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.

Derek Jeter and Giancarlo Stanton have different stories about his trade

Associated Press
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giancarlo Stanton was introduced by the New York Yankees moments ago, donning the pinstripes for the first time and meeting a mass of media. The takeaway from the presser — apart from how happy he seems to be about joining the Yankees — is how poorly the Miami Marlins handled his departure.

Earlier in the day Derek Jeter — who, despite being in charge of the Marlins baseball operations department is not here for the Winter Meetings — had a telephone press conference in which he seemed to bristle at the bad press he’s received since the Stanton trade was announced and tried to tell his side of the story of the deal. Here’s his side of the story:

During his press conference just now Stanton was asked if Jeter persuaded him to stay. He paused for several seconds when he was asked that. Then he answered:

We had a meeting, yes. We spoke about the direction of the team. I wanted us to go forward and have — and advance with the pitching staff. I thought our lineup was legit and we needed help with our pitchers, and we needed to add rather than subtract. The way they wanted to go was to subtract, so I let that be known that I didn’t want to be part of another rebuild, another losing season, and that’s almost a guaranteed losing season taking away what I thought was a great lineup. So, yes, I didn’t want to be a part of the rebuild.

It was quite clear from both his words and his demeanor that Stanton gave the Marlins a reasonable set of circumstances that would make him want to stay. It was likewise clear that the Marlins did nothing to persuade him to stay.

They also bungled the trade.

Stanton has taken a lot of heat for rejecting deals to the Giants and the Cardinals. Stanton said, though, that he and his agent presented the Marlins with a list of teams to whom he’d accept a trade beforehand and the Giants and Cardinals were not on the list. Stanton:

Now, I gave my list of teams prior to, and they went to San Francisco and Cardinals and struck deals with them. So I was open to listen to them, but those were not my teams.

The Marlins nonetheless struck those deals and presented them to Stanton. Stanton said that he had a lot of respect for those organizations so he took meetings with them but that they were never on his list and they just weren’t deals that were going to work out.

News of those deals, it’s worth remembering, came out primarily from a reporter based in south Florida, suggesting that they were leaked by the Marlins. So not only was the club pursuing deals they should have known Stanton was going to reject, they made his act of rejecting them an awkward, public act which made Stanton into the bad guy in some quarters. Once those deals feel apart, of course, the Yankees quickly swooped in and got him for a good second baseman who will soon be traded and some magic beans.

Stanton came off really well in his presser. He answered every questions thrown at him. He praised the Cardinals and the Giants and explained his decision to join the Yankees without delving into the sorts of cliches often used when talking about the Yankees, focusing less on their history and brand and more on their good young players and their current state of competitiveness. He also said, when asked whether he’ll play right field given that Aaron Judge is there, that he doesn’t care where he played as long as he can help the team win. It was a master class in how to introduce yourself to the New York media.

Contrast that with what’s coming out of Miami. And ask yourself if we should maybe rethink what we talk about when we talk about Yankees, current and former, and the idea of “class.”

More from the Stanton press conference: