Hello There by Kevin Goldstein February 1, 2021 Hi there. How are you? 2020, huh? 2,711 days ago (or at least that’s what Google tells me), I penned my goodbye to the internet. That’s a lot of days. A lot has happened since then, and while I imagine many of you know who I am, eight years is a long time in the world of baseball media. I’m sure for some of you, my name barely registers. And so a quick introduction (or a re-introduction) is in order as I embark on a new chapter here at FanGraphs. Back in 2012, I’d already been writing about baseball, prospects, scouting, and player development for a long time. I was one of the main contributors at Baseball Prospectus, did a few things for ESPN, had a Sunday show on MLB Network Radio with Mike Ferrin, and did a weekly podcast with my dear friend Jason Parks. It was all a lot of fun, but during that final year in media, teams started calling me. It was weird, but I can’t say I wasn’t interested. I talked to a few. Some led to deeper discussions, some didn’t, and that summer I accepted a position as Coordinator, Pro Scouting with the Houston Astros (commas in titles always bug me, but it was a thing in Houston, as you’ll see…). I lasted eight years with the club, which probably puts me in the 90th percentile in terms of executive time spent with one team. When I arrived, the Astros were rebuilding and were awful, but the team got better, and ultimately became a powerhouse that went to a pair of World Series, and even won one. And my career grew as well. After a year, I was promoted to Director, Pro Scouting and finally rose to the role of Special Assistant to the General Manager, Player Personnel. During my time with the Astros, I was exposed to a wide array of baseball operations responsibilities. I did in-person scouting within the pro, amateur and international disciplines, and helped to establish our ability to analyze players using data and video. I was in the war room for both the draft and the trade deadline, in the suite during the winter meetings, attended a handful of GM Meetings and even got to conduct a few trade and free agent negotiations over the past few years. I’m proud of my contributions on a baseball level in terms of building a consistent winner, and I’m proud of some of the stands I took personally, including speaking strongly against any trade for Roberto Osuna because of his history with domestic violence, as well as being one of two members (updated) of the front office to turn down the invitation to the White House in 2018. At the same time, I wish I had done more to ensure the industry treated the people working in the game better than it does. Now let’s deal with the elephant in the room. I have no desire to run from it and pull some Mark McGwire-esque “I’m not here to talk about the past.” I also don’t want it to define me going forward. Astros. Cheaters! Yup. Believe me, I know. Maybe better than anyone, as I got caught up in it all, and for all the wrong reasons. Let me make this clear. I had nothing to do with any of the in-game sign-stealing or trash can banging the Astros were punished for. Knowing that is one of the reasons I can sleep at night. I didn’t even know about it. I found out about it when most you did, after the first article came out in The Athletic. Chances are you even found out about it before I did, as I was in a meeting when the story first broke. I was as horrified by the revelations as I’m sure many of you were and still are. My connection with it got really weird shortly thereafter. As you may know, an email that I sent to our scouting staff became a big story because it mentioned cameras and video. Combine that with the cheating scandal and all of a sudden I was cast as being part of the plot. Let’s back up a bit. First off, the email is real, no “fake news” argument here. I sent it, and completely forgot about it until it was released by the media. It was sent as part of a plan to do advance scouting, a plan that never came to fruition, as the organization decided to all but eliminate in-person pro scouting shortly thereafter. The plan proposed was one of using cameras to be able to better see signals coming from coaches on the bases and in the dugout. Theoretically, this was to be done by scouts in the stands at non-Astros games. Once those signals were later decoded (unlikely, but if they were), that information was to be passed on to A.J. Hinch and his staff, who would presumably use their naked eyes to pick up said signals during games. There was nothing concerning catcher signals (which scouts couldn’t see anyway), live relays or anything like that. It was just an idea, sent by someone new to the advance world who was a bit green in that area, and who didn’t think that trying to better pick up signals was even a problem. I later found out that, at the time, it was a gray area, which in and of itself is a bit embarrassing. Still, the story came out. Major League Baseball conducted an exhaustive investigation into the club’s actions. The league’s investigators spent hundreds of hours talking to players and various team personnel. They went through people’s phones and computers. They had multiple follow-up conversations with a long list of witnesses. I spoke to them once over the phone for less than 15 minutes, and told them what I just told you. I never spoke with them again. I don’t live in Houston and had zero involvement with game day operations, and it was quickly clear to all involved that I was just collateral damage. You can read the commissioner’s statement on the league’s investigation. My name isn’t mentioned, nor is the email that made me temporarily infamous. I received no punishment, no condemnation, no warnings. I made several requests to club officials to publicly clear my name by granting interviews, but was asked to take one for the team as it were, with the explanation that it would just put the story at the forefront again. I did so, which is high on my list of regrets when I look back on my time with the Astros. The individual cost in terms of my own mental health and personal relationships was considerable. Last year, I got whacked by the Astros at the end of October. It was inglorious, as most separations in baseball are. It was upsetting, but not surprising; if anything, I’ve always known how to read the room. There was a new administration, a new way of doing things, and I wasn’t being engaged at anywhere near the level I had been previously. I had time on my hands and nowhere to go thanks to a global pandemic. I picked up a few consulting gigs here and there, caught up on some lengthy and obtuse Japanese RPGs I hadn’t had time for in the past, and for a stretch thought I might still want to work for a team. But between all of the aftereffects of COVID-19 on the industry, and a general sense of what I have called “Astros stink,” it proved to be a challenging task. At the same time, a few media outlets began checking in, including FanGraphs. I had a terrific time working in baseball. The highs were higher and the lows lower than my time in media, but one word kept floating around my brain when I considered coming back to this side of things. Freedom. For eight years, I have been tied to my phone, email, and Slack. I never took anything resembling a real vacation. Even a couple days visiting my wife’s sister in California, or an extra day here or there, involved me needing to open my laptop to research players or hop on a call to discuss whatever the pressing issue of the day was. Anniversaries, holidays, birthdays and all manner of celebrations were missed due to constant travel. When discussing coming to FanGraphs, David Appelman used the term “days off policy” and it sounded like a foreign language. And with these talks came other potential freedoms. The freedom to say what I want, to talk honestly and openly about what’s good about this industry and what’s bad about it, and hopefully to entertain and educate the readers along the way. So what will I be doing at FanGraphs? Well, most importantly, I’ll be writing most days. I like creating content, and I look forward to working with the group here on a variety of projects. In terms of subject matter, I look forward to working with Eric Longenhagen on prospects, scouting, and player development. Identifying and projecting talent still gives me a thrill, but I’m not here to be an equal to Eric on that score. He does a phenomenal job. Nobody else in the prospect space is as thorough in terms of breadth, or embraces and understands modern player evaluation like Eric does. In terms of his world, it’s most definitely his, I’m just here to help him and give him a chance to breathe once in a while. In terms of bigger-picture baseball stuff, I want to share what I learned during my eight years in the inner circle of a front office. I’m a fan of how-the-sausage-is-made pieces, and I want to talk about how trades go down, how free agent contracts are negotiated, and all of the variables and processes that go into the various decisions that get made on a daily basis across baseball. I also want to get into the nitty gritty of some of the things I learned that fascinate me, smaller things like how a player ends up going to Asia, or how teams do background checks on potential draftees. I plan on writing about bigger issues in the industry, and also react to the news of the day, where hopefully the insight I’ve gained can help provide a greater understanding of moves that on the surface might not seem to make much sense. For the people who think they might want to one day work on the team side, I want to provide perspective on all of the wonderful things that come with it, as well as the considerable pitfalls. Finally, there’s always the podcast, which was what I was best known for back in the day. I loved doing that show, and I loved our audience. I’ve spoken privately to various friends in the industry about my return to the public side of things, and the first question is nearly unanimous. “Are you bringing the podcast back?” The answer to that question is no. To bring it back would be impossible. My co-host is indisposed at this time, and to “bring it back” would be an insult to his contributions. There will be a new podcast, though, and we’ll talk about baseball and all sorts of weird things that have nothing to do with the game, and we’ll have a really good time while we do. I’m still working out the particulars, but it certainly will happen, and soon. I want to be in tune with our readers and listeners, who in the past made suggestions for pieces and projects that turned into some of my best work. I want to know what your questions are, and what you wonder about that I might be able to provide some insight on. I want the FanGraphs audience to play a role in defining what I do here. So please don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments, on Twitter (@Kevin_Goldstein), or through whatever medium you are comfortable with. We will figure things out together. I’m here for the audience and want to give you what you want, and I can’t wait to get started. It’s good to be back.