It's probably fair to say that Willie Randolph has had a better baseball career than most people realize. As a player, he was part of seven teams that went to the postseason, including five pennant winners and three that won the World Series. He made six All-Star teams and was a Yankees co-captain for three seasons.
When Randolph retired, he ranked fifth in Major League history with 2,152 games played at second base. As a Yankees coach, he went to the postseason 10 straight years and added four more championship rings. Randolph became the first African-American manager in New York City when hired by the Mets in 2005. A year later, he led the team to a 97-win season, which is the last time the team appeared in the playoffs.
All of which gives "The Yankee Way: Playing, Coaching, and My Life in Baseball" its authority. Randolph has produced a thoughtful volume that covers everything from growing up in the tough Brownsville section of Brooklyn to selecting an All-Star Yankees team from his playing and coaching time in that storied organization.
The title is a dead giveaway that Randolph focuses on his time in pinstripes. But there's much more here.
A few recurring themes are a love of baseball, the burning desire to win and the determination to conduct himself in a proper manner that was instilled in him by his parents. While Randolph doesn't beat the reader over the head, he makes it clear that he faced challenges growing up. The park he first played in was littered with broken bottles, garbage and syringes. Randolph's father once chased a drug dealer away from the door.
In the end, though, Randolph concludes that this helped him remain focused during the "Bronx Zoo" days early in his career.
"In a way, being accustomed to all kinds of nonsense going on around me and not getting too distracted by it goes all the way back to my days in Brownsville. I witnessed stabbings, beatings, all kinds of other criminal acts, and some of the worst of humanity," he wrote.
Randolph was drafted and made his big league debut with the Pirates, and outsized personalities like Willie Stargell and Dock Ellis were early influences. With the Yankees, he was with a cast of characters that included Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, Thurman Munson, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage and Mickey Rivers.
That provides plenty of entertaining tales, plus an insider's look at events like the Yankees' loss of Munson in a plane crash, the failure to hold a 3-0 series lead against the Red Sox in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Mike Piazza-Roger Clemens confrontation during the 2000 Subway Series and even 9-11.
Randolph gives reasoned takes on why the hurt of losing lasts longer than the joy of winning, his managerial philosophy -- he makes no secret of his desire to have another shot and this literary effort can only further that quest -- and the impact of steroids on the game.
Playing the game right, and how the Yankee Way evolved to accommodate that over the years, is naturally a motif throughout. The most powerful passages, however, are probably those that deal with the Mets' inability to hold onto a seven-game lead in the National League East with 17 games to play in 2007, allowing the Phillies to eliminate them on the final day of the season.
Randolph clinically and unflinchingly dissects what went wrong. He addresses the perception that he should have been more emotional down the stretch: "I don't think you can succeed wearing your heart on your managerial sleeve."
Randolph recounts the factors that may have contributed to the late-season fade. He notes that sometimes things happen that defy logic. And Randolph augments his credibility by taking accountability where he believes he should.
Randolph admits that, as a former infielder, he found managing the pitching staff to be difficult. And he concedes that he put too much faith in the idea that the team's veteran leadership could handle the clubhouse.
"Could I have been better at reading the ball club and understanding the team's needs? Absolutely ... I take full responsibility for that and consider it a valuable lesson learned," he wrote.
Willie Randolph's list of personal accomplishments is impressive. To it can now be added accomplished author. This is an absorbing, well-written book.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.