Winning Fixes Everything Review: Do you want to play, or do you want to win?

Evan Drellich’s Winning Fixes Everything: How Baseball’s Brightest Minds created Sports’ Biggest Mess is a book about baseball and a team that changed everything. There are several baseball teams that fans either really love or really hate. Whether it’s the Yankees, the Red Sox, or the Dodgers, any successful team will earn it’s fair share of haters and detractors who will willingly explain why each of these teams deserve to be hated. But no baseball team has drawn almost universal hatred from fans across the sport like the Houston Astros managed to earn in the late 2010s and early 2020s. Part of that hatred came from the fact that they were very successful, including winning the World Series in both 2017 and 2022. But most of the hate from fans came from the fact that the team was caught up in a massive cheating scandal that gave the team a serious advantage over the other teams it played.

Drellich spent several years as the Houston Chronicle‘s Astros beat reporter during the seasons leading up to the scandal, and was one of the journalists to break the story to the public. For those of you who have never heard the story, here’s the very short version. The Astros were caught using an extensive electronic camera system in order to steal another team’s hand signs. Pitchers and catchers use a system of hand signs to decide which pitches to throw and where to throw them so that each player knows which pitch is coming. The Astros had set up cameras that allowed them to see these hand signs and then relay that information to their players on the field, because if a hitter knows which pitch is coming they have a better chance of hitting the ball. They may not have been the only team doing this (there’s a reason I name-dropped the other teams above), but the Astros took the practice the farthest. Far enough to help them win the 2017 World Series.

But Winning Fixes Everything isn’t just a book about the scandal. It’s a book about how such underhanded tactics can be allowed to catch on and become accepted practice by a team. Sports teams are not just the collection of players and coaches on the field. Each team has an army of scouts, medical staff, and front office executives that help define how the team as an organization functions. And the Astros leadership, as Drellich shows, had one of the slickest operations around. Led by Jeff Luhnow, a former McKinsey consultant, the Astros front office pushed the use of advanced statistics to evaluate players and help them perform better. The “Astros Way” of doing things brought the team some of it’s greatest moments. But it also introduced a toxic work culture that valued cost-cutting and efficient spending above all else, at the cost of the trust and respect of their employees, players, and many baseball fans across the country. Such business practices has changed baseball for the foreseeable future, for better or worse. A great book for anyone who enjoys great reporting, and for any baseball-loving folks you know in your life.

You can read or listen to Winning Fixes Everything on Libby.

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