Farewell, One Good Place on the Internet

When I was preparing to join FanGraphs in the summer of 2012, I was warned about the comments. The comments, I was told, could be vicious. I suppose the same could’ve been said of comment sections everywhere, but yet on this site, I’ve never had a bad experience I didn’t deserve. If anything, the community has been warm and downright collegial. It’s even sometimes served as a helpful collective editor. Something that’s stuck with me is how, near the beginning, I was repeatedly told I took way too long to get to the point. So, let me get to the point!

This is my last post. I’ve thought about my eventual last post before, and this is it. I don’t know what the rest of this post is going to look like yet, because thinking about this would just always make my ears ring, but I am leaving FanGraphs, which is the only good place on the internet. I’m leaving because I have accepted a job with the Rays.

I’m far from the first internet person to go to a team. I’m far from the first *FanGraphs* internet person to go to a team. You already know, then, that I can’t go into much detail. What I hope to make clear is that I didn’t seek this out. I never envisioned leaving FanGraphs. I never had a great answer when my brother would ask what my plan was. I assumed I’d just, you know, be here, while time passed. The Rays simply presented an opportunity I didn’t think existed. There’s sincerely no organization that I would rather join. They got in touch, and they were convincing.

Ten years and one month ago, I interviewed for a low-level position with the Mariners. At that stage in my life, I wanted to work for a team more than anything. As it happened, the Mariners didn’t share my enthusiasm, which is just as well, because I wasn’t great, and neither were they. But my team-job aspirations faded for a while. They were actually all but dead, until this offseason, after a phone call. I can’t resist a peek behind the curtain. I can’t resist the chance to join a club that is necessarily and aggressively open-minded. I’ve dedicated my adult life so far to trying to understand baseball. I’d regret it if I didn’t try to further my understanding with a cutting-edge ballclub that just so happens to also be good. I hope that I can be of some service to them. As coincidence would have it, I’ll get to work closely with someone the Mariners offered that job.

The decision would’ve been a hell of a lot easier if it weren’t for this place. Like Dave Cameron said a year ago, working at FanGraphs has been a dream job, but for the fact that jobs like this didn’t exist when we were young. I wouldn’t have wanted to write anywhere else. Not even for twice the money. I wouldn’t have wanted to write anywhere else, and I wouldn’t have wanted to write for any other boss. David Appelman has been the greatest boss imaginable, and no matter what hurdles might appear, it’s because of him that I know this site will flourish. There are about to be some new contributors. I’ve heard a little about what’s coming down the pike. FanGraphs’ best days are ahead of it. It tears me up that I can’t have these two jobs at once.

I can’t tell if it’s an elephant, but there’s definitely something in the room, so if we can all just acknowledge it at once – there has been a lot of turnover here over the past year and change. Much of the old guard, so to speak, has departed. It’s only human nature to look for a pattern, but there’s nothing under the surface to detect. For the most part, writers have just been approached with surprising opportunities. Opportunities too good to turn down. FanGraphs isn’t in trouble, and since I don’t really work for them anymore, I’m not obligated to say that. A few of us have taken to referring to the site as the unicorn. It’s the anomaly, the exception to the rules that govern other sports-media outlets. As the industry comes crashing down, in the present and in the future, FanGraphs is on rare stable footing. Anyone who ever gets to work here is lucky.

I’m lucky to be lucky, and lucky to be privileged. I’m lucky to have worked for the one good website. I’m lucky to have worked with people who’ve since taken team jobs, people who could patiently talk me through this weird process. I’m lucky to have written for a hospitable audience that was always game to participate in another polling project. I’m lucky to have been invited onto a podcast alongside Ben Lindbergh. There are too many people to single out by name, too many brilliant friends I’m going to miss as colleagues, but I’ll make this exception for Ben, who I guess technically doesn’t even work here. Still, Effectively Wild has been a FanGraphs podcast, and I’ve talked with Ben the most often. When we finished our last recording and I closed out the window, I started to tear up. I’m going to miss Ben’s regular presence in my life, and there’s no one else whose talent and professionalism I so greatly admire.

I’m not sure what else there is to be said. The main point was in the second paragraph. The rest of this is just drawing things out, because I’m afraid to hit publish. I’m afraid to end here, and I’m afraid of what comes next week, because for the longest time, in a new job, I’m going to feel lost. But I guess I’ve been at this 15 years, and it’s time for something else, if only so my mom can stop referring to her son as a blogger. It’s time to be able to spend less time on Twitter. It’s time to learn more than I can handle from every single person the Rays already employ. And I guess I should note it’s not a forever-contract, and should they realize I’m no use, I’ll be right back out here to hype up Mike Trout. There’s some chance this’ll be a spectacular failure! This is a gamble. But gambling’s exciting. And seeing as I don’t like referring to myself this much, I should probably wrap up. I loved it here from the beginning, and you all played some part in that. I appreciate every last one of you, all of you are beautiful, and until next time, be well and have great days. It’s pronounced “jiff.”

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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5 years ago

Best of luck, always enjoyed your work.

5 years ago
Reply to  ehrmantraut

Best writer Fangraphs ever had

(with apologies to Cistulli and Cameron)

5 years ago
Reply to  Yirmiyahu

Congratulations to Jeff – whose voice I’m terribly saddened to lose. (On the short list of the most important baseball analysts of recent times, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to put him in the Bill James/Rob Neyer/Nate Silver lineage).

And to the Rays – who continue to do fascinating, exciting things.

And to Dan Szymborski – on his sudden and stunning battlefield promotion to Best Baseball Writer on the Internet.

5 years ago
Reply to  DBA455

No offense, but Bill James stands alone as the Father of Sabermetrics.

5 years ago
Reply to  Johnston

He would, if he weren’t now just an old man yelling at clouds most of the time.

5 years ago
Reply to  halidonhill

Don’t cha think that after 40 years of blazing trails, Bill James has an inherent right to be an ‘old man yelling at clouds’?

Daniel the Maniel
5 years ago
Reply to  trevise-en

He’s not in Kansas anymore…

5 years ago
Reply to  trevise-en

Isn’t the whole point of sabermetrics to not rest on the laurels of established wisdom and to constantly be pursuing new frontiers? Seems like there should just be an evolving continuum, not a Mt. Rushmore

5 years ago
Reply to  halidonhill

What does that have to do with founding sabermetrics? He’s the reason we had generation 2 guys like Rob Neyer and the original Baseball Prospectus crew, who gave birth to most of the rest of the baseball analytics world.

James is in a tier by himself as the most influential person to this particular statistical movement.