Friday, May 17, 2019

Turning Nine

On May 17, 2010, I sent an email to fewer than 100 people, the first edition of the second run of The Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter. In those nine years, we’ve seen the Giants win three World Series, and the Yankees not win any. We’ve seen the game’s highest salary go from $33 million (Alex Rodriguez) to $42 million (Max Scherzer). We’ve had no strikes or lockouts, but plenty of labor unrest. We’ve seen Albert Pujols go from legend to laggard, and Mike Trout go from unknown to unbelievable.

We’ve seen the Newsletter go from 100 people to nearly 2,000, and growing.

In those nine years, the state of baseball, and baseball writing, has changed. The baseball world accelerated the trend of picking off writers from the stathead world, granting legitimacy to a field of study that had been scorned for much of the first 15 years of the nominal “Prospectus Era.” A once-unimaginable stream of data was invented that we’re still only barely tapping into today, one that has helped teach us things about players and the game itself that, a decade ago, we could have imagined knowing. With nods to everyone who came before, my colleagues at BP included, we’ve learned more about baseball in the last decade than in any ten-year period ever.

The data has changed the way the game has played, and it’s changed the way we analyze the game. Career paths are, if not a myth, a fragile idea when players can use data to re-invent themselves. Facile explanations for league-wide trends are dismissed when we can measure the spin, the exit velocity, the drag on baseballs. It’s harder to criticize some micro-level decisions, ones that could very well be based on data that’s simply unavailable to the public. Is that pitching change actually daft, or designed to exploit a specific skills matchup between the batter and new pitcher?

Next year, the 25th edition of the Baseball Prospectus annual will be published. I’ve already lived the first line of my obituary, and I couldn’t be more proud of having helped build a company that continues to cover the game today. The hundreds of people who have worked under the Prospectus banner, from the original five through today, have built something wonderful.

That this Newsletter carries just my name, however, doesn’t make it a solo venture. Scott Simon has been making my copy better for half the life of the Newsletter. (His value will be illustrated by the condition of the pre-Simon era piece below.) Bil Burke has pushed me to have a stronger Web presence and helped build that presence. I’ve been able to lean on friends and colleagues like Will Carroll, Rany Jazayerli, Jeff Erickson, David Donovan, Cee Angi, Chris Stone, and Stephen Cannella for advice, for support, for the occasional guest piece. I appreciate every single reader, but some have made their presence known in greater volume, making me smarter, holding me to first principles, making the Newsletter better in their own way.

I was a new father nine years ago. The Newsletter is exactly 46 days younger than Marina is, and much of what drives me every day is wanting to leave a legacy of success that she can some day understand and appreciate. We think about our kids making us proud as parents, but I want to make her proud of me as well. Nothing, not money, not fame, not truth, not craft, not baseball itself drives me the way she does. Guys, have a daughter. She’ll change everything.

Nine years ago, I sent out the following. Today, it goes to 20 times as many people. That’s a pretty good run. Thanks for being here for it. Thanks for being the best group of readers I could have hoped to have.

Joe Sheehan
May 17, 2019