Driving back home along I-10 at about 12:45 a.m. in the rain last summer, I found myself questioning what this was all supposed to accomplish. All those late-night trips back, all the hustling to make the schedule work, what was it supposed to do?
It wasn't about the money. Lord knows working in the newspaper industry means I am no sort of capitalist.
It wasn't about the fame. Lord knows that the reason newspapers don't pay better is that no one reads them any more.
Why was I there?
That picture above was the reason. A year ago, I talked with the chapter president from Houston about getting into the Baseball Writer's Association. It was the longest of long shots. This was after Rob Neyer was turned down in his bid to join from SB Nation, but my friend told me to give it a shot.
So, I called and talked for a bit, told him my situation, that I worked for a newspaper but hadn't covered any games the previous summer. I had watched and written about the team extensively, though, for this site. He said that didn't count, that the association was still being indifferent about internet writers and that it was more of a national issue.
But, he told me that if I got to enough games that summer, I'd have a shot at getting in. Thus started my quest to get to 20 games. That was the magic number I set for myself and a number that would get me noticed enough times by the chapter president to get in.
It was hard, finding time in my schedule to jet away to Minute Maid Park when I lived about 90 minutes away. I had to write a few high school pieces from the MMP press box as I multi-tasked job duties. I made a couple calls to high school coaches, too, in the lobby of that press box. Gotta do what you gotta do, right?
It paid off.
As of this year, I'm an official member of the Base Ball Writers Association of America.
I brought this fact up in a Three Things earlier this year and said I'd have more on it later. This is the explanation. What I'd like to talk about is the purpose this could serve for the site and what it means in a bigger sense.
First off, how will this affect the site? In my mind, it's marginal. I'll still be credentialed for Astros games and will still make as many as I can this summer. I'll be able to gain some small insights from hanging around the clubhouse before and after games, watching batting practice and sitting in press conferences post game.
I may have a vote here or there for national awards, and in those cases, I'll discuss my ballot here. But, not everyone in a local chapter gets national votes. We do get votes for Houston awards, like Astros MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc, and I'll throw those out in public too.
Other than that, I'm not sure what impact this will have on what we provide for the site. That's why I haven't made a huge deal of it or my plans. It just doesn't seem that relevant.
But, you say, a writer for an internet site is now a member of the BBWAA? That should be a HUGE deal. HUGE!
Except it's not.
This isn't some sea change in how the BBWAA handles internet writers. My situation is entirely unique. I work for a brick and mortar print company that has less daily circulation than TCB has daily page views. I got credentialed in the first place because of that newspaper tie-in, not because I follow the team rabidly for this site.
It's a bit of a unique situation and it's not one that others can easily follow. Hey! You too can be underpaid, live near a big league team and work out a tough travel schedule to see less than a quarter of the home games the team plays! Not exactly a winning sales pitch, is it?
It's also a little embarrassing. Is it fair that I'm in but Rob Neyer still doesn't have his card because he writes for SB Nation? I'm not half as talented as he is, yet I'm in this exclusive club? That doesn't compute in my sense of fairness.
It's not just Rob (whom I sort of revere, if you can't tell). I'm not as funny or insightful as Grant Brisbee; why should I be in and he's not? I'm not as analytical or talented as Dave Cameron or the other FanGraphs/Baseball Prospectus writers in the BBWAA, how can I live up to those standards? Am I as hilarious as Carson Cistuli? Nope. Can I write intelligently about 30 different teams like Cee Angi or Mike Bates do? Nope. Do we cover news nearly as well or as snarkily as Craig Calcaterra or Aaron Gleeman? Nope.
My entrance, therefore, doesn't strike a blow against the chain keeping internet baseball writers out of the BBWAA. Right now, I feel like I did for much of last season in the press box and around the clubhouse. In unfamiliar circumstances, keep your mouth shut, notice 10 times more than you get noticed, keep learning and get better.
With all the vitriol blowing against the BBWAA this winter about PEDs and taking moral stands, I think it's relevant to talk about getting in. But, only in a greater context. Yes, be upset about all those things happening around the Hall of Fame voting or the American League MVP voting.
But, know that change is happening slowly but surely. The MLB.com writers should still be in, but for every Murray Chass that's hanging around, there's a Zachary Levine still in there. For every Jon Heyman, there's a Dave Cameron. The change is happening and I'm a tiny part of that.
Now, you'll have to excuse me while Richard Justice and I go talk about how great the Triple Crown is and how much better Jack Morris was than Byleven. WAR's the worst, y'all.
Oh, you thought I meant the BBWAA was changing in a good way?