December 7, 2011
Doubling BP's BBWAA Body Count
I can’t help feeling like I jumped the line.
In the superb eighth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David added another useful term to the pop culture lexicon: the “chat-and-cut,” a delicate social maneuver wherein an intrepid line-cutter establishes some sort of rapport with someone standing near the front and casually joins the queue, thereby avoiding a long wait. Here’s what it looks like in action:
On a day highlighted by the Mets’ wholesale bullpen buying, a peculiar beginning to Chicago’s rebuilding movement, and wild rumors about the Marlins’ ongoing spending spree, the news out of Dallas that will stick with me for many Winter Meetings to come was Jay Jaffe’s announcement that Steven Goldman and I had joined him and John Perrotto as Baseball Prospectus’ representatives in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
When the BBWAA opened its virtual doors to internet-based writers four years ago, and to Baseball Prospectus in 2008, both moves came as the culmination of years of credibility-building. Steven, Jay, Christina Kahrl, and the other internet writers who have since been inducted have been covering baseball professionally roughly since I started collecting cards, if not earlier. They spent most of those years waiting in line for access—in the process proving that having that access wasn’t the only way one could say something useful about the game.
Eventually, the door opened. And how did I get through it? I was lucky enough to know the people at the front of the line, and they let me walk in with them. Basically, I pulled a chat-and-cut. Don't get me wrong—as far as I can tell, I meet the requirements for BBWAA eligibility, and I aim to do the organization proud. Still, getting in now says less about me than it does the people who spared me the wait. Where once an association with Baseball Prospectus was the mark of an informed outsider, a distinction that closed doors, it's now one that unlocks them.
When I worked for Yankees Magazine in college, I spent enough time in the clubhouse to know that merely getting inside doesn’t guarantee a great story—or any story, for that matter. If you want to come out with something useful instead of an empty voice recorder or the usual clichés, you have to go in with a goal and be willing to outwait your quarry, all the while pretending to be unfazed by the sight of Jose Molina’s ample belly. Similarly, while simply belonging to the BBWAA is a feather in BP's cap, our membership would mean little if we didn't use it to produce a better product.
Over the past year, BP’s BBWAA memberships have given us Jay’s game stories and on-the-spot playoff reporting and John’s regular updates from clubhouses around the league. With twice as many credentialed boots on the ground next season, we’d like to bring you more of the same while also experimenting with new ways of supplementing our stories with an up-close perspective. As always, we're open to suggestions. We're happy to be here, but now the real work begins.