Shopping Time!

Books for the serious baseball fan on your Holiday shopping list.

No, this is not going to be yet another rehash of signings and trades made and not made at the Winter Meetings this past week or a forecast of what could be done in the near future. With only two weeks left until Christmas, if you're like me, you need to spend a little less internet time focused on the Hot Stove League and more quality time on shopping for family and friends.

Or, maybe you can accomplish both. I have a great idea for those baseball fans on your list. Get them baseball-themed reference books ordered via the internet for Christmas, or perhaps for their next birthday.

This article identifies some of the books which I have on hand and highlights those I seem to use most often. Also included are links to the websites where these books can be purchased. Note that a number of these businesses sell other very interesting and potentially valuable baseball books, too.

You'll have to take it from here, though. My credit cards are seriously maxxed out already. Good luck in your shopping and Happy Holidays!

Minor Leagues

Baseball America's Prospect Handbook. Whether you like BA or not or agree with them all the time, they remain the gorilla of minor league coverage. The staff of Baseball America profile over 900 players from all 30 organizations and provide organizational depth charts and rankings in their yearly handbook. link

Minor League Baseball Analyst. A new entry this off-season, written by BaseballHQ's Deric McKamey, who is also a consultant to the Cardinals. McKamey profiles 1000 prospects from across the game with stats, projections, organizational rankings and much more. McKamey's orientation is toward those who play fantasy baseball in formats with farm systems. link

Major Leagues

The Bill James Handbook. Complete, up-to-date statistics on every major league player through last season are provided. Also, fielding stats, ballpark indices, lefty-righty stats and so much more are documented with precision. Written by Baseball Info Solutions in conjunction with the father of sabermetrics, Bill James. link

The Scouting Notebook. A series of prominent analysts provide detailed reports on every major leaguer and a group of prospects, as well. Each player's scouting report is profiled by key categories such as pitching, hitting, baserunning and defense along with spray charts that show where hitters put the ball into play and interesting features such as detailed analyses of each manager's tendencies. A cooperative effort between the Sporting News and STATS, Inc. link

Fantasy

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster. For 20 years running, Shandler's Forecaster has served as the equivalent of a baseball bible for many a fantasy baseball player – for very good reason. The book includes analysis, player projections, draft guides and stats, stats and stats. Many a league winner swears by the Forecaster. link

Stats and Records

Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia. OK, this isn't a book. But, it is an incredibly useful tool, delivered via computer disc. Simply put, it is a database and query engine that includes the stats of every player and team in the history of the game. Not to mention that, but the Encyclopedia has dozens of powerful sorting options that can be nested. For example, if you want to know which players have had 200 strikeout seasons while winning ten games or more since 1900, the Encyclopedia can have the answer in a few seconds. American League only? No problem. Cleveland Indians in last ten years only? Covered. New for 2006, there will be a subscription package available to have the encyclopedia updated on a daily basis all season long! link

The Elias Book of Baseball Records. Everyone knows that the Elias Sports Bureau is the official statistician of Major League Baseball. However, have you ever gone to Elias' website and tried to access their vaults of data? Don't bother. There is nothing to see. However, don't despair. The folks from Elias sell a hard-bound book each year that includes every record known to mankind. Included are regular season, postseason by level, All-Star Game and Hall of Fame records. As far as I know, this information is unavailable anywhere else. link

Rules

Official Rules of Major League Baseball. You won't find contracts or arbitration rules here. This is all about the game as it is meant to be played – between the white lines. This is a handy pocket guide that travels well, consisting of all the official playing rules and official interpretations from MLB's Official Playing Rules Committee. The best way to win an argument is to know the rules. Available at many bookstores. link

League and Team

American League Red Book and National League Green Book. These spiral-bound books are prepared by the leagues each year and include a wealth of information about each organization, yearly and all-time team and league records and much more. Their publication dates are not until February 15 each year and the AL Red Book and NL Green Book are not generally-available to the public. However, copies from the current and past seasons are often for sale on ebay.

Team Media Guides. If you have a favorite team (and who doesn't?) and consider yourself a serious fan, then having a copy of that team's media guide each season is an absolute necessity. These are the same guides that all the press who cover your team rely upon every day of the season. Profiles of all the executives and players, as well as records and history plus minor league player capsules are included. These media guides are prepared to be ready for spring training. Some teams' guides are sold at their major league ballpark. For example, I know copies of the Cardinals' 2005 Media Guide were on sale at Busch last summer. Other times, they are available via mlb.com's store. In fact, 2005 guides for the Twins, Royals and Phillies are still available today. link

Fun

The Sports Junkie's Book of Trivia, Terms and Lingo. I love to poke fun at baseball's unique and colorful vernacular, but I also want to ensure I use it properly. While this 400-plus page book covers every sport from Archery to Wrestling, almost one-fourth of the space is devoted to baseball. Not only are the origin of countless terms like "crossfire" and "Tapioca Sky" provided, but each term is also defined. In addition, hundreds of player nicknames and their origins are included. This is one of those kinds of books you pick up to find something and two hours later you realize you have forgotten what you were looking for! link

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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