Rob Neyer

Rob Neyer says goodbye to ESPN

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Rob Neyer has announced that after 15 years — which is about 300 in Internet years — he’s leaving ESPN.  Rob is going to keep writing, of course — we don’t know where, but a little bird tells me that we’ll hear more about that part tomorrow morning — but this is still pretty major news. As long as there has been Internet baseball writing, Rob has been over at ESPN, so in many ways this is the end of an era.

While Bill James is rightfully credited for revolutionizing baseball analysis, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the revolution doesn’t happen — or at least doesn’t happen as quickly and as thoroughly as it did happen — without Rob Neyer. Rob, who was once James’ assistant, popularized sabermetrics via his ESPN column/blog, reaching far more people in his first few weeks as an Internet writer than the number of people to whom James sold his original Abstracts. He was the gateway drug for stat geekery. At least he was mine.

It was 1998. I was fresh out of law school and was working my first real job. Somewhere during my seven years of higher education I had regressed from baseball fanatic to a mere casual fan. I still followed the Braves, but I wasn’t nuts about it. I watched baseball, but I missed a lot of what was going on.

It was then that I discovered Rob’s column, and it was nothing short of a revelation. Five days a week, this voiceless man in red faux flannel would challenge nearly every lazy assumption I had about the game. Telling me things like RBIs weren’t the most valuable measure of a hitter. That strikeouts weren’t the worst thing in the world. That Dante Bichette wasn’t really any good.

Rob didn’t make his pronouncements from on high and expect you to take his word for it. He showed his work. He encouraged you to run the numbers yourself. He wrote in a clear and uncomplicated voice that made even the most complicated concepts seem quite simple, which was extremely important to a mathophobe like me. I read Neyer every day.  He, more than any person or event, rekindled my love for baseball that had gone somewhat dormant in the 1990s.

I began writing about baseball myself at a now-defunct webzine in 2001. There is no question I never would have done so without Rob Neyer’s influence and inspiration.  While that ‘zine tanked in early 2003, I considered it a success because at some point during the run Rob, who must have been forwarded the link by one of my 11 readers, sent me a nice email telling me that I had done a good job on a particular piece of analysis. That email was the biggest reason why, a few years later, I felt like I was good enough to start my Shysterball blog. I didn’t care that absolutely no one read the thing for the first couple of months. Rob had once seen my work and said it was good and that was all the validation I needed.

But then people started reading Shysterball. Why? Because Rob started linking it.  At first just a couple of random “this is neat” links. Then, in November 2007 he mentioned Shysterball prominently during one of his ESPN chats.  My traffic took off.  I was asked to write some guest columns on other websites that got some notice. Eventually I was asked to move Shysterball to The Hardball Times, and from there I was asked to chip in part time on the blog that became HardballTalk. In short, I owe my career to Rob Neyer.

Thank you for all of your great work for ESPN, Rob.  Good luck with all of the great work you’ll surely do in the future.

Report: White Sox have made James Shields available in a trade

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 26:  James Shields #25 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on July 26, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Teams in need of starting pitching can call the White Sox about James Shields as the club has made him available in a trade, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network reports.

A trade would allow Shields to land with his third team this season. The Padres traded Shields to the White Sox in early June for pitcher Erik Johnson and minor leaguer Fernando Tatis, Jr. Things haven’t gone better for him since leaving San Diego with a 4.28 ERA. In 10 starts with the White Sox, Shields has compiled a 5.17 ERA with a 29/25 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings.

Shields, 34, is owed $21 million in both 2017 and ’18, then has a $16 million club option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout.

The White Sox are teetering on the edge between being buyers and sellers. They entered play Wednesday on a four-game winning streak with a 50-50 record, eight games out of first place in the AL Central and six games out of the second AL Wild Card slot.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday evening’s action

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium on July 22, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Wednesday gives us six afternoon games, leaving nine games for the evening. Masahiro Tanaka will start one of those games as the Yankees take on the Astros’ Lance McCullers in an 8:10 PM EDT start.

The Yankees went into the All-Star break an even 44-44, 7.5 games out of first place and looking like sellers. They have come into the second half winning 8 of 12 games, including their last three. The club has only managed to make up one game against the first-place Orioles in the AL East, but they are also only four games out of the second AL Wild Card slot.

Aroldis Chapman has already been shipped out, but the Yankees are also drawing trade interest in Andrew Miller, who has assumed the closer’s role. If the Yankees win tonight and perform well against the Rays in a three-game series in Tampa, the Bronx Bombers may enter the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline deciding to be competitive after all.

The rest of Wednesday evening’s action…

Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ Baltimore Orioles (Dylan Bundy), 7:05 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (James Paxton) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Gerrit Cole), 7:05 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) @ New York Mets (Logan Verrett), 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Anthony Ranaudo) @ Chicago Cubs (Jason Hammel), 8:05 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sean Manaea) @ Texas Rangers (Yu Darvish), 8:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Jimmy Nelson), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Mike Foltynewicz) @ Minnesota Twins (Tyler Duffey), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Matt Shoemaker) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 8:15 PM EDT