If you are like me and consume baseball on the same level as oxygen and water then you’ll certainly have gotten wind of the news: Rob Neyer is leaving ESPN-dot com.
Rather than the infancy of online news websites, my first exposure to him came via one of Bill James’s baseball annuals, “The Baseball Book,” for whom Neyer worked as an assistant. Neyer wrote these separate pieces tracing the origin of a famous anecdote or rumor and early on, you felt a certain likability about the dude.
He moved on and emerged as a influential writer at the Worldwide Leader of Sports. It’s difficult not to realize what an impact the man has had on so many people who cover and write about MLB. Will Leich’s short (for him) essay highlights an almost certain fact: Neyer meant as much to this generation’s MLB consumers what Bill James was for mine. The man made you smarter, and didn’t sound all hoity-toity in the process.
When Neyer established himself as a regular columnist/blogger at ESPN.com he had a small thumbnail headshot alongside his byline that became another defining Neyer tag: the red flannel shirt. The photo was revised years ago but the connotation remains.
Another great thing that endeared myself to Neyer is how he managed to keep a foot firmly placed in reality. By this I mean he did things that any of us online animals would do. Like write angry, anonymous rants disguised as “reviews” at Amazon. Yeah he got a wrist slap at ESPN but come on, the guy’s only human. Can’t he type a few thumbs-down screeds at YouTube every now and then?
The tributes are streaming through my Twitter feed like a waterfall: steady, but not overwhelming. It’s not a Lou Gehrig moment; the man isn’t retiring to his country retirement villa. He’ll be back and sooner than we realize, likely through a message via his Twitter feed, where I left my own message of kudos. And yes, I’m still sore about how ESPN hid Neyer behind their “Insider” paywall for so many years. Hopefully that won’t be the case in the future.
Update: Rob Neyer has a new home: SB Nation. Yep, that didn’t take long at all.