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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. 
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Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Darold... (09/07)
<< Previous Column
Joe's Blog: A Night in... (08/26)
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Joe's Blog: Yankees/Ra... (09/13)
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