Great Expectations by Shi Davidi and John Lott - a Review

Thursday, November 07 2013 @ 10:25 PM EST

Contributed by: Gerry

I received a copy of the new Davidi/Lott book this week from the publisher for review.  I read it in three days, in part because it is not a very lengthy read, the book is 180 page of print plus 16 pages of photographs, and in part because it is an easy read.

When I first heard that this book was on its way I wondered what kind of book would it be?  There are those books that are essentially diaries of the season, a day by day or week by week summary of the season that was.  Then there are the books that are about the team, the players and staff, more than they are about the season.  These books rely on interesting characters to provide the backbone of the book.  Finally there are the insider exposes, a tell-all of sorts, as in here is what really happened behind the scenes.

I also wondered whether the authors were able to breach the secretive world of the Anthopoulos front office, would he open up for the sake of history?

The answer is the book is not a tell all, it is a part diary of the season and part a detailed look at the key players and their stories.  The book is well written, the flow is good and it does chronicle a disappointing season, disappointing for the fans and presumably for the authors.  As you know I am an in depth follower of the Blue Jays.  For me there was not a lot in the book that I didn't know already.  I have read RA Dickey's book.  I know Jose Bautista comes from a more middle class background than most Dominican players.  I know Brett Lawrie's story and I know that Mark DeRosa was brought in to help tame Lawrie's wilder side.  I know AA's backstory and John Gibbons.  If you know all of these stories then this book might not tell you much that you don't already know.  But if you, or a family friend, is a less devoted follower of the Jays then this book pulls all of the 2013 season and the players and staff together in one place and is a good, well written book.

The early part of the book talks about the end of 2012 and the divorce of John Farrell and the Jays.  There was some interesting discussion in that section, mostly around how through 2012 Farrell and AA were often not on the same page and how in the end AA was not terribly sad to see Farrell leave.

That is followed by the big trade discussions as well the hiring of Gibbons.  The book goes into detail about the close relationship between AA and Gibbons in Gibby's first turn as manager and how AA's eyes grew moist when he recalled Gibby being fired.  Their close relationship explains why there was never any chance that Gibby would be fired after 2013.  One thing that I thought was odd was the book mentions several times how the fans were calling for Gibby to be fired from May on.  I don't listen to call-in shows on the radio so I was surprised to read this again and again.  I never thought those feelings represented anything but the most reactionary fans but Davidi and Lott must have heard it a lot, perhaps on the radio but these days probably as much through Twitter.

The big trade is covered too.  I found it interesting that when the Marlins suggested making the trade bigger than just Josh Johnson the first player AA asked about was Buehrle.  I always thought Buehrle was a salary dump by the Marlins and the Jays hands were forced to take him.  The book also talks how AA held out for Bonifacio and the Marlins held out for Jeff Mathis.

The book moves into the regular season and each chapter is partly about the month, or a set of games, and partly focuses on a player.  An example would be: "The promise of June turned to pessimism in July.  Jose Reyes returned at the end of June from his ankle injury......Reyes grew up in the interior of the Dominican Republic and he was a small kid who first glove was a milk carton."  The biography and reporting are mixed like that throughout the book.

There is a good diversion into Twitter and what it means to players like JPA and Brett Lawrie.  Another interesting section was in the Lawrie biographical section.  Davidi and Lott believe that when Lawrie returned in mid-season he did so finally knowing he had to change his approach at the plate.  He started listening to Mottola and stopped moving his hands so much.  He realised that his 100 mile per hour approach to defense and base running would not work for offense.  Lawrie did hit a lot better in August and it will be interesting to see if that improvement carries forward to 2014.

The book finishes by going through all the possible reasons why the Jays fell short of those great expectations in 2013.  It could have been the WBC, it could have been the large turnover in the roster and the coaching staff, it could have been a relaxed spring training, it could have been all the injuries and it could have been over-confidence, rapidly followed by panic.  But as we know here, there are no definitive answers.

And that is where it ends. Did the Jays learn a lesson that will help them in 2014? Other than that there are no solutions offered for fixing what ailed this team.

Finally, there is no evidence that I could see that AA or his front office staff contributed to the book other than his normal interviews and comments to the press.  There is little inside scoop if you are expecting that. This is a straight up description of the Jays 2013 season, the results, the players, the manager and the GM. If you don't know all of their stories already this book will educate you in a breezy 180 pages.