I can remember hiding in a cubicle (and later an office) to check into Rob’s chats on ESPN, even his I’ll-top-Simmons’-record-chat from back on Opening Day in 2008. I’m probably “in” that chat at some point but I’m not looking back through that archive to find my name. Of course, back then, just getting a question answered by Neyer in a chat was a pretty big deal for me.
On Opening Day 2008, my original blog was just about three months old. The number of readers aside from family could probably be counted on two hands, max. Time sure flies.
I’ve told the story before, but given today’s official news, it bears a quick retell:
During one of Rob’s chats in the late Fall 2007, someone asked Rob which non-mainstream blogs he reads regularly and he mentioned one called Shysterball. Now, leading up to this, I had been dabbling in some fantasy baseball writing but it wasn’t scratching my itch. I was concerned about being able to hold down a full-time job and write before/after my day. So after learning of the blog with the funny name, I emailed the blogger to get his thoughts on my concerns. This guy, Craig Calcaterra, didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, but was nice enough to trade emails with me, and by accident, push me towards starting on own blog. We’ve been e-migos ever since.
When I started this blog in December 2007, I had a fairly modest goal: Get ten people who I didn’t know to regularly come back and read what I had to say. That’s it: ten people. When I started, as awkward as a newborn fawn, ARod had just re-signed with the Yankees, following an equally awkward opt-out during the 2007 World Series. During a debate with a friend about why he’d come back to the Yanks after having a miserable three years in New York, my answer was “It’s about the money, stupid. It’s always about the money, even when they say it’s not. It always is.” And the blog was born. I found myself using the “It is about the money, stupid” line often and that became the working name of the site. The name has been shortened since but the IIATMS shorthand has stuck, thanks mostly to the then-Shysterball Calcaterra needing a way to shorten my site’s name when he first linked to me after I launched.
My blogging future changed on June 2, 2008, when I was stuck without much to write about and noticed a tidbit on B-R about Josh Hamilton’s draft date anniversary and I decided to write about it. It wasn’t more than a few hours later that I posted an update that Hamilton fired his agent due to a religious epiphany. I noted that I felt bad for the fired agent, Matt Sosnick, as he had been helping Hamilton get back on track since joining the Reds.
Out of nowhere, I get an email from someone purporting to be a Matt Sosnick. What happened next (my interview with Matt Sosnick) resulted in my first link from ESPN, from Rob. There were other links that followed over the next few months, but the euphoria of that first link from Rob, that first contact with an agent in Matt, will never be forgotten. There have been days (or weeks) when I thought about shutting this little operation down, but I try to remind myself of those feelings I felt that day and one I press.
In the Fall of 2009, as the Yanks were preparing to embark on what would be their 27th World Series blitz, I got an email from Rob. It said, in typical Rob Neyer simiplicity:
Jason, I really enjoy your work.
We’re putting together a mini-network of blogs, just the eight postseason teams, with a launch in October. If things work as well as expected, we’ll then expand to all 30 teams at some point before next spring.
I’m hoping you’ll consider being one of the charter eight.
It went on from there, but I didn’t need to read further. On October 2, 2009, I was able to announce the news. It wasn’t long after that the Yanks won #27. Since then, I’ve been able to add some wonderful people to this site, all in an effort to continue my mantra to bring the most unbiased view of the Yankees possible. We might not always succeed, but we’re trying damn hard, every single day.
I am beyond grateful to Rob for bestowing in me his trust to represent himself and the ESPN network/name. That alone, believing that we are representing Rob, has forced me to try to become better than I ever have been, which is difficult because I am not a professional; just some lunkhead with a computer and the audacity to think that my opinion has any validity (it doesn’t, by the way). We do what we do here because we love the game. Sure it’d be nice to be able to make a living doing this, but it’s OK that this is just a hobby.
So, to Rob on his departure: Thank you. Thank you from all of us at IIATMS: writers, readers and commenters. We’re truly sad to see you go but wish you nothing but the very best. You’ve brought us all together to talk baseball and what’s better than that?
Now, since it will be asked: It’s my understanding that the SweetSpot Network will continue to operate. Someone will be hired to replace Rob and that person will surely be motivated to take the contributions from around the SSN to even greater heights. Rob would probably be the first to tell anyone that there is much more to do to get the SSN really to the next level. Who that will be and when it will happen is a giant TBD. Stay tuned; I will let you know as soon as I am able. Until then, thanks for your continued support, banter, humor and contributions.