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January 9, 2012

State of the Prospectus

What's to Come in 2012

by Steven Goldman

I want to show you something personal I think about a lot. It’s a picture that suggests to me how random existence can be, how good things can come from unexpected events. This is a picture of the Free French Battleship Richelieu taken about February 1943:  

(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

When France fell to Germany in June 1940, the British attacked the Richelieu, France’s greatest battleship, fearing she would fall to the Germans. Later, safely in Allied hands and dedicated to the cause of freedom (I am compressing a couple of years of World War II history into a sentence here), she was invited to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repair. In the picture you see above, she is being guided by tugs to her eventual berth in the Borough of Kings.

Contained within the ship in the picture above are about 1,600 French sailors. One of them, though he does not know it yet, is my maternal grandfather. In the days after this picture is taken, he will go on leave in New York, meet my grandmother—who has no idea he’s coming, either—and fall in love. A whirlwind romance will ensue, one that, quite fortunately, lasts the rest of their lives. The Richelieu remained in New York approximately nine months before being sent back into combat. By that time, my grandparents would be married and my mother on the way.

Endings are far easier to locate than beginnings. In a picture taken more than 25 years before I was born, I can see the threads of my own birth. For everyone concerned, it was an ordinary day, or as ordinary as a day in global wartime can get, but an entire family history lay in that moment. Similarly, as I write to you here, on January 9, 2012, I cannot know exactly which of the writers I am about to unveil to you will capture your heart and change your daily routine, I can only tell you that the U.S.S. Baseball Prospectus has pulled up dockside, the gangplank is down, and here come the sailors singing, “New York, New York, it’s a helluva town/The Yankees are up and the Mets are way down!” and hope that you will open your eyes and take them into your hearts—if not in the way that my grandmother did my grandfather (clean thoughts), at least the way you did me when I joined Baseball Prospectus lo these many seasons ago.

Before I introduce some new faces, let me emphasize continuity. In the year and season to come you will see more from R.J. Anderson, Corey Dawkins, Jeff Euston, Mike Fast, Kevin Goldstein, Larry Granillo, Jay Jaffe, Ben Lindbergh, Sam Miller, Jason Parks, John Perrotto, Dan Turkenkopf, Colin Wyers, Geoff Young, and myself—and in the cases of Sam and Jason, more frequently than before. You have also already seen the return of our old friend Maury Brown to man the business of baseball battlements, and he will continue on in that role for what we hope will be an epic-length stay.

Another previous contributor who I am looking forward to welcoming for a regular tour is Bradford Doolittle, who has been one of the stalwarts of our basketball publications for almost five years now. His occasional “Inside the Park” pieces, featuring analytically-friendly narratives on players, teams and baseball issues, have always been a treat, and now we get to see them twice a month. Finally, back when she first joined us, my assistant editor, Steph Bee, used to write the odd piece about California-located prospects and collegians before disappearing into our back offices, where she has rendered yeoman’s service in preparing our daily publications for your eyes. It is long past time she got another turn in front of the curtain, and she will be doing so on a biweekly basis this season.

Our fantasy baseball coverage will continue to be anchored by Derek Carty and his crew of Jason Collette, Michael Jong, Rob McQuown, Mike Petriello, and Michael Street. Derek joined us in-season last year, and we’re all excited to see what he can do with a full year, including the all-important pre-draft period, in helping to point the way to your enjoying a dominant fantasy season, including going from draft to draft in person if necessary—you know, like Elijah.

I also want to point out the continued presence of Daniel Rathman, who joined us as an intern working on our Daily Hit List combined adjusted standings, playoff odds, and commentary (a role in which he will continue this spring) and graduated to our top o’ the mornin’ BP First Take which is our one column that originates in the daily newsletter as a special thank you to those who choose to access our content that way. Daniel points out one of my favorite things about Baseball Prospectus, that Battleship Richelieu principal that I discussed earlier—so many people drift into our lives, but the ones who prove to be lasting and important are always a surprise. For example, Bradley Ankrom—more about whom in a moment—seemed to be a technical hire when he came on board, but as Joe Sheehan told me back in 2003, “BP is a pure meritocracy,” and he put on his writing shoes and delivered pieces like this review of Ed Wade’s reign of error in Houston, and suddenly he was someone we looked forward to seeing on stage as much as up in the rafters tinkering with the lights.

Two of our newest contributors came to us through the battleship that is our ProGUESTus feature. Jonathan Bernhardt, whose byline you may or may not see under the name “Heartburn Hardball,” established himself writing thousands of words about baseball's major tragedies and minor victories (including these about minor tragedy Jeff Mathis), and will continue to bring that insight—and length—to Baseball Prospectus. He is as comfortable discussing the fall of the New York Mets as he is the relative worth of a backup catcher; his work is narrative-driven, but statistically informed.

Adam Sobsey is another PRoG alumnus. Since 2009, Sobsey has been the Durham Bulls beat writer for the Independent Weekly, for which he also covers Duke basketball and writes about the arts, food, and wine. He has also won numerous awards as a playwright, and his work has been staged in New York, California, Austin and North Carolina, which makes me, with my one half-started musical, jealous as heck. More to the point, Adam combines an immersion in the minor-league scene with a playwright’s sense of humanity, and I expect that in his column, “Sobsequy,” he will capture the combination of those two as he did in the heartbreaking conclusion to his piece on Russ Canzler back in September. He tells me his first piece will be titled, “The Love Song of T. S. Elliot Johnson.”

Finally, Rebecca Glass will be joining us as both a writer and as one of my elite cadre of assistant editors. Coming to us by way of ESPN, Rebecca is one of the founders of the “You Can't Predict Baseball” blog. She will bring to her “Glass Cuts Diamond” a multidimensionality that is informed by history (not just of the game, but of the world), a vibrant sense of justice, and a wicked eye for the moral or competitive heart at the center of a story. She will also be joining Daniel as the other half of the Daily Hit List team.

This is just the beginning of 2012 for us, and if you don’t see a certain name here or if I haven’t highlighted a favorite feature (Lineup Card and ProGUESTus roll on), don’t worry—we are always tweaking, looking for ways to bring you more insightful baseball analysis. For example—and I don’t think we’ve said enough about this—we unveiled three new site-specific features during 2011: Corey Dawkins’ injury database and projections for every player (scroll down to see Carl Pavano’s catalogue of injury time-outs), Brad Ankrom’s Transactions Browser, which is only going to grow in usefulness as a tool over time, and the full integration of Euston’s Cot’s Contracts pages into our own (either new school or old style, take your pick). Come for the commentary, stay for the resources, or vice-versa, we have a little something for everybody and will continue to add more.

 I suppose that’s what happens when you un-box a battleship of 1,600 French sailors (particularly French sailors)—odds are at least one of them could turn out to be your grandpa. I’m not suggesting that everyone indulge in that level of intimacy with our staff—who can really say for sure where Jay Jaffe’s mustache has been?—but reading and enjoying them is both safe and recommended. And who knows? Maybe one day you will be looking at a row of books on your shelves (or e-reader of choice), see their names, think back to this moment, and remember, “This is where I began an association with one of my favorite writers,” just as I can look at that beat-up battlewagon above and know that my life was hovering just out of view. 

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

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