Christina Kahrl did a great job, better than what I can do, in saying what gaining membership to the Baseball Writers Association of America means for Baseball Prospectus in announcing our inclusion on Wednesday. But what does it mean for me and for what I do going forward? That’s the more interesting question.
At first, the answer was ‘nothing’; membership in the organization meant no significant changes. It was, after all, the work I’d done that got me to this place, so why change? I would have more access, being able to go to games in places where the teams haven’t been quite so forward looking about access to press boxes and clubhouses. Access is nice, but it’s not going to change what I write. I do a sourced column about 30 teams, so being in Cincinnati or Chicago, the closest major league cities, isn’t going to give UTK a big bump. If anything, I guess I can plan ahead to a trip to St. Louis this summer.
There will be occasions when my path will fortuitously cross with an injured player, giving me the chance to get a first hand account. Aside from that, I’ll still be doing what I do and just as importantly, not doing what I don’t do.
So far, BBWAA members have been nothing but gracious. They seem as excited about having BP in there as we do about being there. I’m not going to lobby them to use VORP in their stories, but I think they’ll begin to see us not as those snarky guys who write a blog, but people who love baseball and look at it from an analytical, evidence-based mindset whenever possible. The ability to sit down and talk baseball will be an opportunity for us to learn from each other. I can imagine some managers can look forward to some questions they haven’t heard before in press conferences. I hope Ozzie Guillen has read up on his military history.
For me, though, this is much more about meaning than about change. I thought a lot about Doug Pappas on Wednesday after the announcement. He should have been the first with a card saying “Baseball Prospectus” at the bottom. It’s a validation, albeit an unneeded one, for the vision of Gary Huckabay, the behind the scenes work of Clay Davenport, the clarion writing of Joe Sheehan, and many more. It’s a validation of the readers and subscribers, saying that yes, this kind of content from this kind of organization is valid.
There’s one other point that hasn’t been brought up by many, and that is that our inclusion is in large part because this is our job. Christina and I, as well as several others at BP, live and breathe baseball, but we also do this to pay the bills. We saw all too clearly that many in the organization are being visited by the bad economy and the death of newspapers. The BBWAA exists as a trade union for those professional writers, dealing with the issues that face them, such as access to teams, travel, and other business. While many others can make an argument on quality of work, I also believe that one must be a professional writer, one who’s main and indeed only job is that of writing about baseball. (I’ll make a slight exception for other sports, if you’ll allow me to indulge my football gig a bit.)
I don’t doubt for a bit that people out there like Alex Belth, Rich Lederer, or Derek Zumsteg write on par with anyone and far exceed my writing talent, but Alex is an accountant, Rich is in investments, and Derek is a full-time curmudgeon - oh wait, he’s a project manager too. I hope that teams will grant them credentials, but I know that some won’t. I was just in their shoes. Perhaps the inclusion of BP will make teams step back and think next time a net-based writer applies to come to a game. I also hope that more writers like me — especially ones from BP — come up for me to vote “yes” on in coming years.
Most of all, it’s an honor. While others may make the Groucho Marx argument, point to a dinosaur or ten in the membership, or the Edinson Volquez flub as strikes against the BBWAA, I’m proud to stand beside people I considered heroes - Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal, Tracy Ringolsby, and Hal McCoy to name but a few - and now they’re colleagues and in some cases, friends. I may not be able to vote for Tim Raines yet, but someday, our votes will be counted alongside others, those who came before us and after us.
Seven years ago, I walked into the Opryland hotel, wide-eyed and not knowing what to expect. I had no real reason to be there, having completed my first season of sending out an email to friends that talked about injuries. My dad talked me into going, I think because he thought I’d get a job. I hoped to meet Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, and Joe Sheehan. (I still haven’t met Rob …) As I made my first long walk through the lobbies of the Opryland, I happened across Gammons, wearing a suit and New Balance sneakers. He greeted me warmly and I tried to stammer out thanks for helping me by mentioning UTK.
I ran into him in the hallway at the Bellagio. We were both wearing sneakers and we were both members of the BBWAA. Amid the bells and whistles of Vegas, I think I saw Doug Pappas. He was smiling.