How Well Does Mark Simon’s Book: “Yankees Index: Every Number Tells A Story” Accomplish Its Mission?
Easily the most successful sports franchise in North America, the New York Yankees have a rich history filled with unbelievable stories, legendary characters, and drama the likes of which other 95 percent of the teams out there would aspire to call their own.
So of course, given that lineage, there have been an incredible amount of books that have featured the Yankees and their players. Hell, even baseball books about other teams usually have the Yankees as a villain at some point. So that begs the question: what’s there left to write about?
Mark Simon’s 2016 Yankees Index: Every Number Tells A Story (Numbers Don’t Lie) takes a stab on chronicling the epic history of the team from their conception all the way through the present day; a humongous task to be sure. So, the author eschews a traditional narrative focusing on a chronological history of the team, and instead uses statistics and number to jump around, highlighting a particular game or player that might have no connection to what comes next.
Simon has the right idea in mind by looking at it from a statistics-based approach: baseball is the only sport of the Big Four that lives and dies by its numbers when it comes to the fans. So, focusing the book on those numbers is definitely a good idea, at least conceptually.
The jump between eras and players and records can be a little off-putting initially, but once you settle into the book it becomes tolerable.
The true mark of a valuable book for fans is how much information is something that hasn’t received a lot of coverage or exposure previously. Yankees Index covers a lot of ground that most Yankees fans probably know already, but there were a few instances where I found myself surprised at a revelation of a previously untold story, or a statistical feat that was, and remains legitimately impressive in the modern day.
Take for instance the mark that David Robertson recorded while a member of the Yankees: retiring 25 straight hitters in bases-loaded situations. It’s one of those streaks that doesn’t come up in your average game and doesn’t jump off of the box score, but when taken on its own it just adds a little depth to a player that has moved onto a different franchise in Chicago.
Truth be told, the stories and narratives that I enjoyed the most were those of the players that your current day Yankee fan probably doesn’t remember particularly well. Maybe I’m naive, but I would doubt that there are water cooler discussions about the 1941 outfield of DiMaggio, Henrich, and Keller.
Turns out, they comprised the first and only one of two instances in which each player recorded 30 home runs in a season. Again a mark that isn’t one of those numbers that baseball fans instinctively know (56, 756, 2,632), but it’s an entertaining footnote.
But as I stated earlier, baseball has such an incredible history and those career defining moments that dozens upon dozens of Yankees have recorded receive their fair share of the spotlight in Yankees Index.
Simon’s take on each of those tales has an easy to read style, that hits at just why the record/feat is significant to the Yankees. At times, portions of the book delve into the side of hero worship, but Simon most definitely does not ignore the darker sides and stories of some of the people he discusses.
When the book comes around to mentioning Roger Clemens, Simon takes pains to note that the stigma of his supposed PED usage remains attached to everything Clemens did while wearing the pinstripes.
The long-held argument against some of the accomplishments of players in the pre-integration era is mentioned multiple times; a very important aspect to discussing the early decades of baseball. The closing segment of the book talks about Alex Rodriquez’s 3,000th hit, but also mentions his return from suspension in the 2015 season. I applaud Simon for not whitewashing or ignoring those unsavory elements of the game.
If anything, Yankees Index shows just how blessed the fans of the team have been for, well pretty much the entire existence of the franchise. Success is not a given in professional sports, which is why the accomplishments of the Yankees is mind-blowing in every sense of the term.
53 players, managers, and executives who spent some measure of time with the team have been inducted into Cooperstown. 27 times the Yankees have taken home baseball’s ultimate prize, a mark that is still double of the next closest franchise.
A non-Yankee fan might find the material covered in this book as dizzying, gloating, egotistical, but in a sport that is measured by statistics, Yankees Index makes it quite clear that when it comes to the numbers, the New York Yankees are still number one.