these exposés on performance enhancers and their users that they would focus on this one small aspect of the current state of the sport to the absolute exclusion of everything else.
It's not to say that we want to stick our head in the sand and pretend that PEDs are not present or that they are not relevant. But do we really want to spend any more of our time digging into the foibles of Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or José Canseco or Kirk Radomski when we've heard and read so much about them and their disgraced brethern over the past five years that we couldn't possibly stomach anything more?
Some of the best sports writing of all time has been done on the sport of baseball. The game lends itself to poetic and thoughtful discussion, whether if it be on the history of the game, the changes in how we look at the game through statistical analysis, or the endless debates on the relative merits of players and in-game strategies.
That's not to say that you can't have interesting books that look at the impact of steroids and other performance enhancers: Will Carroll's The Juice still stands up as a must-read for anyone who wants to have an informed opinion on what these subastances do (and don't do), and what is their place in the whole baseball dialectic. But what distinguishes Carroll's book from many of the others is that it approaches the topic with a genuine sense of wonder and intellectual curiosity. Most of these other books seem start with the notion that steroids have ruined baseball, then set out to point fingers, assess blame and castigate the players, the game and, ultimately, the fans for being mindlessly complicit in the disintegration and demise of the grand old game.
On the contrary, we've found over the years is that baseball fans, by and large, are contemplative and intellectually curious people who like to dig deeper and learn more about the game. It strikes us that it would take a certain level of self-loathing to sit down and read volume after volume on how the sport that you're passionate about is a cesspool full of frauds.
And so, as we look forward to our summer reading, we plan on digging into our pile of unread books and reading a classic baseball book that truly captures the essence of all that is great in the game: Jim Bouton's Ball Four. We're looking forward to it.