I wrote my first post for FanGraphs on April 14th, 2008. It was about Gabe Kapler’s return from managing to be a productive big leaguer. It referenced WPA/LI as our version of a modern statistic and talked unironically about how Kapler was keeping up with Casey Kotchman. It wasn’t great.
Since then, I’ve published 3,501 other posts (or chats). Hopefully, most of them were better than that first one. In these last 10 years, the site has changed a lot. In 2010, I went from a freelancer to the company’s first full-time employee, then was joined by a host of absurdly talented coworkers, many of whom now also get to do this for a living. FanGraphs went from a niche site into the mainstream, and along the way, I’ve seen our little corner of the baseball world help change the language of baseball fans.
It’s been a remarkable run. But for me, it comes to an end today. This will be my last post at FanGraphs.
I never really expected to write these words. When other job opportunities have arisen over the years, I’ve brushed them away, telling prospective employers that I already had it better than anyone could reasonably expect. David Appelman is the best boss I’ve ever had, and probably will ever have. My coworkers are amazing, not just at producing good content for the public, but at being quality friends. This wasn’t a dream job for me, because “write about nerdy baseball stuff on the internet” wasn’t a thing when I was a kid, but it was better than any job I could have dreamed up.
But after 10 years, I’m hanging up my virtual pen. Starting next week, I’m going to go begin a new adventure, helping build out a Research and Development department for the San Diego Padres.
I definitely wasn’t looking to leave FanGraphs. This place was home. But when A.J. Preller called to gauge my interest in working for their organization, I was intrigued by the thought of a new challenge. When I met with Andy Green, I was inspired to think about the possibilities of using analysis to help players improve on the field. And while I will always love FanGraphs and the people here, the opportunity to help continue to build a winning organization in San Diego was one I did not want to pass up.
There are things you can only learn about baseball working on that side of the fence. While an outsider’s perspective can be helpful in keeping a big-picture view of the game, there is so much information being collected and analyzed by major-league organizations that just won’t make its way into the public realm. For me, this feels like the right time to make that jump, to go see things from another perspective, and to learn about the parts of baseball that we don’t get out here.
Part of why I was willing to make the decision to leave now is because FanGraphs has never had a better staff than it does today. Kiley McDaniel’s return to the site will give FanGraphs another strong voice who asks interesting questions and has his finger on the pulse of Major League Baseball. Meg Rowley will bring a unique approach and a lot of fun to her position, giving FanGraphs a perspective we haven’t had before. Travis Sawchik does excellent work everyday. Eric Longenhagen, Eno Sarris, Craig Edwards, Chris Mitchell, and David Laurila all provide fantastic resources to keep FanGraphs going as a leader in this space.
And, of course, there’s Jeff Sullivan, whom I have been calling the best baseball writer alive for the past 10 years. It’s still true today. I’ve been fortunate to call Jeff not just a coworker, but a good friend. I’m sad I will no longer get to call him the former, but he’ll always remain the latter. Jeff is not just interesting and funny in his written work, but he’s been a fantastic teammate, and I will miss talking to him every day. We’re all so lucky that he hasn’t taken one of these team jobs yet. He’s a treasure.
Editing all that talent is the one and only Carson Cistulli. I’ll have more to say to and about Carson on our final edition of FanGraphs Audio, but here’s the story that sums up my affection for our curious editor. Back in 2010 or 2011, we had our first FanGraphs staff trip to Arizona. My wife and I flew down early to go visit the Grand Canyon, and then she stuck around for the weekend when all the other FanGraphs crew came to hang out, which proved to be a poor decision.
She came to our first group dinner and immediately regretted it, sitting at the end of a long table, listening to a dozen or so self-proclaimed nerds talk particularly nerdy baseball. Carson saw what was happening. He got up from the middle of the nerd pack, sat down across from my wife at the end of the long table, and then spent a few hours talking to her about anything except baseball. He won both of us over that night. He’s unquestionably quirky, but he’s a good dude. And, remarkably, an underrated finder of interesting baseball talent.
Finally, the crop of applicants for the full-time writing position we posted last week is absurdly great. Whomever David Appelman hires out of that pool will also be excellent, and will likely make FanGraphs even better than it already is.
Speaking of Appelman, I cannot end this post without saying a few words about the guy we jokingly call the Dark Overlord. A business often succeeds or fails because of the commitment of the person at the top, and FanGraphs is what it is today because of David Appelman. He is the best of humanity.
When I was diagnosed with leukemia six years ago, I was given some pretty grim five-year survival rates. (Take that, forecasts!) It wasn’t clear that I was going to make it through chemo or, if necessary, a bone-marrow transplant. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t guarantee I was ever going to be able to work again. David kept sending me paychecks anyway. He drove down to North Carolina to keep me company in the hospital. He took care of my family when we needed it most. He didn’t have to do any of that, but that’s just who he is.
And that’s why I’m sure that FanGraphs will succeed for as long as he’s in charge.
I can’t say enough about the team here. This place is in the best of hands, and I feel confident that FanGraphs will thrive in my absence. And so, with so many mixed feelings, I’m off on a new adventure.
I cannot thank all of you enough for reading, sharing your thoughts, and helping me along the way. The community here is incredible. I will miss it dearly. Thank you for everything. I’ll be cheering for FanGraphs all along the way.
But now, also, go Padres.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.