Rob Neyer is a Midwest kid who got lucky and made it big as a baseball writer. He doesn't have the personal poetry of Roger Angell or the technical brilliance of Voros McCracken, but he revealed a new and important world of baseball to a lot of people. Aaron Gleeman, one of the great young baseball writers you can find, credited Rob Neyer with "doing more to get me interested in baseball than any other writer." For that much we can be thankful.

Neyer's career is, by his own admission, as much a product of chance as it was talent. He dropped out of college and was well into a career in freelance masonry when a casual friend, Mike Kopf, clued him in on Bill James wanting an executive baseball assistant. Through some sort of mad combination of luck and circumstance, James took a liking to the young and unaccomplished Rob and took him under his wing for a full four years, teaching him whatever it is that geniuses teach their pupils.

Rob Neyer has never been a great writer, but there is an excellent story involving him and James on the subject of writing. Neyer is saying to James that it's frustrating to write baseball because he comes out sounding drier than sandpaper, but when he writes friends he is lively and interesting. In reply, Bill says "When you're writing baseball, just imagine you're writing a letter to a friend." And thus it began.

Rob's career took off not long after he left the service of his mentor in 1993. For a few years, Neyer worked at STATS Inc. and then caught on big with ESPN.com in 1996. Neyer continues to work with ESPN and has now earned the privilege of "Insider" status, which means you have to pay to read him. It has yet to be determined whether or not this will improve his popularity. My guess is not, considering the frugal nature of your standard SABR member.

Rob has written three books; Feeding the Green Monster, Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups, and The Neyer/James Guide to Pitching. The first of the three is largely worthless, which isn't surprising considering that Neyer has never had the skill to sustain rhetoric for much longer than five thousand words. Each of the other two books are cut into a couple hundred blurbs or small essays and this fits into Neyer's style. They are well worth the money for every serious baseball fan.

Neyer has never been a brilliant writer and he will never be confused for a talented Sabrematrician in the circles those fellows run in, but he has brought a lot of knowledge to a lot of people, which is more than most can say. His skills are more related to historical knowledge and accessibility, admirable traits, but not superstar stuff by any means. I expect he'll get into the Hall someday, though he won't deserve to be in the same wing as Steve Goldman by any means.

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