Inside The Empire: The True Power Behind The New York Yankees, by Bob Klapish and Paul Solotaroff
Doing a season retrospective on a team is a tough task. One can choose a team that one thinks will be really successful that fails spectacularly, leaving one with the choice of having to repurpose one’s book to reflect that changed reality or to let the manuscript be scrapped. In this particular case, though, there was no collapse. By and large the Yankees have been a safe choice to write about because even when they are “rebuilding” for their next championship window they typically do well enough to play in games that matter into September and frequently end up in the playoffs even when they do not have the talent to make it to the World Series. So it was in 2018 when this particular book was written by someone who wanted to look at the way that the Yankees were seeking to become a perennial championship contender once again with a new manager and a new generation of pinstripe heroes to bring into the public consciousness, and even though the result of the season was nothing particularly impressive, the book still does its job of promoting the Yankees and their approach to baseball for readers who like that sort of thing.
This book, at a bit more than 200 pages in length, mixes its approach between a look at the 2018 season of the Yankees as well as an attempt to look behind the scenes at people who will be a lot longer than your usual trade deadline rental. The authors begin with a discussion of the power hitters that the Yankees had assembled (1) and looks at the beginning of the season and a key series at Boston (2). After that the author looks in detail at Brian Cashman and his contribution to Yankee greatness (3) as well as the importance of Aaron Judge as a leader of a young team (4). There is a discussion of CC’s role as an elder statesman (5) and as well as of the injuries that decimated the team (6). After this the authors explore the education of young Yankee players in Tampa (7) as well as the business nature of Yankees trading for key upgrades for deep playoff runs (8). Then the personal angle returns with a chapter on Hal Steinbrenner (9) as well as the return of Judge after recovering from injury in September (10) before the inevitable-seeming end of the season in the ALDS against Boston (11). The book then closes with an epilogue about hot stove season as well as acknowledgements, sources, an index, and some information about the authors.
This book is certainly an informative read, but I have to admit that I am rather ambivalent about the existence of such a book. The 2018 Yankees were not a particularly special team, given that they won a wild card birth and then failed to even make the AL Championship series, much less the World Series. They were, at best, one of the eight best teams in baseball, when most of their team was healthy, and if that was the case one would have books on the Astros and Dodgers and Red Sox nearly every year. Part of the reason this book has a compelling narrative is that it appears the Yankees are even stronger this year, and so if the Yankees become World Series heroes in 2019 or the early 2020’s, this book will appear to be all the more prescient because it appeared before the beginning of that World Series window. But if the Yankees do not end up having some championship runs, this is the sort of book that few people will remember in the future, and that would make this a much less compelling read, since the authors appear to be aiming for a reputation as prophetic sports analysts.