Monday, January 31, 2011

The end of an era and the end of a beginning

I began reading Rob Neyer’s SweetSpot at some unknown and arbitrary point in 2009, and that’s where this story begins.

Prior to that, I thought wins were a good measure of the worth of a starting pitcher, saves of closer, RBI of a hitter, and Gold Gloves of a fielder. My baseball world was about to rocked, forever and ultimately for the better.

Shortly thereafter, I began emailing each of my brothers constantly about baseball, mostly the Giants, as something inside me was brewing. I also started reading Fangraphs, and spending more time on Baseball-reference. I’d always loved baseball, but the ball of passion that lay in my chest was stagnant in growth and used for the most part only during the season. But as I say, a storm was coming.

It might have been Rob’s writing and others like him. It may also have been the fact that I was settling into a nine to five that was challenging at times, but certainly not addressing my need to latch on to something about which I’m passionate. It was not furthering my competitive nature; it was not sharpening my creativity. My foremost goal in adulthood was not to be rich, but rather to do each day something that I loved. This itch was going unscratched. But anyway, I suspect the catalyst was some combination of both: Rob’s writing and an unattended primal need.

In November of 2009, at a family function, my brother said that I should start writing a blog and that he would sign me up for one. I wasn’t yet sold as I didn’t really know what a blog was, but by the end of the evening my sister’s husband had come up with the perfect title: Paapfly, pronounced pop fly, a tribute to a common baseball term and my last name, Paap, of the same pronunciation and a product of my Dutch lineage. My blog was born.

On December 8, 2009, I wrote my first post: Giants looking for a 3 or 5-hole hitter. Looking back on it, it wasn’t much. But it was a start. My writing has evolved since then and hopefully for the better. I started off knowing little or nothing about sabermetrics, and I won’t today claim to be an expert. But I will say I’ve learned a whole lot along the way, and that it’s fascinating to ponder what I’ve learned already and what I might learn in the future. Along the way, I also believe I’ve become a much better writer, as my B.S. in finance hadn’t exactly properly prepared me.

I think the fact that the San Francisco Giants won the World Series for the first time in history fits in here some place, too.

But one of my goals from the outset was to have the revered Rob Neyer post a link to my blog. He didn’t have to say much, as just a link would do it. And for over a year, that goal went unfulfilled. But I felt I was making progress. Repoz from Baseball Think Factory had given me a few. And Tom Tango, the writer of The BOOK: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, had too when I went into weighted on-base averaged (wOBA), a statistic of his creation. And another blogger and now friend of mine, Graham Womack of Baseball: Past and Present, liked my writing enough to allow me to contribute to his space. I was making progress.

Finally, it happened. This past Friday (1/28/11) on his links edition, Friday Filberts, Neyer’s top link was to my blog:

OK, so we’ve got our first outside, feature-length nomination for the Wing of Amazing. But while I’m perfectly willing to consider Billy Wagner, I’ll have to be convinced that he’s the only pitcher his size who’s ever thrown that hard (and been successful).
I was ecstatic. Obviously. To many it may not be much, and it probably isn’t. But to me it is.

Today, I opened yet another of his blog posts: Bo Knows Amazing. I was confident it might be another nominee for his Wing of Amazing (it was). I also thought it might include yet another link to my blog (it did). I was again thrilled. But little did I know that an era would end as I completed reading this particular post. Rob:

Whether you’ve been reading my ramblings since 1996 or just since last week, you have my profound, impossible-to-express-in-words gratitude. There is not a working writer on Earth who’s more grateful than I for his readers. Without you, I would have nothing.

Today, I hand off this space to whoever’s next. I don’t know yet who is next, but I’m highly confident that this blog and the SweetSport Network will soon be in excellent hands.

Meanwhile, I’ll be around. The kinds tell me it’s all about search these days. You won’t have to search real hard to find me, if you want.

Happy trails, until we meet again.

In his final SweetSpot blog post for ESPN, after 15 years in which he wrote more words for ESPN than anyone ever, Rob included a link to my space. It just happened to be about Bo Jackson and it just so happened to be another nominee for his Wing of Amazing, of which I just so happened to put forth my own nomination last week and was just lucky enough that he took a moment to read it and link it.

This is nothing more than a case of unbelievable coincidence. But sitting here, I can’t help but feel I’ve come a very long way. I feel re-energized in my pursuit to write, to continue to do something that I love when I get home at night.

I don’t rightly know what to write; his sudden departure has left me speechless. I don’t always agree with what he says, but then how can you agree with everything someone says (or writes), when they’ve written a few posts a day, five days a week for a total of about fifteen a week, for more or less every week, for the past fifteen years? That’s literally millions of words. But no matter the topic, whether about Tim Lincecum and the Giants or a few musings on his love for the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, I read them all.

Wherever Mr. Neyer lands, I’ll continue to follow his work. I suspect we’ll all find out soon where wherever is. As for me, I’ll continue to write as long as I love it. Hopefully, this is nowhere near where this story ends, but rather the end of a beginning.

Thanks, Rob.


  1. Just read finally this now (I'm slow...)

    Thanks for the mention here. Glad we're getting to know each other. Keep up the good work!