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September 7, 2010

Joe's Blog

Crazy

by Joe Sheehan

I don't think I'm a natural writer. I think I probably write better than I do anything else, so it's fortunate that I have been able to make a career of it rather than resorting to editing or carpentry or male modeling, but it's not something that's just a matter of course, like it's just always been there. I went to college intending to be a stockbroker, and kind of fell into journalism when I realized I enjoyed writing more than I enjoyed math. I still do, which is why it's always been a little uncomfortable when people who don't know all the names and the history position me as a sabermetrician. I'm not; I work with them and I admire them, but I can't do what Clay Davenport or Keith Woolner did, or what Colin Wyers and Eric Seidman continue to do. I don't have the database chops, for one, and I don't have the math skills, for two.

All of this is a long way of saying that I admire and envy the writers I know who are prolific. I'm convinced that Joe Posnanski is actually triplets, and he's just done a great job of hiding that fact. How else could he write as much, on as many topics, as he does? I used to think that Kevin Goldstein wrote a lot, generally five days a week on prospects and the minor leagues after joining BP. Then he ramped it up with "Minor League Update," and I'm in awe. Even beat reporters, who I've tended to criticize as a class, almost all have the ability to generate huge amounts of copy in an age when filing a couple of stories to the paper each day just isn't nearly enough. There's a particular skill, the skill of volume, that I just don't have. I can be prolific at times, such as each October, but it rarely feels like I'm tapping into some kind of natural talent. It's just that I like baseball and have a lot of strong opinions about how it should be played, managed and administrated.

I'm coming to the end of this book process, and the book is late, and I'm struggling with writing the new material for it as well as something valuable for this blog. Each week I write for Sports Illustrated and SI.com and sometimes the Wall Street Journal and I do other projects and for whatever reason, that stuff is easier. It's hard to write a book, especially this one, because all the new material I write seems, to me, to pale in comparison to the old stuff. It doesn't feel like it has the same spark, because I'm comparing the new stuff to what I've selected as some of the best work of my career. So now I'm struggling as it is, and I hate the material, and I'm aware that I'm late, and now I'm Alex Rodriguez trying to hit his 600th home run as the whole world points out that it's been six…seven…eight…nine…days since #599.

All I can think is how easy this would be for Posnanski, or Goldstein, or Steven Goldman, who is the most natural writer I know, like he came out of the womb holding a 500-word stanza on cramped places. I think about how Christina Kahrl can turn a waiver claim into 2,000 words on the baseball industry's roots in the Civil War and how using money to garner a player's rights isn't all that unlike the rich buying their way out of conscription for $300. I think about Bill Simmons writing a 700-page book about basketball or 4,000 word columns about "The Hills" or some other show I've never watched. (Maybe I could do a blog post entirely about "Glee"? Probably not without getting a TRO slapped on me.) I read Will Leitch's Are We Winning? and all I want to do is sell everything I own and give back my advance, because there's no way I can touch people the way that book, and Will's relationship with his dad, touched me. I don't want to be compared to these books. My book won't stand up to it, and I'll be the guy who wrote that book once and why didn't he write another and whatever happened to that Josh Sheen guy?

So i stare at these files, these 90-100 pieces from my past (thanks to BP's Charles Dahan, who assembled them for me), and I write words in and around and about them, and I hate them all, and then it's 7 p.m. and thank god there's a game on and I can immerse myself in baseball, sweet, sweet baseball, for six hours, and not think about how what I'm writing about Bud Selig today isn't worthy of sharing the same font as what I wrote about him a decade ago and how I'm another day late. I can focus on what I love, which isn't writing, but the game, and the races, and the experience of "baseball through a firehose" that I get from the Extra Innings Mix Channel, and seeing this great pitch and that great play and this blown call and that ridiculous comeback…

…and all of a sudden, in my head, I'm thinking about my second book.

All writers are crazy. Don't ever, ever forget that.

Joe Sheehan on Baseball: 15 Years of Being the Informed Outsider

Objections?

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

Related Content:  Writing

19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Shaun P.
(676)

Nope.

Stay crazy, Joe.

Sep 07, 2010 14:18 PM
rating: 0
 
Cory Schwartz

Great title. Wear it like a badge!

Sep 07, 2010 14:30 PM
rating: 0
 
cjslawyer

No objections from this corner, great post. In my former life as a journalist and later a PR person, I used to marvel at how much columnists could write, or how they could write so much each week on different topics.

Sep 07, 2010 15:11 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Not an objection, but that title won't grab anyone who does not already know your work, IMO

Sep 07, 2010 15:20 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Like the title.

And writing is definitely hard. The hardest part is putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, in the first place.

Then the second hardest part is keeping that going, even when writer's block and real life intervenes.

Sep 07, 2010 16:20 PM
rating: 0
 
ofMontreal

Yes, good title but maybe not great.

All the thoughts you are describing means your very close and you're being honest. Which you should be proud of. There is electricity in your first person point of view that is different from many, so don't sweat it too much.





Sep 07, 2010 17:09 PM
rating: -1
 
AlexMcCrum

One crazy writer to another: don't worry about hating your work. You're supposed to.

Sep 07, 2010 17:21 PM
rating: 0
 
philly

To me "the Informed Outsider" as opposed to "an Informed Outsider" suggests a level of smug condescension that you may (or may not) want to achieve with the title to your first book.

It's just possible that there are other informed outsiders too.

Sep 07, 2010 18:34 PM
rating: 0
 
bronnerea

Funny - looks like we posted at about the same time - I agree with the comment, plus I'm not sure the word "Being" is a great word to have in a title....

Sep 07, 2010 18:38 PM
rating: 0
 
bronnerea

Joe,

I couldn't begin to do what you do. For all of the praise you rightfully lavish on your peers, your ability to cut to the chase, in a succinct, direct way stands out among many. I am very much looking forward to your book. Great writers, unlike great baseball players, don't peak at 27....

As for the title, how about:

Joe Sheehan on Baseball: 15 Years As An Informed Outsider

Sep 07, 2010 18:35 PM
rating: 6
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Better.

Sep 07, 2010 19:10 PM
 
amazin_mess

Solid title.

Sep 08, 2010 04:32 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

Joe, I'm in the midst of my first book and I hit a point where I hated my writing and found lots of reasons to not work on it. The advice given to me was keep plugging away, trust in your writing and your editors, and keep that second book in your head as a prize for finishing the first. Best of luck!

Sep 08, 2010 06:34 AM
rating: 0
 
Scott D. Simon

"Arrogance: The Joe Sheehan Collection" is catchier, but I understand if you don't want to go there.

Still, I think combining the new title with the old might be an improvement. Perhaps:

The Informed Outsider: 15 Years of Joe Sheehan on Baseball

Sep 08, 2010 09:50 AM
rating: -1
 
Rowen Bell

Somehow when I see "The Informed Outsider: 15 Years of Joe Sheehan on Baseball", my mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that it's a compilation book with little or no new content (in the vein of Bill James' "This Time Let's Not All The Bones"); whereas when I see "Joe Sheehan on Baseball: 15 Years as an Informed Outsider", my mind doesn't jump to that conclusion.

But maybe that's just me.

Sep 08, 2010 10:24 AM
rating: 0
 
Scott D. Simon

That's a good point.

But I still think the book would benefit from "Informed Outsider" before the colon. Joe mentioned Simmons above. His first book wasn't called "Bill Simmons on the Red Sox: Now I Can Die In Peace."

The Informed Outsider: Joe Sheehan on [ ]

Fill in the brackets. "Baseball Analysis and Fandom"? "Closer Usage Patterns"?

Sep 08, 2010 10:57 AM
rating: 0
 
ashitaka

"I'm convinced that Joe Posnanski is actually triplets..."

"Posnanski" does seem like an amalgam of three names.

Sep 08, 2010 14:18 PM
rating: 1
 
misterjohnny
(925)

New Book Title - "Buy My Book or I'll Become a Male Model"

Sep 08, 2010 14:29 PM
rating: 2
 
dpbuckle
(867)

The brilliance of Joe Posnanski is that you think he's triplets when he's actually three sets of triplets. He's just that good.

Sep 08, 2010 19:20 PM
rating: 1
 
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