BBWAA puts out welcome mat
December, 10, 2008
Last year around this time, I was hanging out with Mike McClary in Powell's City of Books when I got the news: I had been snubbed by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. This news was surprising for a couple of reasons. One, I didn't have any idea that I had been submitted for membership. And two, I had been writing about baseball for a long time, and in fact I had (and still have) written more words for ESPN.com than anybody, ever. So it seemed a little surprising that if the BBWAA did bother to consider me, they would still reject me. On the other hand, the news wasn't so surprising at all. I got my start working for Bill James, who in the 1980s often wrote nasty (though usually fair) things about the traditional media's failings in the general area of baseball analysis. I think it's fair to suggest that most baseball writers, in the 1980s and well into the 1990s, believed that the game's most important statistic was batting average. And that they believed this well past the point at which the notion had been soundly disproven in publicly available sources. Anyway, this is how I was raised. And when I was hired to write for ESPN's Web site in 1996, nobody told me to respect my elders. So I didn't. If I thought Tracy Ringolsby was writing foolishly, I said so. If I thought Tom Verducci had crossed the line from intelligent analysis (of which he's highly capable) into subjective dim-wittedness, I said so. And usually not with any surplus of grace. I believed then (and believe now) that my job, my responsibility, is to entertain and to educate, and that "not ruffling feathers" falls way, way down on the list somewhere. Maybe that had something to do with what happened last year, or maybe it did not. So what's next? Again this year, I didn't know if my name would be submitted for membership. I considered asking my boss to not submit my name this year. Not because I was worried about being snubbed again, but because I wasn't sure that being a member would actually be a good thing. But eventually I did what I usually do, and waited to see how things played out. If the BBWAA blackballed me, I could probably get another blog post or two out of it. If they didn't, I would always have the option of turning down their generous offer. Well, apparently this year I'm in:
Slowly but surely, the Baseball Writers Association of America is becoming more inclusive. The organization just held a meeting here at Bellagio and, for the second straight year, humbly voted to add a few Internet writers to their newspaper-dominated ranks. Joining the inaugural crop from last year will be Will Carroll and Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus and Rob Neyer and Keith Law of ESPN.com.
Though it seems the BBWAA has already become more progressive and finally realizes the impact that Internet writers can have, the move to include Baseball Prospectus is a big one, seeing as how it expands the Internet wing past the usual titans -- Yahoo! Sports, ESPN.com, SI.com, etc.
Meanwhile, the admittance of Neyer and Law comes a year after they were the only 'Net writers to be denied entry, a move that prompted a critical post from Law himself and plenty of tsk-tsking around the 'sphere.