We have already seen the release of several books about the Cubs’ championship season, and we figure to see even more in the future. However, it is hard to imagine another one that will be as comprehensive as Tom Verducci’s The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse.
Verducci is a baseball columnist with Sports Illustrated and has also done TV work for Fox and other networks during the postseason. I never thought Verducci was a great TV analyst, but he is one of the most respected writers in the industry. In this book, his writing talent shines as he tells the story of the Cubs’ building of their 2016 World Series Championship team.
The book focuses on how Theo Epstein, after the Cubs hired him as President of Baseball Operations after the 2011 season, assembled the team that would end the Cubs’ century-plus championship drought in just five years. The story revolves around an account of the team’s epic seven-game victory over the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. The chapters alternate between describing what happened in the games and various background stories from the previous five years.
Verducci spends time describing how the Cubs acquired almost all of their key players as Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer built the 2016 roster. The organization was a mess when they took over in 2011, and they determined they needed to acquire four key players around which they could rebuild their franchise. Those players would be Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell. Verducci gives a detailed account of how the Cubs acquired each, as well as other players such as Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and 2016 midseason acquisition Aroldis Chapman.
Verducci also spends a lot of time addressing how the Cubs do business under Epstein. After Epstein took over, the organization focused on building character in players and on building strong relationships with them. He also described the team’s training manual that offers a detailed outline of how their players will play the game and how the organization will conduct itself. Even though I don’t work in the baseball industry, as a young professional, I found Verducci’s accounts of how the Cubs do business to be insightful for me as I move forward in my career.
Meanwhile, Verducci offers many behind-the-scenes details of what was happening on the field and in the dugout during the seven World Series games. His accounts of the games are filled with drama and offer lots of new information, while his interviews and descriptions of players get to the human side of the game and offer a new dimension to those players we see on TV every day. It appears that many Cubs players and officials were cooperative throughout the story, which makes the book that much better.
As Verducci writes, readers can tell both that he put a lot of effort into this work and that he has a lot of passion for the game of baseball in general and in telling this great story specifically. If I have one issue with the book, it’s that it is probably a little longer than it needs to be. The fact that Verducci repeated several of his stories became a little tiring, especially towards the end of the book, and at just shy of 400 pages, he’s asking a lot of his readers.
Still, this is an insightful and interesting book that would appeal to Cubs fans everywhere. It is a must-read for anyone who can’t relive last year’s incredible season enough.
Brian Johnston is the author of the book The Art of Being a Baseball Fan, his story of following the 2015 Chicago Cubs, available on Amazon. He lives in St. Joseph, Michigan with his wife and two children.