Well, this is the kind of news that can really f@#! up your week: Rob Neyer has decided to leave ESPN for greener pastures.
"Whether you've been reading my ramblings since 1996 or just since last week, you have my profound, impossible-to-express-in-words gratitude. There is not a working writer on Earth who's more grateful than I for his readers. Without you, I would have nothing.I've been pondering this passage from Rob's final ESPN post for a couple of hours now. I didn't know what to say then, and I still don't know what to say now. To be honest, I feel a little numb. I know that probably sounds stupid, but it's true. You might even be thinking, "But Chip, Rob Neyer is just a baseball writer, it's not that big of a deal," and you'd be right. But he isn't just a baseball writer to me. He is one of my primary sources for inspiration. Even just writing that I feel a little silly, but it's how I feel. Nothing can change that.
Today, I hand off this space to whoever's next. I don't know yet who is next, but I'm highly confident that this blog and the SweetSpot Network will soon be in excellent hands.
Meanwhile, I'll be around. The kids tell me it's all about search these days. You won't have to search real hard to find me, if you want.
Happy trails, until we meet again."
I'm not sure when I started reading Rob exactly (I think it was around 2003 or 2004), but I do remember being completely blown away by the first article I read. There was something about his style and delivery that spoke to me. His writing, while rational and (frequently) statistically driven, somehow managed to retain a personal feel. At times, it was almost as if he was writing articles specifically for me. While I knew this wasn't actually the case, it still felt (and does still feel) that way nonetheless. Through his writing, Rob taught me a lot of things. He taught me to not only challenge conventional wisdom, but also look beyond the most obvious of conclusions. He opened my eyes to the world of advanced baseball analytics, and taught me that it's ok to be a stat geek. He made me realize that baseball is much more than just nine guys playing a game on a grassy field.
Without Rob's writing, I never would've been exposed to a lot of the great baseball writers I hold in such high esteem today. He exposed me to Craig Calcaterra of Shysterball and Hardball Talk; Jason Rosenberg of IIATMS; Evan Brunell of Fire Brand and CBS Facts and Rumors; Larry Granillo of Wezen-Ball; Dave Cameron of USS Mariner and Fangraphs; Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts; The Common Man from the Platoon Advantage; and many, many others. For that I'm eternally grateful. I have learned so much, and gained considerable enjoyment out of reading each one of them every day. In a way, as the godfather of baseball blogging, Neyer's touched every one of us who has ever been brave enough to start a blog. He spawned and cultivated an entire legion of analytically minded baseball fans that he inspired to follow in his footsteps.* While it wasn't his intention to inspire us, it happened anyway. To me, that's the mark of a truly inspirational individual. I can honestly say that I probably never would've started this blog had it not been for Rob, a man with whom I've never met, spoken, or even exchanged emails.
* If baseball blogging were equivalent to grunge, he would be Mudhoney; Rich Lederer would be Mother Love Bone; Craig Calcaterra would be Nirvana; Jason Rosenberg would be Stone Temple Pilots; and I would probably be Bush (at best) or Creed (at the very worst). Note: These references are NOT meant to be quality comparisions. Instead, they're meant to show the different generations of baseball blogging.
In closing, Rob's daily baseball musings will be sorely missed. While his leaving ESPN is almost like losing a friend, I know that it is not for long. At some point down the road, he will return to the fold. When he does, I'll probably be one of the first people in line. Until he does, I'll continue to use his writing as the standard for which I strive to achieve. I only hope I can prove to be worthy. Thanks again Rob. Hurry back soon.