Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Jackie Bradley Jr. Ask any Red Sox fan who these guys are and they’ll tell you about some of the best ballplayers who ever donned a Red Sox uniform. But where did the Red Sox find these players? How long were they in the Red Sox farm system? The answers to those questions and more are found in Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up by Boston Globe sportswriter Alex Speier. Speier’s book tells the story of how the Red Sox rebuilt themselves to win in 2018. It was a task that involved Dave Dombrowski’s guidance, Alex Cora’s managing skills, and Mookie Betts’ talent.
It was only a matter of time until someone wrote a book about the Boston Red Sox’s historic 2018 season. After amassing 108 regular season victories, the Red Sox went on to defeat the Houston Astros and New York Yankees in the post season. They then vanquished the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series in five games. But how did the Red Sox capture another World Series title just three years after finishing at the bottom of the standings two years in a row (2014-2015)? Careful planning, and thorough scouting, among other reasons.
The Red Sox Built a Championship Despite Individual and Team Setbacks
Speier discusses how the Red Sox front office took it one step at a time to groom who they thought would become future stars. The book discusses how some prospects didn’t work out, like Rusney Castillo. Castillo has lingered in the minors for years despite singing a $72.5 million contract in 2014. Then there were others like Yoan Moncada and Michael Kolpech. Despite promising performances, both were traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a deal to obtain Chris Sale. There’s Mookie Betts. The 2018 MVP almost quit his baseball career after an initial poor start to his professional season. One of the best parts of the book is how Speier discusses Jackie Bradley Jr.’s progression through the Red Sox organization. Anyone who has paid attention to the centerfielder knows JBJ doesn’t have the strongest bat in the American League. Sometimes he’s on fire at the plate but those times are few and far in between. Speier’s discussion of JBJ’s ups and downs throughout his career answered many questions I, and may other Sox fans, have about why the Red Sox have kept him around for so long. It is these stories that Speier successfully weaves together to tell the story of the 2018 season.
The Red Sox Built a Team By Meeting the Challenges of Picking Promising Prospects
Readers will notice how Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up doesn’t flow the way books written by more established baseball writers do. That detail, however, doesn’t mean it’s not good. Speier takes a direct and clear approach to his writing where the reader is provided with complex information. This information involves how baseball drafts work, what goes into offering a big league contract, and how and why that prospect doesn’t always work out. Speier succeeds in clarifying these details in a readable way. He also discusses why teams like the Red Sox make risky moves when offering big money to teenage prospects with the hope they’ll pay off. At face value, those moves may seem reckless and impulsive. Speier, however, explains the thought process behind such moves with concise information that makes it easy for anyone to understand and appreciate the challenges that come with trying to build a winning team.
Homegrown is One of the Better Baseball Books of the Year
Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up has received strong reviews from baseball writers and reviewers alike. In fact, it was recently listed as a Top Ten Finalist for the 2020 Casey Award. This award is ranked among the highest for the best baseball book of the year. While making the list is quite the honor, it’s unfortunate that the list also didn’t include a book about the 1969 New York Mets, whose own victory in the World Series was nothing short of a miracle. I mention this because listing Homegrown alongside a book about the 1969 Mets would have only enhanced the Red Sox’s story. Readers familiar with Mets history would appreciate the efforts that the Red Sox undertook. The 1969 Mets and 2018 Red Sox were quite different teams. They also share many similarities though that would make readers and baseball fans better appreciate the lengths to which the Red Sox went to for a World Championship. I suggest reading After the Miracle by Art Shamsky and Erik Sherman if you want a comparable book to read about successful baseball seasons that involve long term grooming of promising talent.