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Rob Neyer Leaves ESPN

February 1, 2011

Any avid reader of baseball news on the Internet has their own list of sites or blogs that they regularly check out on a daily basis. I know that at times I have a growing list of 7-8 sites that I go to first for my news and analysis. It’s the hope of any blogger that their site eventually makes someone’s list. For quite some time – 15 years, to be exact – one of the places frequently found on many people’s lists has been ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer. Sadly, we’ve lost that option (at least for the time being) as Neyer announced Monday that he will be leaving the World Wide Leader to pursue new opportunities. Neyer has long been one of the most read writers that ESPN has employed. He has been with the network since the start of their online presence and “he’s written more words for the site than anybody” according to his bio. Buried at the bottom of his final entry in his SweetSpot blog, Neyer thanked those that brought him to ESPN and the readers he has grown to love over the years.

From there, the tributes and thank you posts for Neyer started to appear across those very same sites I (and many others) frequent daily. Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron feels we owe Neyer a “huge debt of gratitude” for the way he ushered so many of us into the age of statistical analysis and called his departure “the end of an era”. Dave’s colleague, Carson Cistulli, invited the readers to share their own memories and thoughts rather than going into depth on his own. Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk credits Neyer with jump-starting his entire career. Members of Neyer’s SweetSpot Network also had their thoughts on the matter. Jason of It’s About The Money Stupid credits Neyer for being one of the first to bring sports blogging into the mainstream while Bill at The Platoon Advantage called him “the father of baseball writing on the Internet”. All accurate, and thoughtful, comments.

For me, my thoughts are a little less specific. Neyer himself didn’t necessarily influence me in any direct way and I was never fortunate enough to have my worked linked to by him. However, Neyer and another of his now-former colleagues, Peter Gammons, were two of the first writers that I read on a regular basis. The pair were essential in my ability to follow everything going on in the game. When I was younger the local newspapers my parents had delivered offered up some commentary but never enough for my liking about the game as a whole. Then, when we moved overseas in 1995, the only way I could follow the game I loved was to read whatever I could find online. Once ESPN.com launched I was hooked and it became the first place I’d check when I was able to get online.

Gammons quickly became my favorite writer. I eventually signed up for ESPN Insider just for his articles. Neyer was a close second, but I always felt his work was not quite on the same level as Gammons. When Peter left ESPN to take a position with MLB Network, I admittedly was quite disappointed. I felt like something wasn’t right, something was missing. But around that same time Neyer seemed to pick up some of that slack. He kept my attention with his analysis and no-holds-barred opinions. With his departure I presume ESPN will drop down on my list of sites to check daily. I’ll admit that I’ll still be checking it as I am a fan of some of Buster Olney’s work (unlike most). But as it was when Gammons left, things just won’t be the same.

Neyer will continue to write and wherever he does, I and many of his other loyal readers will follow his work. Until he announces where that will be we’ll all be left to remember the 15 years we’ve enjoyed while wondering (and hoping) that he is leaving on his terms. ESPN has lost another brilliant writer. The network will survive, but it remains to be seen how it will change.

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