Recommended, with reservations.

The best parts of this book are the many excerpts from James’ writings and from interviews of James. Most of this is material from the Abstracts which isn’t widely available. While the title is The Mind of Bill James, it fails to actually get deeply into what makes James tick; rather, it occilates between a pretty standard biography and a “literary biography” tracing his writings.

Author Gray is a Red Sox fan, and often — too often — makes the story about the Red Sox rather than about Bill James. While James works for the Red Sox now, that’s obviously a fairly recent development. Frankly, I (and pretty much everyone else) am tired of the endless blathering about the Red Sox and wish they’d give it a rest. I will give him credit for the most lucid in-print description of the infamous “bullpen by committee” of 2003, widely blamed on James.

But Gray is a fairly plodding stylist, all too apparent contrasted with James’ wit. That’s unfortunate, but most authors don’t get a Boswell. (James, not Thomas.) And he did have the courage to quote James’ line about the Abstracts being “like Street & Smith’s Baseball for adults” — Gray writes for those annuals.