Imagine if sportswriters from the past 150 years were magically able to gather together and swap stories about the worst baseball teams they ever saw. That conversation, if I had to guess, would resemble the content of Wittenberg and Aubrecht's new book "You Stink!". This supposition crossed my mind within a few pages, and the more I read, the more I became convinced of it. Maybe that is not precisely what the authors intended, but at least for me, that is what came across.
It would be easy enough for a causal fan to peruse one or more of the many websites offering baseball statistics and say "oh, its obvious why the 1916 Athletics or the 2003 Tigers stunk." Wittenberg and Aubrecht provide some of those statistics, but numbers themselves are not really the focus of the book. The authors go beyond the numbers to show the circumstances of why these awful teams took the field as they did. Sometimes the stories are well known, but many times they are not. Telling the "why" is the strength of the book.
It is worth noting what the book is not. If you are looking for an in-depth, sabermetric analysis of specific players and teams, you will not find that in "You Stink!". In the main, the book relies on batting averages, home runs, RBI and ERA. Currently fashionable statistics like OPS, WAR and WHIP do not appear. I don't consider this to be a drawback: not every baseball book needs to offer that type of discussion, and many hardcore baseball fans I know roll their eyes when I argue that player so and so's high batting average standing alone doesn't show he is a particularly effective hitter. Further, given the records posted by these teams speak for themselves, I would posit that, although using advanced metrics might be somewhat helpful to put some of the statistics in context, their use here would be largely unnecessary and could even detract from the stories of these terrible teams.
There are some errors in the text (for example, Mickey Mantle hit 54 homers in 1961, not 56 as stated). You might scream to yourself when you catch one, but in the end, they do not detract from the narrative or diminish the excellent storytelling the book offers. Also, the errors are easily fixable, and I would be surprised if these little mistakes aren't cleaned up when the book goes into a second printing.
In sum, "You Stink!" is storytelling at its finest. If you have even a passing interest in sports history, you'll be entertained. And if you are a baseball fan, you'll surely enjoy it. To the authors: well done, gentlemen.