March 3, 2003
Supergluing the Keyboard
"Don't call it a comeback. I been here for years."
I was on the phone with Rany Jazayerli last week, discussing the launch of Baseball Prospectus Premium. He asked me what I planned to write for my first column back, and I told him I hadn't given it much thought. With so many people getting the newsletter as part of their BP Premium sign-up, not to mention the fact that it's been just eight months or so since I last wrote for BP, I didn't think it would be necessary to do what the cinema folks call an "establishing shot." Rany made good points, however, so to the shock of no one who knows me, I'll talk a little about myself.
For those of you new to the table, I'm Joe Sheehan, and I'm one of the people Gary Huckabay roped into this whole thing back when Baseball Prospectus was just a concept without a name, a product, a staff, or an audience. For nearly seven years, I worked alongside some of the most talented people in performance analysis to bring entertaining and informative baseball writing to readers of our annual books, our Web site, and our ESPN.com work.
Along the way, I launched The Daily Prospectus, a column that I hoped would become a cornerstone of BP's Web presence. While never as Daily as it should have been, the column was a success, combining analysis and opinion that I hope reflected my love for the game of baseball.
Last August, I left Baseball Prospectus, and about two months after that, missing writing during the postseason, I got a wild hair and started a subscription newsletter about baseball. Hoping for 100 subscribers, I more than doubled that figure, getting positive mentions from Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, Lee Sinins, Will Carroll, and BP that helped spread the word. (Those newsletters are archived online [username subscriber, password mattingly], and as a subscriber to BP Premium, you have free access to them.)
Even with that success, however, when Gary and Dave Pease came to me about returning to Baseball Prospectus as part of a major change in the Web site, it was something I had to consider. BP's place in my heart was unchallenged; while I'd left day-to-day operations in the summer, I was still following the site closely and I wanted BP to succeed. Gary and Dave convinced me that the best way for BP to thrive would be for me to return to it, and they made a forceful case for the move to a subscription site, with my work as a core feature.
It's not all about me. I couldn't help but be excited about the relationship with Will Carroll and the launch of BP Radio. Nate Silver's entertaining blend of analysis and prose is new to the site, and his PECOTA system is at the core of the amazing new player cards. The Pease brothers, Dave and Jeff, have worked insane hours to redesign the site (coming soon), making it more attractive and accessible. And to be honest, I missed working with Dave and Gary and Rany and Keith Woolner and Michael Wolverton and everyone at BP. It's not everyone who gets to count as colleagues people with this much talent and dedication, and I'm proud to be sharing a virtual office with them again. Working with them makes my writing better.
We even have interns now! Given the relative qualifications of the interns and the senior staff, though, the names you all recognize will probably be fetching coffee and washing the interns' cars by the All-Star break. In the meantime, the potential for me to come back to BP and delegate unpleasant tasks--like research, dealing with Bower, or lawn care--to someone smarter and younger than me was too good to pass up.
So, I'm back, and I'm thrilled. BP Premium is already a success, and more people are signing up every day. I get to be a part of it, as what I have often called "my baby" goes through a growth spurt not unlike a teenager's; it will be awkward and occasionally painful, but he'll come out of it bigger and stronger, and even more prepared for a long and successful life.
I'm sure many of you out there remember college, and the first day of classes. What was the best way a professor could get on the students' good side to start the semester? Make that first class a short session!
Like a well-remembered psych prof, I'm going to make the first day of our new term a brief one as well. Not because I want you all to like me--I do, and I'll be shameless about it as time goes on--but because we have a lot ahead of us.
Welcome. Let's continue.