Double Switching

Life outside the diamond is a wrench.

This is kind of a third-hand commentary, but some time ago, Mighty Flynn posted some comments on something that was said on the Baseball Prospectus podcast Up and In. Boiled down, it was this:

If your baseball knowledge comes exclusively from reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts—even if you read and listen to all of them—you still don’t know much. […] To paraphrase Goldstein from an episode early this season, the knowledge gap between baseball insiders and outsiders is at least as great as the talent gulf between big leaguers and AAA players. In other words, it might not seem like a big gap, because baseball is a game measured in decimal points, but the gap is huge.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life playing catch-up. I’ve always been the youngest in my friend group, so it’s common for me not to get references other people toss around. I have a full-time job in a field unrelated to my undergraduate degree, and the work I do was completely unknown to me until less than two years ago. I’m used to feeling like I’m just hanging on.

I spend a lot of time every day reading about baseball, listening to podcasts, trying to keep up. Every day it baffles me how some people — not much older than me — can recall all kinds of stats, facts and plays from memory, while two weeks ago I had to google Clay Rapada. As a hobbyist, trying to match stride with people who read about and watch and write about baseball every single day for a living seems like an insurmountable task.

Earlier tonight, I asked on Twitter how everyone who writes about baseball got started. The diversity of the responses was amazing. Some had been fans their entire lives, but hadn’t picked up writing about baseball until recently, whether through a career change or just a whim — content, until not long ago, to watch and love. Some, like myself, were very new to baseball (Ashley had just a month of watching the Giants under her belt, which is pretty brave!).

What was most interesting, though, is that nearly everyone cited having wanted to learn about some aspect of the game — how it works, why things happen, how to become more well-versed in sabermetrics. This is the key for me. I think it’s often assumed that when you write about something, especially regularly, you know more than the average person and are simply dispensing your knowledge to the masses. But maybe it’s a little different — while writers certainly have a more knowledge about the game than most, maybe those who choose to write are also those who are just curious about everything, and writing regularly provides an outlet for that curiosity.

It’s an encouraging idea. It isn’t any less difficult to keep up: there are still 30 teams with 162 games a year, and there are countless things that will fall by the wayside. But the idea that so many use writing as a way to understand is comforting. The knowledge gap may be huge, but the discussions and Twitter threads and communities that arise from trying to bridge it are truly great. In a way, I’m grateful that I jumped into this not knowing very much; when you have great people learning alongside you, it’s hard not to feel buoyed up.

  1. doubleswitching posted this