June 22, 1966 |
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Employer||SB Nation (February 2011 - January 2014)|
Rob Neyer (born June 22, 1966) is a baseball author. He started his career working for Bill James and STATS, and then joined ESPN.com as a columnist from 1996 to January 2011 before becoming SB Nation's National Baseball Editor from February 2011 to January 2014. A disciple of major sabermetrics figure Bill James, his writing is an outlet for baseball fans to gain insight that statistics and historical analysis can offer.
Rob Neyer spent the early years of his childhood in the upper Midwest and later moved to the middle Midwest, close to the Kansas City area. He attended the University of Kansas, where he picked up a passion for baseball after reading Peter Golenbock's Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Bill James Baseball Abstract 1984. Uninterested in school, Neyer left college during his fourth year and took a job roofing houses.
Neyer was introduced to Bill James by a casual friend, Mike Kopf, nine months after dropping out of college. He was soon hired as a research assistant. Neyer's first project with James was helping compile material for the book This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones, a collection of material from the Abstracts. After four years under the tutelage of James, Neyer took a job at STATS, Inc., before joining ESPNet SportsZone, ESPN.com's forerunner, in 1996.
Neyer wrote for ESPN for 15 years from 1996 to January 31, 2011. He joined SB Nation as its National Baseball Editor on February 1, 2011 for 3 years; he wrote his last column for the site in January 2014. In an interview, he said that he had had prior opportunities to leave ESPN.com but that nothing had felt right until this offer from SB Nation. Within the baseball writing community Neyer is a part of the Baseball Writers' Association of America and the 10-person voting panel for the Fielding Bible Awards.
He is the author or co-author of six books: Baseball Dynasties (2000) with Eddie Epstein, Feeding the Green Monster (2001), Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups (2003), The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (2004) with Bill James, Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders (2006), and Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends (2008).
Working through both historical research and statistical analysis, Neyer critiques conventional narratives in sports as a historian. In reference to his book Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends Neyer stated, "I'm not going to argue with Aristotle. Maybe poetry is more important—and most of the stories in the book do qualify as poetry—but I think there's a small place for history, too. And since I'm no poet, I'm happy to fill that small place when I can."
Bill James describes him as "the best of the new generation of sportswriters. He knows baseball history like a child knows his piggy bank. He knows how to pick it up and shake it and make what he needs fall out."
Dave Cameron has attributed Rob Neyer as having introduced himself and most of his generation of baseball writers to sabermetrics. Neyer edited and helped Jonah Keri with his book The Extra 2 Percent and worked with Carson Cistulli to develop his criteria for the NERD formula.
Recently, as National Baseball Editor at SBNation, he has helped fellow editor Jeff Sullivan (originally of Lookout Landing) reach a larger audience, as well as editor Grant Brisbee, writers like Jason Brannon, Will McDonald, or Dan Moore. Moore cites Neyer as "the reason I'm writing about the St. Louis Cardinals today."
Feeding the Green Monster
In 2000, Neyer spent the summer in Boston on a book project, writing about the Red Sox that season at Fenway Park. However, his draft was harshly rejected by his New York publishing house that December. Neyer re-edited the submission and lost money by publishing the eventual Feeding the Green Monster as an e-book in spring 2001. (Neyer ruefully retold the fiasco, "Bestseller to E-book in One Easy Step", on his website.)
In February 2001, Neyer infuriated many New York Yankees fans when he cited metrics such as win shares and Clay Davenport's Fielding Translations to argue that Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter's defense consistently rated among the worst fielders at his position. Subsequent studies and the development of advanced metrics for evaluating fielding capabilities continued to support Neyer's evaluation and showed Jeter to be consistently among the lower ranking American League shortstops in fielding prowess. However, managers and coaches disagreed, as Jeter won five Gold Glove awards from 2004 to 2006 and 2009 to 2010, though it is often remarked that many winners of the Gold Glove awards have won based upon their offensive prowess and their overall reputation.
Neyer addressed this controversy in a recent article entitled Derek Jeter Retooling His Swing After Down Season; Let's Hope It Works. Neyer justifies his previous articles saying that "everybody was saying Jeter was perfect, and if there's one thing I know too well it's that nobody's perfect" but then added "Derek Jeter is one of the five or six greatest shortstops ever, and I'm really going to miss him when he's gone. I don't mean gone, physically. I mean gone, as an outstanding player."
One Day at Fenway
In September 2004, Neyer used a pseudonym ("Ike Farrell") on Amazon.com to write a negative customer review of One Day at Fenway, a then-new baseball book by Steve Kettmann. Neyer subsequently took offense to positive reviews that he believed Kettmann's friends and relatives had posted.
"How did this project go so terribly wrong?" Farrell/Neyer wrote. "Presumably the author wound up with plenty of source material, and so I can only assume that he [Kettmann] lacked either the talent or the time (or both) to shape the material into a decent piece of non-fiction."
A Newsday newspaper reporter quickly identified Neyer publicly as the actual reviewer. On September 6, Neyer issued an article explaining his actions, "I had such a visceral reaction to Kettmann's book that I felt compelled to do something" and so, under a "pen name" he decided to write a customer review on Amazon.com. "I didn’t even imagine that it could do anybody any good if I wrote as myself", Neyer rationalized.
Kettmann responded: "The thing that I find strange about all of this is that [Oakland A's general manager] Billy Beane, someone who I thought Rob Neyer respects, read my book cover to cover and told me he loved it."
Baseball Writers' Association of America
In December 2007, Neyer was declined admission to the Baseball Writers' Association of America, members of which vote for National Baseball Hall of Fame candidates and several annual Major League Baseball awards, including the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards. Neyer and his colleague Keith Law were refused due to the BBWAA's perception that they did not attend enough games in person. The following year, during the MLB winter meetings in Las Vegas, Neyer and Law were admitted into the BBWAA.
- Media e-Interviews: Rob Neyer Fangraphs, May 2011
- Rob Neyer - Best Job in the World
- Jaffe, Chris (2007-10-29). "Rob Neyer Interview". The Hardball Times. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
- Neyer, Rob (February 1, 2011). "Rob Neyer Joins SB Nation, Becomes Part Of 'Us' Not 'Them'". SBNation.com. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011.
In Rob Neyer's first column for SB Nation, he obliterates the line between "us" and "them" and lists a few of the First Principles that will guide his work.
- Rovell, Darren (February 1, 2011). "One of the Originals, Rob Neyer, Leaves ESPN.com for SB Nation". CNBC.com. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011.
Neyer said he has had opportunities to leave ESPN.com over the years, but nothing felt right until his contract expired this time around and SB Nation came calling.
- Gleeman, Aaron (November 1, 2010). "Yadier Molina leads fifth annual "Fielding Bible Awards"". NBCSports.com. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
Voted on by a 10-person panel that includes Bill James, Peter Gammons, Joe Posnanski, Rob Neyer, and John Dewan as well as the entire video scouting team at Baseball Info Solutions, the award sets out to recognize the best defensive player at each position, regardless of league.
- "E-mailing With ... Rob Neyer". Aarongleeman.com. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups". Robneyer.com. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- "Thanks Rob". FanGraphs. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
- "Thanks Rob". Jonah Keri. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
- "Why We Watch". FanGraphs. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- "Rob Neyer, SB Nation, and Ray Lankford". SB Nation. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
- Schwarz, Alan (2004). The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 240. ISBN 0-312-32222-4.
- "AL Gold Glove winners named". ESPN.com. Associated Press. November 11, 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
Two websites that study glovework -- FanGraphs with its Ultimate Zone Rating and Fieldingbible.com -- listed Chicago's Alexei Ramírez as the top-fielding AL shortstop with Jeter nowhere close to even middle-of-the-pack status.
- Gleeman, Aaron (November 9, 2010). "Derek Jeter now has more Gold Glove awards than all but four shortstops in baseball history". nbcsports.com. Archived from the original on November 10, 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
And that's fine, but the notion that Jeter, at age 36, was the best defensive shortstop in the American League this season is simply absurd, whether you love defensive statistics, hate defensive statistics, or merely prefer the Ultimate Warrior to Ultimate Zone Rating.
- Hoch, Bryan (November 9, 2010). "Cano, Tex, Jeter honored with Gold Gloves". MLB.com. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
- Joura, Brian (September 15, 2007). "Should Derek Jeter Win His Fourth Consecutive Gold Glove Award This Season?". Yahoo.com. Retrieved January 28, 2014.
- Neyer, Rob (February 8, 2011). "Derek Jeter Retooling His Swing After Down Season; Let's Hope It Works". SB Nation. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- Vondersmith, Jason (July 15, 2005). "Diamond mind covers the bases". Portland Tribune. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
- Neyer, Rob (September 6, 2004). "Neyer, Kettmann, Davidoff, & Amazon". RobNeyer.com. Archived from the original on September 2, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
- "Flashback: Rob Neyer's Dark Days Of Amazon". Deadspin. Sep 21, 2005. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Brown, Maury (2007-12-10). "Bob Dutton Addresses the BBWAA Inclusion Process". The Biz of Baseball. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
- Brown, Maury (2008-12-10). "Winter Meetings Day 3 – Report #3 – BBWAA Admits Law, Carroll, Neyer, and Karhl". The Biz of Baseball. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- Official website
- Rob Neyer at Twitter
- Neyer at SB Nation
- Neyer archive at ESPN.com
- Interview by Bronx Banter (May 6, 2003)
- Neyer on FanGraph's Audio (March 12, 2010)
- Rob Neyer at Library of Congress Authorities, with 5 catalog records