clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A letter to the new editors

New, 3 comments

Let this community be a place for outsiders.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

About a month ago, Kevin Ruprecht and I announced we were stepping down as managing editors at the end of the World Series. That day has arrived, and we’re ready to hand over the reins to the new regime. The staff here is wonderful and they will make Henry Druschel and Ryan Romano look good every day between now and whenever they write their farewell post.

I actually haven't written many words for this site since I took over, opting to devote my time to the editing and managing role. So if you're a relatively new reader and have no idea who I am, that's totally cool, no hard feelings.

I've saved the notes of gratitude and such for Twitter, and decided to use these final paragraphs to offer some guidance to the people who will run this site and others like it in the years that follow. I intend to keep writing about baseball elsewhere, but this is probably my last day in a position of meaningful authority for quite some time.

The sabermetric community, and the baseball world that surrounds it, was founded by outsiders. They challenged the status quo with new ideas, methods, and perspectives. They were not welcomed by the establishment because they were telling the establishment they were wrong. Eventually, the outsiders won the war. Essentially every team is run, at least in part, by first or second generation nerds. Instead of grizzly old baseball men, top decision makers in the game are Ivy-league educated white guys in their late thirties and forties.

Put another way, the nerds who knew how to wield spreadsheets became the establishment. They consolidated power and have reshaped the baseball world, inside and out, in their image. There are strongholds of resistance, like in most broadcast booths, but there's no way to argue the last twenty years have been anything but a victory for the nerds.

But I worry what victory does to the victors. I worry we might become the thing we fought so hard to destroy. We fought the previous generation for their obvious blind spots and seeming lack of curiosity. The absence of appreciation for walks and the over reliance on RBI, for example, were things we rightly ridiculed. We chased them away with new, better measurements and more thoughtful analysis. Many of them resisted, and still do, those numbers and ideas. It was a hostile takeover, started by those who had enough.

We should not let that happen again. Those of you who will have influence, online or in a front office, over the next decade should make sure that we don't repeat the mistakes our predecessors made. When someone knocks on the door challenging everything you think you know about the game and how we evaluate it, that is a person you should listen to. That's a person you should hire. That's a person who should be given a chance to earn a seat at the table.

Not every new idea is going to be right, but a person who seeks counsel only from those who think as they do is a person who isn't going to grow. Part of that means listening to ideas from people who think differently, but it also means soliciting ideas from people with different backgrounds, educations, and expertise. You can't be a passive actor if you're going to be a leader. The best people will not simply rise to the top. New ideas won't walk through the door if you don't encourage dissent and confrontation.

You are going to be wrong. You are already wrong, in fact, you just don't know it. Somewhere along the line, a person is going to point that out. They are going to say, “actually, the world doesn't work like that, it works like this, and here is how I know.” That person is someone to embrace, not someone to defeat. They aren't challenging your status unless you treat them as an adversary.

Hire women. Hire people of color. Hire people who are passionate about ideas. Hire people who will make you change your mind about things. Hire people who will let you see the world differently. Those people are coming. They are going to be the ones who figure out everything we have gotten wrong over the last twenty years. You won't be able to stop them, but you do have a choice. You can decide that those people will be welcomed and that you will learn from them and be part of the next generation alongside them, rather than being left behind.

I tried to do this during my time at BtBS. I don't have any illusions that I was perfect or that I always will be. But I think we've built a staff of people here who care about progress in every sense of the word. These are smart people with different backgrounds and skills and I hope they take what they learned here are do great things everywhere they go.

I think the true measure of a person is how they react when someone comes along with information that fundamentally challenges their deeply held beliefs. I like to think I'm someone who listens and entertains ideas that conflict with what I think I know. Perhaps I haven't lived up to that goal, but that's what I want to be. That's what every editor and leader should be.

Do not make the mistake of being threatened by progress. Welcome it. Cultivate it. Demand it.

Neil Weinberg was, until like an hour ago, the managing editor at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him at FanGraphs, New English D, and anywhere there are dogs.