Baseball Prospectus staff, past and present, remember their friend, Rob McQuown.
You may or may not be familiar with the name of Rob McQuown. But the chances are very good that you have read hundreds, if not thousands, of works that he had a hand in. It’s easy to make this claim, because Rob connected to everything and everyone, both here and well beyond. If ever a man lived in the acknowledgments, it was him. To describe him as the backbone of BP does an injustice to just how much of the skeleton he was: always beneath the surface, always supporting whatever needed doing. In fact, stop. Skeleton doesn’t even work as a metaphor, because you could easily describe him as the cardiovascular system as well: Rob pumped life into the website every day, updated and fixed, maintained and protected.
But never mind that. Even that description doesn’t fit, because it’s still just synecdoche. Rob McQuown was more than just a talented and trustworthy figure; he was a great person. He was a force on the team’s messaging system, an indefatigable conversationalist, always drawing people together. He was unfailingly positive, even in the dark days. More than anything, though, Rob was one of those rarest of people, the ones who listen to people with problems and then go and work and fix them. Every time you asked Rob for help, he’d either answer yes, or he’d pause, and then answer yes. The latter meant that what you were asking for was pretty tough, but he was still going to do it for you, just not in the timeframe you might have assumed. And then he did.
We are all worse off for having lost Rob; his departure has brought down the average. There are few people who were owed more credit than he was. In his final post, Sam Miller noted that the phrase “Thanks to Rob McQuown for research assistance,” a common footnote, had taken on a significance well beyond the words. It was a little salute to how much he and his talent and his presence meant to us. I would try to include it in articles that not only lacked Rob’s assistance, but lacked research entirely. It didn’t matter. We owed him thanks every day.
So once more: Thank you, Rob, for your research assistance. Thank you so much. –Patrick Dubuque
Rob McQuown was one of the most thoughtful, caring, and infectious people I’ve had the pleasure to know. That I got to call him a colleague ranks among the luckier circumstances in what has been a fairly charmed existence. He was a query master. He liked to change the topic in a slack channel. He loved fantasy baseball in all its forms – scoresheet, dfs, roto, HACKING MASS. He especially loved HACKING MASS. It’s a trope to say that no one cares about your fantasy baseball team, but Rob did. He loved to dissect trades and discuss offers. He’d ask me for advice about non-top 100 prospects for the 40th round of a mock draft he was in, and it never seemed crazy to talk about the minute details of these things at the time because he just brought so much energy to it.
We’ve had some giants come through Baseball Prospectus over the years, and we stand on the shoulders of their work and aim to uphold and surpass the bars they set. Rob’s were the shoulders that they, and we, stood on over the last decade. There is no replacing someone with the wit, intelligence, talent, and heart of a Rob McQuown. If we look a little shorter these days, it’s because we are. –Craig Goldstein
I think the best way to describe Rob is to use an analogy he used to describe himself. Baseball was his sport but Rob also really enjoyed volleyball; He played when he was younger and would watch professional player videos on youtube to clear his head. One time he was telling me what he enjoys about working in baseball. He said that he loves finding the answers to questions but that he prefers the setter position over the hitter position. He liked doing the work to make everyone else’s research happen but required no credit for the point on the scoreboard. It is pretty safe to say that he was the best setter in baseball.
Rob insisted that he wasn’t capable of being a good friend but he was. He helped me through some difficult times in my life. From distracting me with music that I definitely only pretended to listen to (yikes, sorry), talking through some tough situations, asking each other questions to improve who we are as people without judgement, to making jokes that probably aren’t even funny but made us laugh anyway, Rob was a great friend.
If I had one wish, it would be the chance to experience a Rob McQuown hug. While I never got to meet him in person, I can only assume that the warmth of his hugs match the warmth in his smile and his laugh.
There are words I wish I had one more chance to say but luckily I did get to say them. Rob, I’m glad to be your friend. Thank you for being my friend and for your chats. Your words will always mean a lot to me. No, you aren’t offending me. I’ll try my best not to be so hard on myself. But don’t worry too much about me because I know, you know… I’m not inclined to resign to maturity.
I miss you so much already. – Love, Beth Woerner
I hope what people understand is that, in this line of work, it’s very easy to say no by not saying anything at all. Quite often, emails go unanswered, slack messages and chats go unread, and you just sort of move on, either to another project or another topic or to go ask someone else. You’re mostly just relying on each other’s kindness to ever get anything done.
It is unfathomable to me how Rob never took the easy way out despite having more requests than the rest of us combined. He was not always obligated to answer. Often, there were no real external motivators pushing him to answer at all. How easy it would’ve been for him to ignore us on a bad day, or a busy day, or a day he just didn’t feel like getting into it.
When you reached out to Rob, you always got a response. It was always prompt. It was always helpful. It was always insightful. But above all else, it was always there, just as he was. I will try to be a little more like him in that regard. –Ben Carsley
When I first joined BP on the stats side in 2017, I was depressed and I wasn’t sure what I was really doing with my life. Harry Pavlidis gave me a chance as an intern, and Rob McQuown quickly knew what my skills as a programmer were and started throwing different projects my way. He never made anyone feel dumb or bad for not knowing something about programming — he took that as a teaching opportunity so that everyone could grow. He wanted to build everyone up for success and happiness. I don’t think I’d be half the programmer I am without his guidance.
But on top of that, Rob was an extraordinary friend. I slowly moved out of my depression and started figuring out what I was doing with my life. Even when things started to fall into place, Rob checked in on me, asking if I was happy with life. He would send different Spotify playlists of songs he knew I would enjoy. We’d have DMs about music and movies. We bonded over our mutual appreciation of Lily Allen. He wanted to see BP grow and aided in getting the women’s baseball world cup site up and running — of which, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did on that site without his guidance or help when I would DM “Rob it’s not working what do I do” and he’d figure it out in a minute.
I’m going to miss you so much, Rob. 🖤🐔🐄 –Jen Mac Ramos
I think Rob McQuown would have enjoyed the Rookie article I wrote yesterday.
Rob was a frequent participant in our #critters channel on the Baseball Prospectus Slack. A fair amount of that channel is pictures and video of Rookie. Rookie is a good dog, and it is a good channel. Rookie is one of the custom emoticons there; almost half of the custom emoticons in our Slack are cute animals.
I spent a lot of time over the past year or two talking with Rob over Slack and Gchat. Sometimes it was about BP business, and as everyone else has noted, he was the backbone of the site since long before I started here. But we also talked about Scoresheet strategy (he was a prolific Scoresheet devotee, and I just started playing last year), television, movies, baseball prospects (he had a lot of thoughts on prospects, and got us on board with Luis Rengifo early on for one), and other normal banalities of life.
We even talked about wrestling, occasionally. I don’t think Rob was a wrestling fan at all, but I am. About six or eight months ago I changed my Slack profile picture to a picture with my favorite WWE wrestler, Becky Lynch. This was around the time Becky was starting to get mainstream publicity, and he thought it was a cool-looking picture, so he read some of the articles going around about her and started following her. Our Slack ended up with a :beckylynch: emoticon, too. That was Rob.
I don’t have profound words here. I was far from the Rob’s closest friend at BP, and others are better suited to memorialize his impact on our site and baseball at large. But I think he would’ve liked that Rookie piece. —Jarrett Seidler
When I joined BP in late 2018 I remember feeling a sense of intimidation. I had been reading the site for years and now I suddenly found myself rubbing (digital) shoulders and interacting via Slack with a bunch of writers and editors who I’d long admired. As I got my feet wet I had a bunch of questions, and common among the answers were “check with Rob” or “that’s a Rob question.” That was intimidating, too. I knew who Rob was and how important he was to BP’s day-to-day operation. Why would he have time to answer annoying questions for an annoying newbie?
To say that apprehension was misguided couldn’t be more of an understatement. Rob didn’t just help out because it was his job, he did it with a digital smile on his face. (I mean this quite literally, he regularly ended his Slack messages with a smiley emoticon). Those sometimes simple and seemingly silly questions would often turn into 20-30 minute conversations that would traverse countless topics. Rob would discover your interests and then pry — in a good and honest way — into your life and before you knew it, you’d made a friend.
In those conversations, Rob discovered my love of film, the fact that I enjoyed gambling and playing DFS, and my career in the newspaper industry. The fact that we were the only two in BP’s staff predictions to pick Cody Bellinger to win 2019 NL MVP was a bonding point, too. He’d pop into our Slack DM with random observations on the aforementioned topics all the time. It was great, and made me feel all the more foolish when thinking back on how intimidated I felt the first time I reached out with one of my silly questions.
Rob’s intelligence was only matched by his kindness. He was always around when you needed him. Now he’s not. And it sucks. I’ll miss him immensely. —Collin Whitchurch
It was Rob who suggested I be added to the BP Stats team. I just remembered that this morning and I can’t help but laugh and cry. Rob would randomly DM me to talk about whether or not Rush was the greatest underrated band of all time (they are), and whether individually they were at the top of their leaderboards with their respective instruments (they were).
We talked for hours about fantasy baseball, which I knew nothing about, because he wanted my opinion on different players. We talked a lot about Weird Al Yankovic and his involvement in the Naked Gun trilogy. And, some of the time, he just wrote to me asking how I was.
There are a lot of words I could use to describe Rob, but only one truly rings unanimously among our family: selfless. Rob was well-known for always wanting to help others no matter how much time it took away from other, probably more important, tasks. He was always there when you needed to solve a problem or needed to find a table within our SQL repository. And, when I shared insights on any project or problem I was working on, he was always quick to DM me to make sure I had taken into consideration x, y, and z.
Rob was a very dear friend to me and I already miss him. What makes me miss him the most is that, even though here at BP we’re all mourning him, he’s surely saying “Guys, I’m ok, this isn’t necessary. Please keep the site running.” You were a great man and an even better friend. I love and miss you dearly, Rob. — Martin Alonso
In my few months at the main Baseball Prospectus site I can’t say that I became particularly close with Rob, but in my interactions with him over that time I instantly became aware of the type of person he really was.
Our first chat started when I was trying to look up a very specific stat concerning DRC+ and Jeff McNeil vs. the rest of the league over a certain timespan over multiple seasons. I figured this would be pretty difficult to find but a fellow staffer pointed me to Rob’s direction. Despite me coming to him with something this intricate with virtually zero warning ahead of time, he was extremely kind to me, helpful and accommodating. He even walked me through how to use our Trello board even though there were probably a million better things he could’ve been doing at that time.
Over the next few weeks we chatted occasionally and he’d help me find more specific stats and spreadsheets, even if I wanted to know these things out of sheer curiosity and not for a specific piece. Rob was good like that. He’d explain to me the specificities of it all, get me whatever I needed and would just talk baseball with me afterwards.
While my time knowing him was sadly cut short, it gave me a glimpse into Rob McQuown the person. And with that limited knowledge, and reading similar words from those who knew him better than I did, I can confidently say that this is a major loss for not only Baseball Prospectus, but our entire community. —Rich MacLeod
I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of really cool stuff in this game over the past 25 years and I don’t take any of it for granted. Even so, there are only a handful of things that I would actually consider “dream come true” material.
As a reader of the Annual since the first edition as well as other BP publications, being a part of their creation someday was always on that list. I got to do that over the past year because of Rob and his willingness to trust in me from day one. It’s hard to put into words how much that means to me.
We had similar backgrounds in both the tech world and in baseball, so we always had a lot to talk about. Once we discovered that we were both part of STATS Inc. back in its early days, I looked forward to reminiscing with him on random nights as we were working on one thing or another.
He also got me involved in Scoresheet, another thing I’ve always wanted to do but never did until I met Rob. It’s remarkable how much of an impact he had on my baseball life in such a short period of time. I expressed my gratitude often, but he never wanted to hear it or take credit for any of it. That was Rob. Even so, I wish I thanked him more while I still had the chance.
Rob’s kindness and generosity were traits that are sorely lacking in this industry, and he was truly a high-character person in every sense. What I truly marveled at, though, was his ability to do every… damn… thing… and to do it well!
This next part isn’t news to anyone at BP, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. No matter what the question was, Rob either knew the answer or how to find it. No matter what the defect was, Rob either knew how to fix it or knew someone who could. I consider myself a pretty good multitasker but Rob McQuown was the Jedi Master of that shit, and would still make time to talk to you about pretty much anything, day or night.
I hope that all of us who dealt with Rob on a regular basis can learn from the way he treated people, even at times when the workload was overwhelming (which was often, although Rob wouldn’t complain about it). He was living proof that it’s not that hard to be kind to others and to pay it forward, even if your dance card is perpetually full.
I also hope that the baseball world as a whole recognizes Rob’s contributions to the analytics movement. He was the man behind the curtain who just knew how to make it all work, and somehow managed to maintain his sense of humor while doing so. Rest easy, Rob. — Scott Orgera
I joined the BP Stats team in the middle of 2017 as an intern. The first introduction to the BP Stats Slack was in the intern projects channel with the Rob, Harry, Jen, and eventually Martin. From this channel, we plotted out our projects that would eventually go live on the main site. Rob’s presence there was a signal of just how exactly who Rob was. If Rob could help with something, Rob wanted to help. It didn’t matter if it were a stats intern or a features writer. Rob would lend a helping hand to those who asked.
Without Rob, I would have run into roadblock after roadblock. Whatever question I had, Rob either had an answer or pointed me to someone who did. I can credit Rob with a ton of work towards seeing my name under a BP byline when the Draft Value Calculator was published. That’s something that has been immeasurably important to me and it just outright wouldn’t have been possible without Rob.
Personally, Rob was always around in the Slack. Whether it was him not knowing the slang of the youths, making a new emoji that was entirely spot on for whatever inside joke had just materialized, publishing a new Spotify playlist for us all to populate with whatever theme, or just shooting the shit.
Looking through our DMs, I saw there was one pinned message. Rob thought he was bothering me asking for something and apologized. I told him not to worry about it and then said, “You’re good.” Seems like a bit of an understatement, but I think it works. Thank you, Rob, for everything. – Anthony Rescan
It is impossible to overstate the impact that Rob had on me since I’ve been at BP. I began working on the stats team earlier this year, and Rob was always there to answer any question. As brilliant as he was, he was even more generous, and he was always willing to share his wisdom with me and help me understand whatever it was that I was struggling with. I didn’t have a vast knowledge of programming and database software prior to joining BP, and sometimes I would be nervous about sharing a query I was working on or asking a question I thought might be silly. But Rob was always just there to help.
One of our last conversations was about music, with us going back and forth about our favorite Beatles albums and James Taylor songs, and him recommending a list of some of his favorite tracks from the 60s and 70s. Rob loved music, and he would frequently share Spotify playlists in the music channel of our Slack. And wouldn’t you know, he was quite knowledgeable about that, too.
I wish I was able to tell Rob just how grateful I am for his mentorship, and how much I have learned from him in the time I knew him, which was far too short. He was a wonderful person, and I miss him a lot. – Lucas Apostoleris
I came to know who Rob was around 2012, through various stat-oriented articles everywhere on the Internet. More often than not they included the following sentence at the end: Thanks to Rob McQuown for the research assistance. To me, that’s who he was for a long time: an incredible stat magician.
After twists and turns, I joined the BP Family, and I got to know Rob better. Turned out, he was much more than just a numbers maven. He was a genuinely kind person who not only did help us with his otherworldly coding skills but also was a friend to every one of us.
He was a devout Scoresheet player who frequently posted in our #scoresheet Slack channel. In a league we were both in, we held a Rule 4 Draft in this past March. In the second round, I made a pick that caused a pack of my league-mates, including Rob, curse at me. I was quite pleased. When you made the smartest person on the Baseball Internet mad, it means you did a great job. Though, he didn’t seem to think he was smart. He often made self-deprecating jokes and called himself a moron in our Slack DMs.
I consider myself a music aficionado, but Rob was even more passionate about chords and notes. We recently had a lengthy chat about music that evolved from a different topic: the death of Tyler Skaggs, another great one who left us much too early. In the chat, he told me how much he loved Blue Öyster Cult’s third album. I had never heard it. I was meaning to listen to it and tell him my thoughts on the tunes, but I never got to do so. Now I am finally pouring the album, Secret Treaties, into my ears, I can finally tell. Rob, you were right. This album is a gem. – Kazuto Yamazaki
I went back through the Word directory where I save my articles, and searched for the occurrences of the word McQuown. There were 32. Come Wednesday, I’ll have been writing here for 40 months. So about once every month, for over three years, I pubilshed research that would not have been possible without Rob McQuown’s help. I was reticent about bothering him when I first got here, so the quotient over the last couple years is assuredly higher than that. And it’s not that he answered my questions, it’s that he answered the question I should have asked. He made my research better. Just a week ago Thursday, I wrote one of those 32 articles, and it contained this:
But it wasn’t just the research assistance. I help with the depth charts here. The interface that we use is quirky, and if you’re not careful (I am not careful) you can screw things up. Rob was the frequent recipient of my “Sorry, please fix xxxx” DMs. He always did, regardless of the hour, never complaining.
But it wasn’t just the research assistance and the technical assistance. When we employees took over ownership of Baseball Prospectus last November, a lot of switches had to be flipped. Have you ever seen those cartoon org charts, where all the boxes point to the secretary or assistant who actually runs everything? That was Rob.
But it wasn’t just the research assistance and the technical assistance and the institutional knowledge. It was his friendliness. It was his seemingly 24/7 availability. It was not just the willingness, but the joy he derived from helping out authors. It was the random gchats about obscure players from the 1990s who trashed our fantasy teams back then. It was his friendship. It was his attitude. It was his person. It was Rob.
I’m not going to say that I’m sad that my friend, my colleague, my coworker is gone, or that I miss him acutely. You can surmise that. Instead, let me leave you with a suggestion. I can’t remember how often I told Rob how much I appreciated what he did, or how strongly, or how recently. But the answers are surely not enough. And, of course, I can’t now.
We all have Rob McQuowns in our life. Tell them how much they mean to you, how much you appreciate them, how they make your life better. You can never know when you won’t have the opportunity again. — Rob Mains
“That sounds like a Rob McQuown question.”
Like many other folks here, I’m relatively new to BP, and relatively new to working in baseball beyond writing. It’s hard to write about someone in the past tense, particularly when I can look back on the months of chats, particularly when the ‘active’ icon next to Rob’s name always seemed to be there and it’s not going to be anymore.
Rob, simply, made things work. He did so even when he had a hundred other things going on, when the request was beyond the norm for what BP typically did, when there were fires to put out elsewhere. He was unfailingly kind, helpful, and thoughtful, and always punctuated things with a (literal) smile. When I asked other folks how to do things, most often the response was, “That sounds like a Rob McQuown question.” I don’t know if I said it enough, but I’ll say it now: Thank you, Rob, for everything. — Sydney Bergman
The BP Slack can be a daunting place at first. There are dozens of channels and we have a large, incredibly talented staff, so to a newcomer it has the potential to intimidate. Or it would, if it weren’t immediately dissipated by Rob’s warm enthusiasm. No matter the subject, Rob was interested, excited, happy, and whether you were a new arrival or had been there for years, he treated you like an old friend.
People have been accurately singing Rob’s praises about how talented he was and how much he did for BP from an intellectual or practical perspective. But the specific trigger for my grief since I learned we lost him is the memory of him messaging me on the BP Slack to tell me how much he loved the photos I posted of my ridiculous little Russian Blue cat, Chekhov, and to show me the first Chekhov emoji he had made. He said he could see his personality captured in the images and that it brought him a lot of joy to see people responding to any number of conversations with :chekhov:. Rob made three custom Chekhov emojis that I have been using aggressively in Slack ever since, and frankly I’m almost embarrassed at how honored I was to have someone of Rob’s stature go out of his way to make something like that.
Rob’s loss is incalculable to so many. He found joy and love in so many places. I just wish I could jump into Slack and still see him scheming about DFS or Scoresheet or even just to share a silly cat picture with him again. I wish we could have him back. –Nick Schaefer
Rob was kind, intelligent, and selfless. He never received proper credit, but he was almost always the most important person at BP. To lean into the baseball portion of his identity, he was a master framer. People may not have noticed his skill, but his impact was as positive as it was omnipresent. The site stayed functional because of Rob and nearly every article containing statistical research was inspired or informed by his databasing prowess. No matter your belief system, Rob is certain to live on because he was — in many regards — the spirit of BP. –R.J. Anderson
There was a time before Rob. If you were a young, non-programming BP writer with a story idea that required a deep dive into the stats, your options were limited. This was before Baseball-Reference and other automated sources, when a stats query often meant hauling a giant book like Total Baseball off the shelf and paging through it for hours. There were a few of us who were expert with computers and databases, but they were overwhelmed with demands on their time. All of us asked them for help, and, of course, they had their own ideas to pursue (every one of them, I think, now dwells in an MLB front office). Very often they provided timely assistance. Sometimes they didn’t, or couldn’t. That meant that if your query had been off a little, if you had meant to say, “just left-handed relievers, not all relievers,” having to ask a second time made one feel like the Oliver Twist of information-seekers.
That changed when Rob came around. He was always there, always ready to help. I wish I remembered more about the day he was first introduced; in retrospect, it seems as if he simultaneously appeared and had always been there. He remained mysterious; over the years I got to meet just about all of the BPers of that time, but not Rob. We did have many a late-night conversation on one or another of many now-outmoded chat apps–not just about the state of the site’s infrastructure or the thing I wanted to know about those aforementioned left-handed relievers, but about who he was and how he felt about things.
The late-night conversations between two sleep-deprived baseball writers are a sacred thing. Suffice it to say that he was a versatile Swiss army knife of a professional, and his combination of high character and high skill is rarer than gold. BP has been through so many changes since I joined at the start of this century–the staff has turned over completely, editors like myself have come and gone, even the ownership has changed more than once. Rob was here through most of it. Generations of BPers/formerly gifted children couldn’t get along with each other, but they all got along with Rob. He was a good man. He was an indispensable man. In his quiet way, he taught us so much. –Steven Goldman
There were some days I probably chatted with Rob more than anyone, save my wife. Looking back at that sentence, it definitely seems a little strange, but that’s sort of just part of the online community we’ve built, and a byproduct of being part of something where everyone is so spread out. Most of the time, conversations started with questions about who we were picking in an upcoming Scoresheet draft, or the struggles of a player we were both particularly high on heading into a season, but gradually that those baseball-centric conversations morphed into more, spanning movies, music, tv, housing and, well, I guess life. I considered Rob a good friend, even though I literally never met him or even heard his voice. There’s another strange sentence.
I liked feeling like one of “Rob’s People” after chatting, or answering a question he had (of which I’m sure he already had the answer). Reading everyone’s tributes after his passing, it seems like just about everyone was one of “Rob’s People” and I’m not sure if there is a more perfect encapsulation for who he was. If you had an issue, you went to Rob. If you just wanted to shoot the breeze, you went to Rob. And he was always around. And he always had time (even though with all his duties, he really never had time). I’m not sure quite how he always did it, and did it with a warmth and kindness, but that was Rob. If it feels like I’m babbling, or any of us are babbling, it’s because we all probably are. We don’t want it to end. I’m going to miss Rob a lot. –Mark Barry
Simply put, Rob launched my career in professional baseball—and many others. In March 2012, he invited an unpolished university student inside the halls of BP. He handed me the keys to the database, gave instruction and remained there whenever I needed him. I’m thankful he trusted me (when I often ran too inefficient an SQL query) and thankful he showed patience not just teaching me, but serving dozens of writers and operating a daily website.
Baseball runs on the work of the unheralded grinders: development coaches, area scouts, and guys like Rob McQuown. He wasn’t only a brilliant technical fixer, he developed people (and graciously watched them leave, only to bring along the next generation) and kept peace of mind by always being there. He, really, always will be—in my work, in the code running BP, in the baseball writing community. Thank you, Rob. —Andrew Koo
Every last anecdote about Rob being willing to help anyone who asked is true. He was the glue that held BP together in so many places. Goodness knows he helped me several times to pull together data sets. But don’t miss the part in all of these stories about how happy Rob was to help out. That was more important than I ever realized. When I needed some sort of data pulled, Rob was there with a smile on his virtual face, and for an introverted guy like myself, it took away the scariness of asking someone for help. Rob was like that with everyone and I wonder how many articles weren’t just completed with his assistance, but were started because he was so willing to provide that assistance. We all leave a mark on the world. Rob left a good one and I will miss him. — Russell A. Carleton
Rob cared more about his job and the people around him than anyone I’ve known in my professional career. He put up with my demands and rants more than any person who ever worked with or for me. And he always delivered. Always. For over 10 years. There are some well known names that have been associated with the success of Baseball Prospectus. Rob McQuown belongs right up there with them. Many people may not know or remember Rob. But I will never forget him. Ever. I’m heart broken over losing you Rob. I hope you knew how much you meant to me and so many of us in baseball. Rest In peace my friend. ❤ –Joe Hamrahi
I can’t recall when I first encountered Rob, but it was a long time ago. Our paths crossed momentarily at the now-defunct Baseball Daily Digest. While the particulars have long departed my memory bank, he probably offered to help me with some research. When I returned to the BP fold, it had been several years since we had communicated. His welcome was warm, he was excited to be working with me again, and how could he help?
That, as you know by now, was Rob.
This winter, I was asked to help with the proofreading and the layout of the BP Annual. A daunting task, but one made easier by the presence of Rob. Over late night messages, we rekindled our acquaintance. He was indispensable. A marvel of composure and knowledge. As I was likely over-caffeinated and certain the entire manuscript was going to be deleted by some boneheaded move on my part, Rob was there to patiently guide me through the process with his usual good humor. There were times it felt as though we were the only BPers who were awake at some ungodly hour, finishing the tasks of the day and ready to grab a little bit of sleep before jumping back into it—comrades in editing arms. The Futures Guide and Team Splits followed and I jumped at the chance to work on those; being able to continue to work with Rob was a massive part of the appeal. Knowing he was there was a comfort. How could we fail when Rob was on board?
On Tuesday, I received the news while I was packing up from a night at the ballpark. When I arrived home, I went straight to the bookshelf, to the Futures Guide. Those long winter months spent working on those books could be a grind, but I will forever reflect on that time with great fondness. I am honored to have shared the title page with him. More importantly, I am honored to have called Rob my friend. –Craig Brown
In reading all of these wonderfully personal and meaningful memories about Rob, the most incredible thing is the volume. No one is supposed to have this much time and patience to give to others, and yet he did consistently for a decade and never slowed down, not even at the end. Rob not only helped those who came to him, but he had a knack for pulling people into his orbit. He’d find what you loved talking about and then find a way to talk to you about it that was both meaningful and completely natural. That’s why this is hard for so many of us. We existed in Rob’s orbit in so many different ways.
I only got to use the most published phrase in BP’s history once—mostly because I am not nearly the baseball researcher that many of our writers are—but boy was it ever apt when I did. Some people ask for instances that can be solved by SQL queries. I asked for play-by-play Win Probability Added for every play in postseason history. He didn’t bat an eye, and I got what I was asking for, of course, but it wasn’t easy and I got the sense it was relatively time consuming for him. This was for one article. One of probably a thousand that had the tag at the bottom of it leaving Rob’s large mark on all of us in fine print.
When I first assembled the group that would eventually purchase Baseball Prospectus last year, what I worried about the most was getting Rob on board because I knew he was so incredibly important to our day-to-day operations. In typical Rob fashion, he was wholly supportive from the jump and always made the time to talk through our plans and pie-in-the-sky dreams for this company. Yet his passion showed most when talking through building tools that could help our readers and subscribers. That’s all he wanted: to help the people in his orbit. Friends, strangers, authors, subscribers—it didn’t matter to Rob.
And that’s the best way we can all honor and remember him, both on an individual level and here at Baseball Prospectus. By pulling people in and helping them, he’ll live on with us. —Bret Sayre
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