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Of Verducci, Dr. Z and Posnanski…

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For a long time, I never liked Tom Verducci as a baseball writer. The person behind the writing seemed to me to be smug and a little overbearing in regards to his strong knowledge of the game. He seemed like the kind of writer that was just good enough to get cut from the team and became the team manager. To stay close to the game, his love and in-depth knowledge drove him to write about it. I thought it took the cake when a few years ago he was ’embedded’ into the Toronto Blue Jays as a spring training invite. I just thought, isn’t he taking time and resources away from someone who is serious about playing this game in the interest of getting a story? I was not really that interested in the story based on my prejudice. He also frequently takes a tone of authority with his subject that one usually expects from former players, and his understanding of the history of the game came across as far too nerdy for me. No I wasn’t really a fan of Tom Verducci at all…

That is to say that I think I have read every one of his online Sports Illustrated stories since the early oughts. There was just no other writer who could give you the information weekly, and not have a bunch of filler, but facts. He is rarely wrong, and his predictions (few that they are) usually come in right. Tons of writers came and went, but Verducci’s writing is like the tides, they never stop rolling in.

Being the football fan that I am, I am a big fan of Dr. Z or Paul Zimmerman the legendary football writer. Dr. Z is the standard-bearer for football writing and I wonder if anyone else come close. Sure there have been wonderful books and movies written about the sport, but Dr. Z played the game in college, and has written about it for the last 50 years or so until he suffered a series of strokes recently. Dr. Z gave you the impression that he didn’t much care for the stadiums or fans or the uniforms or the teams themselves but rather about the hundreds of factors that go into the on-field battles between the players. Oh yeah, he also broke down each battle individually one at some point or another. Dr. Z was the greasy car mechanic who when he’s not at work at the shop, he’s at home refurbishing the Duesenberg…that project that he will never finish. Funny that myself and others got that impression because to hear (read?) him tell it he was a terrible home mechanic. I always wondered what that meant exactly. Really though, Dr. Z is the best football writer there is and ever will be.

Alas, Dr. Z. stopped writing because of suffering from some health issues, that left pretty much only Verducci and baseball. I mean, I like Peter King and his way of telling the football story, but just too much fluff of the sort I am not too fond of around the writing. I cannot really relate too much to his life experience for some reason or other, but I do like the tidbits and information he gets across. Of course there is Phil Taylor who can write a one-page essay about anything from Tiger to Lebron to OchoCinco to Dale Earnhardt Jr…and get at its essence leaving you more human than you ever were before. Every single time. There is Jack McCallum who writes about basketball and breaks down the game a little better than most especially since basketball is not easy to write about. There are fewer pauses and really, have you ever heard of a great basketball writer? Jack McCallum is pretty darn close at least to me. Tim Layden is also a very poignant writer who actually can make horse racing and gymnastic sports not just interesting, but he draws you in without a hint of condescension. I read all of those Sports Illustrated writers regularly in addition to some other writers. Still though, Verducci needed to have a ‘everyman’ counterbalance in my mind. I enjoyed his writing, but he needed a foil. The others either weren’t focused enough, or wrote too infrequently or just didn’t fit the profile.

So not too long ago I discovered the great Joe Posnanski. On Sports Illustrated no less because they snap up all the best American sports writers for the most part. With the pending death of newspapers, they have cooperated with local papers and featuring their best writers…of which Joe came from the Kansas City Star. Joe however is from Euclid a suburb of Cleveland where I am from. Actually he is an Indians, Browns and Cavaliers fan (or he better be), and shares just about all the Cleveland sensibilities that I have. Okay not all, but a lot. From the sports failures, to the pride in the shame that is our city and its mishaps since the days when it was ‘the best location in the nation’. Joe can tell a damn good story, and he was from back home! It was like what more could you ask for out a writer. I absolutely love his writing and I can hear his voice clearly when he writes which for me is the sign of a great writer. Sometimes when I read I am hearing my own voice or no voice at all, and other times I hear the voice of greatness. It was easy to find that with JoePoz.

The thing is, as brilliant a writer as JoePoz is, there was something about his ‘voice’ that I have recently started not to like. I mean, I read him and enjoy his style just the same as before, but something in there doesn’t agree with me quite the same. Its funny, around the same time I started liking Verducci…not more, but sorta appreciating his style in a new way. Its like, in the shadow of Dr. Z, Verducci was kinda like the nerdy kid with the pocket protector who was right but you didn’t want to admit it. Now, he’s like the cool friend, and JoePoz is kinda like the ‘decent enough guy’ who you just have ‘enough’ of sometimes. I wonder if anyone else thinks something similar, or has a sense of these two dudes sorta like that.

Another thing is that now it’s kind of like each writer is challenging the other. ThinkĀ  Tupac and Biggie, except nobody has gotten hurt…yet. Of course this challenge between the two is so subtle, seeing as they work for the same publisher. Sometimes it does bubble up to the surface on occasion and you can just hear the insiders go ‘oooooh’. Verducci, who ain’t no punk comes back with his own kinda ‘whoa…didn’t know you had it in you, dude’ moment. I would say that they really relish this and I like what I see as two greats stepping’ up to the plate. Verducci is considered by some to be the best baseball writer in America and I might agree. Posnanski is of the greats absolutely, but as far as best baseball writer something is lacking. If his entire body of writing is taken into consideration he wins hands down. To be fair though, Verducci doesn’t seem to have published anything except baseball writings. However it is clear that JoePoz’ s passion is baseball and who doesn’t want to best at what they enjoy the most…for JoePoz that is writing about baseball, though I might suspect it is ‘writing’ period.

Crazy stuff huh? Here they go at it again…Joe vs. the Verducci

Written by lionoah

August 18, 2010 at 12:32