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The best of baseball's worst

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Who's on Worst?' looks at bottom of baseball's barrel

There are many reasons that we love sports, but one of the biggest is the fun found in athletic subjectivity. Using evidence both statistical and anecdotal to debate who was better or the best Russell or Wilt, Montana or Brady, Jordan or James - there's nothing better to a hardcore sports fan.

But of all the sports, baseball likely inspires more of these debates than any other. The game's deep dedication to history and devotion to ever-evolving statistical analysis makes it perfect for these sorts of conversations. Everyone's got their favorites and everyone has a reason why their guy is the best of all time.

It's fun to discuss the best of the best. But what about the worst of the worst?

That's where 'Who's On Worst?' (Doubleday, $24.95) comes in. Filip Bondy's book which sports the delightfully verbose subtitle 'The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History' aims to offer readers a different kind of all-timer. While not all of the names included herein are familiar to the casual fan, there's no denying that there's a lot of fun to be had with Bondy's ignominious Top-10 lists.

He starts off with some fairly standard stuff; the worst hitters, fielders and pitchers of all time. But even here, he's having fun the list's titles are 'The Mendoza Line,' 'Hobson's Disease' and 'Lima Time!' respectively. Through a combination of engaging anecdotal material and a surprising amount of in-depth analysis, Bondy offers up his lists and includes extensive discussion of highlighted (or lowlighted) players.

From there, he ranges far and wide. He has lists for the worst managers and owners. He looks at the most overpaid players (with two lists, one of which is reserved solely for Yankees). He checks in on the seamier side with a couple of lists aimed at cheaters; he hits on the biggest cheaters, of course, but he also has a great list of steroid users who weren't helped at all by the juice. Oddest ballplayers, greatest goats, lucky players you name it. He's even got a list of some sons and brothers who couldn't measure up to their more talented kin on the diamond.

List-based works like this one make for great sports fan reading. Of course, Bondy takes 'Who's on Worst?' to the next level through thorough investigation and a breezy prose style that come together in an informative and entertaining read. He clearly has a deep and abiding affection for the sport; only such affection could allow him to recount the foibles and failings of these baseball buffoons and assorted misfits with such clarity.

Bondy also sets himself apart through his liberal usage of humor. Some of the stories recounted in this book are absurd and hilarious, but no less true because of that. Combine that with the author's obvious cleverness and quick wit, and you've got an especially enjoyable sports book.

What Bondy does is create little capsules of baseball history a history written not of the victors, but of the vanquished. Each of the men discussed in these pages is a real part of the epic story of the game. They might not be significant parts or particularly positive parts, but they are parts nonetheless. 

'Who's on Worst?' is a great book for any baseball fan looking to delve into the game's history as our big league favorites begin to once again take the field for another season. It's a fun glimpse at some of the players whose ineptitude gives us a baseline perspective on the giants of the game.

After all, everyone knows about the all-time greats, but you can't have the best without the worst.

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