Patrick Dubuque has embodied a variety of roles during his time at Baseball Prospectus, including Manager of Short Relief, Director of Editorial Content, Co-Editor of the BP Annual, and an uncredited stint as our Philosopher in Residence. While there has been a tradition in place to roast an outgoing member of the staff, Patrick is far too comfortable being insulted, often being the one to cast the first stone. So instead, we come to toast his ass.
Holly M. Wendt
The capacity of interest and imagination necessary to envision such a thing as Short Relief is staggeringly rare, wide-ranging and generous, and Patrick Dubuque has been the kind of editor—architect, shepherd, conductor, co-conspirator—of which most writers only dream. Under the roof of this delightful and strange thing he’s built, baseball writing and baseball itself have fractured and reformed, have been made new and fresh again, which is a tough task given a sport more than a hundred and fifty years old and English professors on staff who submit things like pastiches of Shakespeare. Since early March 2017, being part of this all has indeed been an antidote to sadness. Thank you, Patrick, for bringing this team to the field.
It takes a certain kind of person to see so much poetry in baseball; and it takes a certain kind of person to help others see that poetry as well. I’m a relative latecomer to Short Relief, but it’s been a real pleasure working with Patrick for these months. He’s a kind and thoughtful editor, and has the best quality of an editor – he’s unafraid to tell you when something’s not working, but is always willing to work to help you fix it, even when copy far exceeds the suggested word limit for SR pieces. (A belated ‘sorry’ for sending in 900-word pieces, but not really.) He’s helped to bring both perspective and necessary effervescence into baseball, as well as showcasing new voices. Safe journeys, and I look forward to whatever you do next.
“Patrick Dubuque? [takes long drag from a piece of gum that has been sitting on top of a cardboard picture of Alvin Davis’s face for over 25 years] it’s been years since I heard that name. I think it was back in ‘17 he asked me to partake in a jaunty little effort. I think it was called Middle Relief. There was a lot of talent in the group, I remember. We had fun. Too bad it’s not around anymore.”
This is, of course, the worst case scenario for what Patrick made. Verticals rise and fall on the world wide web every day, and for this section to have motored along for nearly three years, with more than half of the original writin’ crew still here, and others leaving to get promotions … that’s an accomplishment. I’m pretty certain Short Relief is going to be around for another 20 years and it’s all thanks to Patrick’s vision and thirst for quality and poignancy. His biggest failure was the Google schedule and that was about it. He’s a terrific writer and editor, and that’s not fair, everyone was supposed to pick one.
During the summer of 2015, I spent four months as interim Editor-in-Chief while then-EIC Sam Miller took some time off to write a book with Ben Lindbergh that you’ve all likely read. My first question once I was given these somewhat limited powers was “can I hire Patrick Dubuque?” (Of course, to put things in perspective, the second question I asked was “can I do this?”) I had always been awed by Patrick’s creativity and once I started working with him, this grew exponentially. When I first approached Patrick about doing a daily column of short features at Baseball Prospectus in 2016, it was me that lacked the imagination to see what he saw. What Patrick saw was Short Relief, and it has been an incredible way to bring so many new and wonderful voices to our site. On a grander scale, he has been a constant partner in helping drive the site forward editorially and never shied away from telling me an idea of mine was bad. Patrick, I will miss you terribly and I can’t wait to get the opportunity to work with you once again.
Patrick gave me a shot when I had no track record. I still don’t know why he did! Maybe it was his excellent sense of cosmic timing. At the exact moment that I thought I could write creatively, Patrick came along. Under his tutelage, I have grown by leaps and bounds, as a writer, dreamer, and person. He presented me with a playground to explore my creativity, and then rolled up his sleeves and played along. He taught me to be less terse and to let my imagination go. His own writing is poetic and fluid, inspiring me to be ever more daring, and I’ve had such pleasant surprises when discovering where I can go. (Patrick also favors the semicolon; this is my parting gift.) He encouraged me to come out of my shell even when it meant being honest and raw, and then when I did, he carried me part of the way. Some of the things I’ve written for BP have been so hard to write, and without him, they wouldn’t have happened. He helped me open the door in the back of the wardrobe. I will miss you so much, Patrick. Thank you for everything.
The beautiful thing about baseball is that it’s multi-faceted; the tragedy of being a baseball writer is that it’s impossible to bring each of these facets to light. Patrick recognized this problem and roughly two years ago brought Short Relief into the world to address it. He assembled a collection of writers, both new and established, and gave us free reign to unleash on the world the weird and wonderful ways our brains understand the sport we so love. It’s a testament to his brilliance and his vision for baseball writing that even as many of its writers have moved on to bigger things, Short Relief has maintained its quality. Under Patrick, it’s been a home for people who didn’t think anybody else saw baseball as they did, and I know that in his absence, Short Relief will continue to enlarge this home and find new voices that are impactful even within 500 words.
The first time I talked to Patrick Dubuque about joining Notgra…er, sorry, Short Relief, we wound up talking far more about strategies for putting small children to sleep. I had successfully lived through it, you see, and had found a receptive audience to share my wisdom. Turns out Patrick was one step ahead of me, as he has been for most of the times we were on the same staff. I was unsure if I wanted to commit to writing a weekly column again. By the end of my last gig, it was a drag. Patrick told me, “One of the main tenets of SR is that it should be fun to write – if it’s pushing anyone to stress, then it’s not worth it.” I began reading back through previous articles to understand the esprit de corps, and it was fun! I found how much I enjoyed reading the staff that he had put together, a staff that included himself in all his weird and introspective glory. And, finally, I discovered how much I really wanted to be a part of it, especially when he told me I didn’t need to keep my potty mouth closed. In this case, his genius lay in helping me to realize that I would feel more free when I was chained to a deadline in this group than I would in other mediums where I would feel more stifled. I could be me, as crotchety and hopeful and despondent as that might be on any given day. Patrick’s genius extends far beyond that, of course, and I’m excited for the day when we hear from it again, perhaps in these digital pages and perhaps somewhere else. And, until then, I thank him for inviting me on board and hope he gets some sleep.
During the time that I’ve spent writing on the internet, I’ve had a few moments where I was thinking “Really? You want me?” whenever I’ve been approached about doing work somewhere. When Patrick Dubuque came to me and asked if I wanted to join the Short Relief crew, this qualified as one of those moments. He’s a writer who I admired and Short Relief was one of those things that I was content to enjoy from afar, since I figured that this probably wasn’t in my wheelhouse. He clearly saw something in my writing that I didn’t see, because I’ve had a blast doing Short Relief ever since I’ve started up. Additionally, he’s an editor who I admire as well. We haven’t worked together for too long, but I’ve learned so much during this short time and I’ve also become more confident as well and I attribute some of that growth to his work as an editor. This is one of the coolest things that I’ve been a part of as a writer, and I’m grateful to Patrick for inviting me on to do this.
How brilliant is Patrick? He was able to explain what the allegedly ineffable Short Relief was all about on day one:
Instead, what you will find under this banner is a series of shortform articles by various writers, concerned primarily with the aesthetic, the metaphorical, and the ridiculous aspects of baseball as an unproductive labor that induces such devotion and contentment.
It makes no sense that someone with Patrick’s endless creativity would be as nice as Patrick is, or so humble and uncomfortable with praise he will probably avoid the internet entirely for a month after simply hearing that this tribute exists. But that is the case with Patrick. He is also a great editor, and a great evaluator of talent (present company excluded).
Patrick brought me on to Short Relief three weeks after I dropped out of the baseball writing/podcasting universe absolutely, positively, for good to preserve my sanity, and one week after I felt completely useless, empty, and lonely. I cheated a bit and read what some of the other writers have written here, and Patrick has similarly exhibited a preternatural talent for entering their lives at the precise right moment. What I’m trying to say is Patrick is ridiculous, and possibly an extraterrestrial. If the latter is the case, I wish he would take me back to his planet with him. But if he explained why he couldn’t, I would somehow understand.
Well the first thing people should know about Patrick, as good of a writer and editor as he is (and I would wager there are none more gifted at either, let alone both, on this entire god-forsaken internet) is that he has absolutely ATROCIOUS taste. Just incredibly bad. Hand the guy a beautifully crafted, delicately-balanced Northwest beer and he’ll look at you like you handed him a live snake. Give him the Michelob that got lost under your car seat for a whole summer? He’s happy as a hitter facing Edwin Diaz in the 9th inning HEYO.
The other, maybe slightly more important thing about people should know about Patrick is that, no matter how much you’ve been amazed by his writing and literary gifts which are, again, Trout-ian, is that the goodness of the man himself outshines them by a factor of 10. The internet baseball writing community is a strange, newly (and thankfully) diversified place, and what small part I have been able to play in it both at Short Relief as elsewhere is largely due not just to strength of his skills as a writer and editor, but the sheer force of the decency of his humanity. For that reason, I’m sorry for all of us we’re losing the writer, but more grateful we get to keep the man.
I wrote alongside Patrick at Lookout Landing for a good few years before moving to the East Coast for grad school, never really getting to know him deeply beyond reading his writing and being simultaneously furious that someone was capable of making words smoosh together and become a whole greater than their individual parts, and being honored to be considered a “peer” alongside this person who was very clearly on another planet when it came to talent. Over the years we got to spend more time together–sadly only about once a year–and developed a kinship mainly through digitally mediated bits that shape into discernable letters together on screens, and in one way that is kind of how I make sense of it all, an amalgamation of pixels and algorithmically-produced outcomes we interpret as more meaningful than they actually are. Few people know how to turn that into something meaningful, and you know where I’m going with this.
But the other thing I have to say is that I will never forget, what, I think it was late summer 2015, when I came back to Seattle and had a couple of beers and told Patrick that the internet–and baseball Twitter in particular–was growing more and more miserable. All I wanted was to read something like the glory days of NotGraphs that wasn’t beholden to the win/loss record of the baseball team I was covering most days of the week. The thing I will never forget is that Patrick listened to me, and agreed, and somehow pretended that the ideal articles in question weren’t articles written by him, and then he suggested that he had an idea for a project designed to milk the best out of a few of us because his running theory was that there are remarkably talented people out there who don’t have a place to regularly publish. I think about that sometimes, and I think that he might be one of the few people who still legitimately, correctly, believes that, and always sought to find hidden talent where you least expected it. And put them first. This, to say nothing about the fact that he might be the best baseball writer of his generation, will be a huge part of his legacy, and I only hope everyone reading this knows how far his fingerprints reach in our little corner of the internet, and how lucky we are to have had him. To Pat–and the em dash–may they outlive us all.
I don’t want to do this, but also — and perhaps more to the point — I don’t know how to do this. I said goodbye to this website once and it lasted six whole months. In that goodbye, I specifically mentioned the community that is Baseball Prospectus, and how I was not sure what I would do without them. Well, community is just a substitute for people and culture, and Patrick Dubuque is a giant of a person when it comes to culture. He’s given so much — perhaps too much — of himself to Baseball Prospectus and we’re all better off for it, save for maybe Patrick.
He’d kill me for using something so hackneyed but he also doesn’t know this exists yet so I get to do it anyway: In Rent’s La Vie Boheme there is a line that goes “the opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” As capital-b Baseball has gone to war, on the union, on the non-luxury box fans, on aesthetics, and on itself, more generally, Patrick has gone about creating. It is an incredibly hard thing to do, because the second something becomes more than a concept, an idea, an uncommitted project, it is immediately and perpetually failing. It can be a success, of course, but a concept in its true form never survives contact with reality, and thus is never what the creator is ultimately striving for.
But that frustration and disappointment, the feeling of inadequacy that accompanies any setback or compromise (and there are so many compromises in getting something from concept to reality) never seemed to jade him. He knew it would happen intellectually, but he wore, emotionally, every inability to execute absolutely perfectly on his sleeve. And the cynical ass that I am, I’ve often thought “well that seems like an absolutely brutal way to go through life.” But I’m also quite jealous of it.
His willingness to be open to the inevitable feeling of having not done enough unearthed so many wonderful pieces and sentiments, and more importantly created a space where others felt comfortable and daring enough to create on their own. I’ve said to Patrick multiple times that I still don’t feel like I have a great grasp of what Short Relief is, exactly. But I know that it is not a failure, not in concept, not in form or function or reality. Nothing lasts forever, but we’re lucky to have had in our midst someone who was willing and able to “fail” so beautifully for so long.
The thing is, I emailed Patrick after the internal announcement about his departure. When he told me what he’d decided, and why he’d decided it, I could relate to everything he said. I think a lot about why I do this, and the time I contribute to it, and the energy it takes from me, and I can’t help but think about the future in exactly the way Patrick described he had been doing prior to this decision. And that leaves me with this: that if Patrick—who is an editor who admittedly I haven’t even worked with very long, yet who is still the editor on some of the work I’m most proud of in my career—is thinking this way, then we all must be. It’s the incurable brainworm of those of us who don’t write about baseball full-time.
It’s not hard to love writing about baseball, but it gets harder when you constantly have to make time for interviews and writing sessions and research around getting to work and spending time with people. By being so effortlessly professional, skilled, and supportive, Patrick made me feel like it was worth it to keep doing this, because he helped give my work greater value. He made me think about what I wanted to say, so I could feel like someone with a message and not just an idea. I never emailed Patrick back after he’d told me about what was going through his head leading up to his exit, for exactly the reasons I’ve described here—sometimes I’m apparently too scatterbrained to even reply to an email—so Patrick, if you’re reading this: I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you. I’m grateful for our time working together. And this piece I’ve written here is not as good as it could have been, since you didn’t edit it.
The terrible, and wonderful, thing about people who don’t think enough of themselves—and I assure you, however much Patrick esteems himself, it is not enough—is that they almost always think too much of you, or at least they do if they are as Patrick is: kind to the bone, and somehow seeking only to do good for others in a world that feels like it is getting meaner and smaller and harder every day. Ira Glass says that for a long time as a young artist, your taste kicks the ass of your talent; what he doesn’t say is eventually your talent catches up to your taste, and then, embarrassingly for you, outstrips it, leaving you to hastily switch out the books on your shelf and seek out new voices. My admiration for Patrick’s work has, to both my frustration and delight, always run like a racing-track rabbit just out of the grasp of my talent; there is no one whose criticism or praise matters more to me, and the chasing of that praise has produced some of my finest work. I am forever indebted to him for that, and also for creating a space where an MFA over a journalism degree isn’t just encouraged but near-required; for his encouragement to push the boundaries of what baseball writing could be; and for intoning a phrase you don’t hear often enough in baseball writing, in art in general, in life: “go weirder.” There are many days when Short Relief feels like the last small, good space in the world, and Patrick Dubuque the last truly good person in it, and I will miss him as the kind, visionary ruler of this tiny, beautiful empire in ways I can’t yet begin to comprehend.
Thank you for reading
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