Leitch: Kansas City’s baseball writing royalty

From Will Leitch at Sports on Earth on September 30, 2014, with mention of SABR members Bill James, Rob Neyer, and Joe Posnanski:

One of the many, many joys of the explosion of Internet baseball analysis and commentary over the last decade-plus has been the exposure to not only different voices, but different teams in a way one never could have before. Before the Internet came and cracked the planet open, you were constricted by geography: I was fortunate to have Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as my local baseball writer, but you might not have been so lucky. And even with that: The only team I could truly know was my own.

In the mid-to-late’90s, back when ESPN was espnet.sportszone.com, my baseball world began to widen because of one man. It was not, as it was for so many others, Bill James: I was too young for the old annuals and didn’t really understand the James thing until I finally read The Historical Baseball Abstract and had my mind blown like everybody else. But no, my gateway drug to serious baseball thought — and my preview to just how much the landscape of the game I’d obsessed over essentially since birth was about to change — was Rob Neyer.

There were other sabermetric (not that I understood what that word meant, not yet) writers on the Internet, but I didn’t know that and I wouldn’t have known how to find them if there were: I, like most people, only knew espnet.sportszone.com. (And occasionally sportslineusa.com, if I might date myself even further.) And the guy who seemed to be systematically stripping away all my assumptions about my beloved game, one by one, was Rob Neyer.

RBIs are pointless? Walks are as good as a hit? Hitter strikeouts aren’t that big of a deal? Sacrifice bunts make it harder to win? You should ignore batting average for on-base percentage? These are all self-evident and obvious now — or at least they should be — but man, Neyer seemed to 20-year-old me like his brain had some sort of cheat code. I’d never thought about any of these things in that way before, but once I started, I was on fire. I began a lifelong obsession with baseball writing — with baseball thinking — that, nearly 20 years later, hasn’t slowed in the slightest. This was a game I loved about as much as I loved anything, and I realized I knew almost nothing about it. My decades of further reading and thinking have only made me love it more.

Read the full article here: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/97057898/royals-bill-james-rob-neyer-joe-posnanski

Originally published: September 30, 2014. Last Updated: September 30, 2014.