An Unexpected Development

In April of 2009, FanGraphs CEO David Appelman announced that his growing site would be adding two part-time writers effective immediately or something like immediately. Having produced some vaguely analytical work for my own weblog, I sent a collection of story ideas, a CV, and an overwrought cover letter to the email address provided in his announcement. In a turn of events that speaks both to Appelman’s discretion as a leader and his capacity for identifying talent, he made a decision that would benefit FanGraphs for some time — which is to say, he hired someone else.

As if to prove, however, that even the most towering intellects aren’t immune from errors in judgment, Appelman and his future managing editor Dave Cameron would undo their good work just a few months later. Acting on a recommendation from Jonah Keri, who’s culpability in this process can’t be overstated, Appelman and Cameron invited me, at the beginning of August 2009, to begin contributing twice a week to fangraphs dot com.

To suggest that my first posts at the site were met with a “mixed response” would be to make full use of the rhetorical device known as “euphemism.” While I received no actual threats of bodily harm to my person, that didn’t prevent my person from crawling into the fetal position and weeping like a child. And while the vigor with which some readers expressed their dissatisfaction was probably unnecessary, the basic gist of their comments — namely, that I was single-handedly ruining whatever goodwill FanGraphs had cultivated with the public — seemed, at times, to possess merit.

When I asked Appelman if I should stop, lest I topple his fledgling empire, he suggested I not do that. “Keep going,” in fact, was more or less the tenor of his message. And whether that was the soundest advice or not, it seems in retrospect to have worked out. I have kept going for over nine years, enjoying (like other FanGraphs writers) an editorial freedom and collaborative spirit that is rare for any publication. One of Appelman’s great strengths as this site’s guardian has been to trust his writers. It’s an ethic from which I’ve benefited as a contributor and which I’ve attempted to preserve as an editor.

Starting today, however, I will no longer serve as a writer or editor for this site. After a tenure that has lasted far beyond even my most optimistic projections, I’m leaving FanGraphs to become a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

For all the reasons I’ve already mentioned (and also a number of others), the decision to move on hasn’t been an easy one to make. Both on paper and in practice, managing editor of FanGraphs is an improbably cool job — and basically the 99th-percentile outcome for one who, like myself, entered the marketplace with little more than an MFA in creative writing and lots of ideas about baseball. But when the Blue Jays reached out to me last month and suggested that I might be a fit for a newly created role in their pro scouting department, I was sufficiently curious to want more information about the position. The combination of warmth and talent present in the organization has been uniformly impressive. Combined with the appeal of the position itself, I ultimately decided it was a good fit.

As for the particulars of the position, I don’t know that I’m at liberty to reveal everything about it. What I can say, however, is that it will require me to utilize a lot of the same muscles that I’ve exercised while writing the weekly Fringe Five posts that have appeared at this site over the past five-plus years. It’s probably not a secret that organizations are constantly searching for ways to improve their evaluations of players. It’s also not a secret that synthesizing the enormous volume both of quantitative and observational (i.e. scouting) data helps to produce those evaluations. Toronto seems to think I can help in that capacity. I will endeavor not to disappoint them.

Before I say farewell, however, I want to express a profound gratitude to my colleagues. Having spent nearly a decade at the site, I’m wary of attempting to name all the appropriate names, lest I forget one and am forced to contend with the attendant guilt. To get a sense of the people to whom I’m most grateful, however, one needs only to examine the list of authors just to the right of this post. For over nine years — and, in particular, for the three or four during which I’ve actively served as an editor — I’ve had the fortune of observing baseball through the eyes of those talented and clear-minded writers. I wouldn’t be in the position to jump at this new opportunity if it weren’t for their work.

Nor does any of this acknowledge the very real benefit of my departure for FanGraphs’ readers — namely, that Meg Rowley will assume not only the role of managing editor but also host of FanGraphs Audio. There’s evidence to suggest that Meg is “better” and “more capable” than I am. She’ll publish a post shortly after this one regarding her vision for the site, but you can expect the vision to be a very good vision. Maybe even one of the best visions.

Finally, I do want to offer a very real thanks to David Appelman — for all the things, of course, but mostly for enduring me for nine years. I want to thank Dave Cameron for his role in transforming the site from a relatively modest operation into a colossus of baseball analysis. And I want to thank FanGraphs’ readers, who have challenged me as a writer and thinker. I’ll miss you.

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Bluebird in Boulder
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Bluebird in Boulder

Farewell, Carson. Best of luck and many successes in your new endeavours. I look forward to recitements of Emil Cioran while waiting for Vlad Jr. to join the Jays.