clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Pinstriped Bible Rides Again

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

He's just kidding: Criticizing Mariano would be like taking shots at the flag.(Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)
He's just kidding: Criticizing Mariano would be like taking shots at the flag.(Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

I began this post at roughly 7 am on the morning of June 28. It is, by coincidence, both my son's seventh birthday and my 12th wedding anniversary. On my left hand is a copy of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, a scattering of CDs, including "The Who Sings My Generation" (their first album), Hüsker Dü's "Zen Arcade," and a collection of classical pieces by Felix Mendelssohn. On my right hand are DVDs of "It Happened One Night," Yankees 1996 World Series highlights, a box set of Randolph Scott westerns, and photographs of Babe Ruth, Hank Greenberg, Casey Stengel, and my family. Welcome to my world.

Today is obviously an important day for me, and not just because of these personal milestones (or because I might finally get around to watching "The Tall T") but because today the Pinstriped Bible comes to SBN.

For those of you that I am fortunate enough to be meeting for the first time: Hi, I'm Steve. I've been writing about the Yankees and baseball pretty much continuously since the late 1990s. I started out doing profiles for Yankees Magazine, moved on to writing what would eventually become the Pinstriped Bible, and along the way wrote a biography of one of my Yankees heroes, the manager Casey Stengel. At around the same time, I was invited to become an author at Baseball Prospectus and eventually hung around long enough to become the Editor-in-Chief and be part of a whole bunch of books, most recently Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers. I have also written most of the Yankees commentary for the last eight Baseball Prospectus annuals.

During that time, the Pinstriped Bible rolled on. I was raised as a Yankees fan, my family having ancient roots in the Bronx. As my grandmother followed Babe Ruth and my mother followed Mickey Mantle, I cheered for Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph, and Don Mattingly. The blog, which actually predated the general usage of the term "blog," had a few different hosts over the years before coming to reside with the YES network back in that network's earliest days. There it has remained ever since... until now.

What's the Pinstriped Bible All About, Anyway?
Among the aforementioned items on my desk is a framed quote from the 19th century evolutionary biologist Thomas Henry Huxley: "Skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin." That nicely sums up the philosophy of the Pinstriped Bible. This desktop companion to the adventures of the New York Yankees began under a different title in 1999. "Pinstriped Bible" came about a year later. The name was one of dozens I made up at random when a new title was needed, but over time I realized that it was the perfect appellation. If the actual Bible is an argument for how to lead a moral life, then the Pinstriped Bible is an argument as to how to build and maintain a winning baseball team.

For me, that argument begins in skepticism, in questioning every assumption about player value and strategic decisions, every myth about RBI-men and clutch hitting, and even poking a stick at sacred cows such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. I seem to have also spent a disproportionate amount of my adult life writing about players such as Tony Womack, Clay Bellinger, Enrique Wilson, Ruben Sierra, and Xavier Nady. I love on-base percentage, damn it, but traditional media types, quite often including team broadcasters, love to heap the mythology on players who don't reach base (and often don't do much of anything), building them into unassailable towers of productivity whose normal status as journeymen (usually before and after their stint with the Yankees) thereby is rendered inexplicable.

As I said when I wrote the first YES-hosted installment of the PB, this column, the Pinstriped Bible, is about toying with those myths, holding them up to the light, and, when appropriate, discarding them - especially where they pertain to the New York Yankees. Those myths are obfuscations, designed to obscure the truth. It's much easier to stick with the myth than to take the time to think about what you're seeing, to the point that your prejudices make seeing a strain.

In 1953, Stengel (Yankees manager 1949-1960, for those that came in late) told his Yankees, "If we're going to win the pennant, we've got to start thinking we're not as good as we think we are." A little doubt is a healthy thing, the Old Man was saying; we can always do better if we let the light of ratiocination shine down on our prejudices. It's only in questioning our assumptions that we can break through to new solutions, new understandings of life-or how to run a baseball team. And this is true even when the team is winning.

The point here is to do what Casey asked his team to do: doubt a little, figure out what's working and what's not, and react honestly, and without homerism. Paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton, saying "My team, right or wrong!" is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober!" You can be honest about the Yankees and still be a Yankees fan in good standing.

So What Happens Next?
First of all, I'll be here. A lot. Over time, the name of the blog will change. You may see a few other new voices and some new features. Other than that, the writers that you've come to enjoy will still be here, as will the very active community that I look forward to being a part of as we continue the never-ending quest for a better baseball team and the next World Series title. For those that have been with me over the long term, I thank you for your support. For those reading for the first time, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. This is the beginning of a beautiful-though no doubt sometimes argumentative-friendship.