The secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA discusses the organization's purpose, its relationship with MLB, and membership eligibility.
The Baseball Writers Association of America is a big part of the game, and Jack O’Connell is a big part of the BBWAA. The organization’s secretary-treasurer since 1994, O’Connell is not only involved in the decision-making, he also serves as spokesperson and coordinates the annual awards and Hall of Fame balloting. A member of the BBWAA since 1975, he is a former beat writer for both the Mets and Yankees. O’Connell talked about the history and objectives of the BBWAA, along with a variety of the organization’s issues. Among them: their relationship with MLB, membership eligibility—including the inclusion of internet-only reporters—and the Hall of Fame voting process.
The Indians beat writer recalls some moments from a career spanning almost 30 years.
The job of a baseball beat writer is evolving, and it is a lot more demanding than most people realize. Few do it better the Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Hoynsie” has been on the Indians beat for nearly 30 years, so from Andre Thornton to Manny Acta, and Albert Belle to the internet age, he has pretty much seen and done it all—in his own inimitable style. Hoynes talked about what goes into the job, how it has changed, and some of the most interesting players he has covered, one of whom attacked him in the clubhouse.
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.
The historian talks about the vast research she has done on the social aspects of baseball.
Dorothy Seymour Mills is a giant among baseball researchers and historians. Mills and her late husband, Harold Seymour, were among the inaugural class of recipients of the Society for American Baseball Research’s Henry Chadwick Award, which honors the game’s great researchers, historians, statisticians, analysts, and archivists. She collaborated on three groundbreaking books with her late husband: Baseball: The Early Years , Baseball: The Golden Age , and Baseball: The People’s Game . Her most recent book is Chasing Baseball. Mills, now 82 years young, talked about her life as a baseball researcher during SABR’s annual Seymour Medal Conference, held recently in Cleveland. The award, which honors the best book of baseball history or biography published the previous year, is named after her and Harold Seymour.
Figuring out what the book is is the current challenge.
I knew that when I made a call for suggestions for articles to include in my upcoming book, it would probably complicate the decision process. I thought I'd been fairly thorough in looking through the last decade of writing, thought I'd narrowed down the list to something manageable, thought there was little chance I'd missed anything of note. I was wrong. There were a number of pieces suggested to me by e-mail and in the comments section that I hadn't considered. Some had already been tossed-by and large pieces to specifically tied to events, that I think won't play well in a book-but some had simply made less an impression on me, in the re-reading, than they had on the readers. It is interesting, as a writer, to not realize what of your output has actually made a lasting impression.
When I talked out this book with Dave Pease over the winter, it started out in my mind as a collection, then developed into something that included more original material than that. The longer I live with this concept, the more I see that the decision between those two categories isn't just a matter of finding sufficient material to make it the former, or writing enough of the latter. It's actually a battle for the identity of the book. Is this going to be a "greatest hits" collection, a means of having all of my best work in one place as both a retrospective of and an introduction to Joe Sheehan, or will I create more of the book from whole cloth?
Welcome to the blog for "The Untitled Joe Sheehan Book," which will presumably have a catchier title at some point. In this space I’ll chronicle the process of writing my first solo book, which should be out just in time for you to enjoy on an off-day during the World Series. The idea for a blog like this is, to some extent, stolen from the great Joe Posnanski, who started The Soul of Baseball blog while he was working on his wonderful biography, with the same name, of Buck O’Neil.
Since we announced "The Untitled Joe Sheehan Book" a month ago, I’ve spent most of my time reading what I’ve written over the past decade for Baseball Prospectus, trying to pare about 1,500 pieces down to a couple dozen for inclusion in the book. Those pieces are going to form the framework of the book, serving as both a "best of" for longtime readers and an introduction for new ones. Make no mistake about it; as much as I want the people who have read BP for years to buy the book, I want to be able to reach beyond that group as well. I want all baseball fans to be able to pick up the book and enjoy it even if they’ve never heard of BP.
The shape of things to come from Baseball Prospectus and BaseballProspectus.com
First off, I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season. As it turned out, 2009 was a successful year for Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, but this coming year has the potential to be the biggest for us since the year we went to a premium product, and I'd like to share with you all some of the things we are working on. For our readers and subscribers, Baseball Prospectus means two things; great content, and leading-edge statistical work. I'd like to talk about some exciting developments on both fronts that push us even further forward in 2010.
Bio: My name is Tyler Hissey, a 22-year-old baseball fanatic from Connecticut. My love for the game started young, as I was born into a big baseball family. Unfortunately for me, most of the athleticism and talent went to my cousins, David and Peter, a fourth-round selection of the Boston Red Sox in the 2008 draft. I played my first two years at Eckerd College down in the Sunshine State Conference, but I fell on the wrong side of Value Over Division II Replacement Player. After an arm injury and the lack of secondary skills ended my collegiate career, though, I began reading and writing about baseball in order to help me cure my baseball fix. Luckily, the Internet has given me the opportunity to voice my opinion on the sport to the world. After reading Moneyball for a business course, I begin to get into sabermetrics. I pretty much learned more reading Baseball Between the Numbers than I did in my 12-plus years as a serious amateur player. My experiences in baseball journalism coincided with my improvement as a student there, and I finished my career reaching the Dean's List in my final four semesters while graduating with honors. I was also nominated for the school's Writing Excellence Award during my junior year, an honor that would have never been bestowed upon me if not for my interest in baseball blogging and desire to improve as a writer as a result.
Bio: My name is Ken Funck, and I live with my wife and two children in Madison, Wisconsin, a wonderful place I didn't have the heart to leave after getting my English/Creative Writing degree from the University of Wisconsin. I'm a third-generation fan of the Chicago Cubs, but I'm not one of those Cubs fans; I keep score when I go to Wrigley, and I know who Mick Kelleher is. I've never written about baseball professionally, I don't blog, and my journalism experience is limited to (a) selling story ideas to The Onion for $10 a pop in the summer of 1994; (b) editing my high school newspaper; (c) composing analytical pieces for my Strat league; and (d) writing reactionary letters to the editor of our local alternative newsweekly under the pseudonym Alvin P. Blatherson, Sr. (a serial comedy that I like to call "Blather, Rinse, Repeat").
A change in who's holding the reins, and what it means for BP.com going forward.
Baseball Prospectus is a small business run by a handful of exceptionally dedicated but utterly overworked individuals. This is occasionally exasperating, but has more often been exhilarating; we're always facing new challenges and have grown accustomed to learning on the fly. It does mean, however, that we do not have a lot of redundancy in place. When someone leaves, or has to pull back on their contributions, whether because they've become a father or joined a major league front office or decided to pursue another business opportunity, it is not a trivial matter to replace them.
It was barely a year ago when I launched FiveThirtyEight.com, a political number-crunching website that I expected to receive a few hundred hits a day and occupy perhaps five hours of my time per week. Since then, thanks to a combination of being in the right place at the right time and making a few lucky predictions, the site is accumulating both many degrees of magnitude more traffic than that, and occupying a much larger fraction of my time than I could have ever anticipated. I feel very, very fortunate about all of this; indeed, there have been many moments, such as upon appearing on Stephen Colbert's show, when I felt as though I'd won the nerd lottery. However, as you've undoubtedly noticed, these other opportunities have meant that I've been able to devote less of my time to Baseball Prospectus.
Talking with the Rays' leadoff prospect about baseball, existentialism, handedness, and a whole lot more besides.
Fernando Perez is not your run-of-the-mill professional athlete. A speedy outfielder who made his big-league debut in early September, the 25-year-old New Yorker is not only a big part of the Rays future, he also holds a degree in American Studies and Creative Writing from Columbia University. Perez went into the last weekend of the season hitting .273/.344/.473 with three home runs and five stolen bases in 55 at-bats. He sat down with David in mid-September to talk about his views on both baseball and life.
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Whlie Roger Clemens is in the news about his alleged off-field antics, Dan talks to Jonathan Mayo, author of a new book about Clemens' on-field success.
"No athlete goes through what Roger Clemens has put himself through in terms of conditioning and hard work not to win. Whatever your opinion of Clemens, there's never been any doubt about his competitive nature. --from the Introduction to Facing Clemens by Jonathan Mayo