You can imagine my excitement when I heard that Molly Knight was writing a Dodgers book. Being a woman who writes about the Boys in Blue, Molly has been an inspiration to me. There has been many books written about the Dodgers over the years, but The Best Team Money Can Buy gives readers an exclusive look into the Dodgers clubhouse and front office during one of the most tumultuous yet thrilling times during the history of the storied franchise.
Molly was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her book, her lifelong love of the Dodgers and our shared struggle with anxiety:
I often think that 2013 was THE year for the Dodgers, but it turned out very different. How did you adapt in your writing alongside that roller coaster of a season? Were there many revisions?
I didn’t start writing the book until April of 2014, when I left ESPN. It was difficult to write about two seasons at once, let me tell you! And it was really shocking and somewhat gut-wrenching for me to watch history repeat itself with the loss to the Cardinals again in the 2014 playoffs, since I had developed a deep affection and respect for Clayton Kershaw and how hard he works. It didn’t feel fair. But that’s baseball I guess. As for revisions, yes, I wrote the book in about nine months and spent a crazy six weeks revising it.
Were you upfront and open with all the players and the management about your book while taking notes in the clubhouse?
Oh yes. They all knew I was writing a book. Some of them were really into to it, and understood what it would look like. Some frankly didn’t really care. Some players don’t know the difference between a newspaper beat writer, a blogger, or a columnist, and they don’t understand deadlines. That’s why you get a player like a Yasiel Puig waiting 90 minutes after each game to maybe give a quote, and not understanding that totally undermines beat writers because they have deadlines.
Yasiel Puig is such a polarizing player. Do you think this is good for baseball? Do you enjoy batflips?
Yes. I love Puig batflips, and I love watching him play. He is absolutely what baseball needs– he just needs to earn the respect of his teammates by showing up on time and putting in the work. I think Bryce Harper is a good model. Like Puig, he plays as if his hair is on fire, and that style might rub some people the wrong way. But Bryce works his butt off in the weight room and in his preparation. So even teammates who might not like his personality can’t help but respect his work ethic. That’s all Puig needs to do. He doesn’t need to change how he plays; he just needs to work harder in his preparation so his teammates respect him. Some fans are saying the Dodgers should trade him. I think that would be a mistake. He’s a five WAR player, and while his habits have been annoying, he hasn’t done anything to force the Dodgers’ hand. Because he’s so talented I would do everything I could to make it work
What was one thing you learned from writing this book which surprised even you, a lifelong Dodger fan?
Zack Greinke surprised me. All I had ever heard was how he was this anti-social weirdo. Well, he is a weirdo, but in the best possible way. He’s probably the funniest player in baseball, and that’s without even trying. He’s just so honest. A former teammate of his texted me the other day to say he loves all my Greinke tweets because he’s just as obsessed as I am. I’m glad the world is getting a chance to know Greinke lately. The idea that he would wilt under the bright lights because of his past social anxiety issues was so off-base and unfair, and I’m glad he’s #shoved it in the face of anyone who stereotyped him unfairly.
Having anxiety issues myself, I can relate to Zack Greinke. How did you deal with your own nerves or possible anxiety while writing this book?
This is a great question. I have an anxiety disorder, too. And while it’s not social anxiety, I have at times dealt with debilitating anxiety. In college there was a time when I had to run out of lecture halls because I couldn’t breathe and thought I was going to pass out. It wasn’t because of school, but of other things going on in my life that were overwhelming me. I’m fortunate enough in that I can go years and years without a panic attack, but then when they hit they are really, really awful. It’s why I do yoga and meditation and practice mindfulness every day.
I’ve been on and off anti-depressants for anxiety for most of my life. Because my anxiety can be dormant for years even off medication, sometimes I go off of it because I don’t feel like I need it– and I’m probably right. Except when I do need it, and then I’m not on it, and the panic hits and I fall to pieces. At the end of the 2013 season I was a mess. A lot of turmoil was happening in my personal life, and I was contemplating leaving my job to write this book. When the Dodgers were in Arizona clinching, I was down there and just miserable. When I wasn’t in the clubhouse acting like everything was OK, I was curled up in a ball on my friend’s couch in tears from the stress of everything. Was I really going to leave my job to take this risk? I hadn’t sold the book at that point. What if they didn’t the World Series and no one bought the book and I sabotaged my life? And that was just the professional stress. My personal life was also in shambles. When Juan Uribe got traded I tweeted a story about how we did our sit-down interview over strawberry smoothies. What I didn’t say is that the reason that happened was because I wasn’t able to keep solid food down that week. I went to a smoothie place on Arizona State’s campus before going to the ballpark, and because I hadn’t eaten all day I walked into the clubhouse with one. Uribe saw me drinking it and said “Will you bring me one tomorrow when we talk?” I did.
Anyway, this story has a happy ending. I went back on Zoloft (the same medication Greinke takes) and used the tools I’ve learned through mindfulness meditation and dragged myself out of the spiral pretty quickly. I went up to San Francisco the following week and walked around AT&T and got out of my head and found myself noticing how beautiful the sailboats were on the water and thought about how fun the season had been and kind of found my anchor. I found some sweet potato fries and took a deep breath and basically said, ‘Fuck it. I’m doing this book.’
I was slightly worried that my anxiety would creep back in during the writing of this book, but to my surprise it really didn’t. There was one bad week right after I started it where I was like “How am I going to do this? I’ve never written anything longer than 8,000 words before and this will be 100,000?” and “How arrogant am I to think that someone would want to spend twenty bucks and two days of their lives for this?” I went up to my grandma’s house in Carmel and sort of hid from everyone for a week. But then I got over myself and got on with it. Some people think of writing as this sort of precious thing. It’s not. It’s just a job, like cleaning toilets or laying brick. It’s better if I think of it that way, and not put all this pressure on myself to be Faulkner.
After I finished the book I had a few months to gear up for the promotional schedule, which has been insane. The book has been out for four days and I think I have done 50 interviews. I’m in NYC right now. Yesterday my day started on Bloomberg TV at 6 am eastern, and ended with a radio interview on 790 in LA that I did at 11 pm eastern. I’ve been sleeping in 20 minute intervals. Because a lack of sleep can definitely trigger my anxiety, I prepared for this onslaught by training like an athlete in the six weeks before my book came out. I worked out almost every day (usually alternating between spinning and pilates to burn off my nervous energy). I didn’t really drink or eat any bad foods. I tried to take care of myself. It made a huge difference. I didn’t work out AT ALL while writing this book, which was a huge mistake. Now I’m sort of addicted to it. I’m about to go work out for the first time in ten days and I can’t wait. I never thought I would say that.
For anyone struggling with anxiety, the books that helped me the most were:
Fully Present: http://www.amazon.com/Fully-Present-Science-Practice-Mindfulness/dp/0738213241/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437247337&sr=8-1&keywords=fully+present+the+science+art+and+practice+of+mindfulness
Zoloft + Mindfulness is what works best for me.
I listen to Tara Brach’s audio talks about every week: http://www.tarabrach.com. They’re free. She has free guided meditations on her website too.
I’ve taken two mindfulness courses through InsightLA and they were incredible: https://www.insightla.org
They also offer free meditation exercises on their site.
If you are suffering from anxiety you don’t need to even go to a shrink if you can’t afford it. Go to your regular doctor. She can help you. Anxiety is 100% treatable.
Besides the time period you wrote about in your book, what is your favorite era in Dodger baseball?
The Mike Piazza years. He was my favorite when I was a kid.
How do you feel about this year’s team? Do you think the Dodgers can go all the way in 2015?
I’d have a lot more faith if Brandon McCarthy and Hyun Jin Ryu were healthy. They would absolutely be the favorites. I think this new FO has done a great job.
You have been an inspiration to me as a female sports writer. What advice would you give to women trying to break into the sports industry?
That’s so nice to hear. My advice would be to stay positive. I started out in locker rooms in 2006 and it’s gotten so much easier just in the last nine years. Guys are more respectful every year. There are a bunch of Dodgers that I haven’t seen eye to eye with on everything, but they all treated me with the same dignity and respect as if I were a man. And considering what female sportswriters dealt with in the 80s and 90s, that’s amazing to be able to say.
Do you plan to write anymore books in the future?
Definitely. I have a few ideas in mind, but none that I’m totally sure about next.
Who was your favorite baseball player growing up?
Piazza. And before that, Brett Butler. I wore 22 when I was seven because I loved him
The Best Team Money Can Buy is available now.
Another big thank you to Molly for taking the time to answer my questions.