The Process Report 2011 (available in PDF form or paperback), the new Rays annual from R.J. Anderson, Tommy Rancel, and Nicholas Macaluso is out, and it does not disappoint. The analysis and stories from the TPR writers as well as a host of others (including a foreword from our own Jonah Keri and a chapter from our own Joe Pawlikowski) provide excellent insight into the Rays and their upcoming season.
The quality is high throughout the book, but there are a few chapters that I believe deserve special mention. The first is the opener to the book (after Keri’s foreword), fittingly entitled “The Process, the Beast, and the Emptiness of Winning.” In this chapter, new blood Nicholas Macaluso outlines the emotional toll of rooting for a team, particularly one like the Rays which is saddled with such a massive competitive disadvantage. Macaluso also presents this terrifying notion: what if there’s more to sports than “COUNT THEM RINGS!!!”?
The second chapter that I would like to highlight (as well as the second in the book) comes from FanGraphs’ own Tommy Rancel. It covers the striking similarities between baseball pioneer Branch Rickey and
BYU point guard Jimmer Fredette Rays GM Andrew Friedman. Any good GM will likely have ties to Rickey in some form, but as Rancel uncovers, the similarities between Friedman and Rickey are uncanny.
The third chapter covers, in my opinion, the most interesting figure in the Rays’ rise to relevancy: Joe Maddon. Where the Maddon chapter in The Extra 2% is untouchable as far as the “who” and “what,” of Maddon, the Maddon chapter – titled “The Symposium (Συμπόσιον)” – is untouchable for examining the “why” of Maddon. Here, we see R.J. Anderson at his most literary, invoking Vonnegut and Plato. It’s a very interesting dive into what makes Joe Maddon into Joe Maddon, aside from all those one-a-day pills.
The fourth chapter and final one which I’ll highlight (although by no means the last chapter worth reading – there simply isn’t enough space here for that) examines media coverage of the Rays offseason. Specifically, Steve Slowinski (yet another FanGraphs author) points out that mass media typically looks at the Rays moves through the same lens as they do the Yankees, Red Sox, and other large market teams. The lens, dubbed “The ESPN Prism” by Slowinski, looks at the departures of players like Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena as strict negatives and ignores the ways the Rays improved themselves over the past winter.
For as good as the writing is, without good design all would be lost. Fortunately, TPR has an excellent, individual design, using elements like Rays Plaid to perfection. The tables in the player profiles are immaculate and diagrams (such as a trade string of the Matt Garza-Delmon Young deal) are crisp.
The annual is highly recommended for Rays fans or those who are interested in learning more about the inner workings of the Rays. You can find excerpts and more reviews at their aptly-named site, The Process Report.