Late in 2001 my friend shot me a column a notable national sports writer had put together. The point: Barry Bonds was about to break Mark McGwire’s single season home run record and the writer was not at all pleased with it. The Roger Maris card was played. A lot of nostalgia and “back in my day” was thrown on top and it ended up being something of a half-baked column. My friend ended the email with “good point, huh?”
I disagreed with the notion. While I drifted fairly far from baseball through the 1990s, in the previous three years I had become reacquainted and actually once again obsessed with the game via my exposure to Bill James, ESPN’s Rob Neyer and the sabermetric world. While no analyst myself, I shot back a sabermetrically-informed and profanity-laced tirade to my friend in which I outlined all of the reasons why the writer was wrong. I went on about how you can compare the olden days to modern times and put the accomplishments of each in context. About how you could separate the wheat from the chaff and, dear lord, you could not simply say things were better when you were a boy, because brother, they were demonstrably not.
My friend forwarded my rant to a friend of his who was launching a webzine, called “Bull Magazine.” That guy asked me if I could clean up that rant for publication. I did so. And then I wrote some more. By the spring of 2002 I had a weekly column up that started to gain a bit of notice.
I don’t know what kind of traffic the place did, but my little bits began to get linked by some of the websites I frequented while trying to kill time between document review jags. Places like Baseball Think Factory (then known as Baseball Primer) chief among them. The twin highlights of my run at “Bull” were receiving emails from Neyer and from Keith Law, who had just been plucked from Baseball Prospectus to help run the Toronto Blue Jays. They seemed to like my stuff. It made my year. And it almost – almost – caused me to come to terms with the fact that I was finally, after all of these years, doing something that I wanted to be doing, even if it was then only a hobby.
But before I could do that, reality intruded.