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Say the headline out loud if you don't get the pun!

Normally, Batter's Box would not devote an entire thread to the news of ESPN hiring a new senior baseball writer.

Ah, but when that new guy's name is Keith Law (pictured, left) that becomes an entirely different matter indeed.

Law, as you probably know, has held the title of Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Blue Jays since January 1, 2002; but he also spent several years previously as a co-author of the popular Baseball Prospectus, so it's not like leaving the Jays for this writing gig will be a whole new world for him ... in fact, speaking as someone whose job title is also "senior writer," let me suggest that there is plenty here to be insanely jealous about! [Here's the official press release, "Blue Jays bid farewell to Keith Law".]

Law was and is -- and we hope will continue to be -- no stranger to Batter's Box. One of Batter's Box's original All-Stars, Jordan Furlong, landed this 2003 interview with Law, while in April of last year, we pre-published Flying the Blue Jay Way from American Way magazine, with permission of my previous employer, American Airlines. He also posted occasional comments himself under the username "klaw."

According to Law, he will cover all levels of baseball, including amateur, write for and ESPNdeportes, while also doing occasional radio and television work.

Thanks, Keith, for all you've done for Toronto baseball. And keep Neyer and Stark in line, will you?

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Ron - Wednesday, May 31 2006 @ 08:56 PM EDT (#148088) #
Why would anybody want to leave a job in a MLB front office (and a good job to boot being the special assistant to the GM) to join as a writer?

Either way, I wish Keith Law the best of luck.

js_magloire - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 02:02 AM EDT (#148095) #
It is a wonder why Keith stepped down to be a writer. Perhaps a more lucrative financial offer? Or his skills were better put to use in the writing and analysis field.  But besides that, I think it's because he was only the special assistant to the GM. Perhaps he's more ready to be a GM himself oneday...
Mike Green - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 09:48 AM EDT (#148106) #
Best wishes to Keith Law in his new position.  We will be reading.
TangoTiger - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 11:38 AM EDT (#148113) #

I don't know about Keith's situation in particular, but my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd hand knowledge culled from many sources is that MLB is very much a small-business (except for the players).  It's a job you take because:

- it's on your way to something bigger, 

- you are well-set financially, so you can take a hit

- you just want to be part of baseball


Tyler - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 01:18 PM EDT (#148121) #
Yeah, it's nothing like the lucrative world of on-line writing, eh Tango?;)

I'm not sure that guys like Law, who are bringing something unique to the operation get squeezed the way that other people do.  I've got some familiarity with the sports industry as well, and it seems to me that if you're in a job that requires skills that aren't related to baseball (ie. PR, sales etc.) you take a hit financially for the fabulous opportunity to work in pro sport.  If you're someone with special skill though-which I think Law would be-I don't think that you do all that badly.  Of course, you'd probably know better than me.  I guess my point is that while he may be able to do better in the real world, ain't the real world.  It would surprise me if this was a financial move.  

TangoTiger - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 01:48 PM EDT (#148123) #

Except for the players, the GM, and the general counsel, my guess is that all personnel are underpaid compared to the corporate world.  The average team's revenue stream is in the 130-million$ range, of which 75-million$ is allocated to the MLB players.  So, you are talking about a 55-million$ business with a 40-60 million$ of "real-world" expenses.  That is very small potatoes, probably equivalent to a 200-employee company. 

I know when I was talking to some teams last year, one offered me a salary that matched what I made after graduating in 1990.  Two others were talking about a salary that I made almost 10 years ago.  A few others wanted me to work as an unpaid intern.  "I've got a stack of resumes here of highly qualified people who want to work for free", I heard more than once.

My preference is to be a consultant, and treat it as a secondary income.

Gitz - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 02:14 PM EDT (#148127) #
In this year's BP there was a discussion with Gary Huckabay and an anonymous baseball executive, and the exec said essentially what Tango does: why would they pay someone big bucks to "consult" when there are hundreds of people capable and willing to do statistical "analysis" for nothing? And, it should be noted, they are not only capable of it, but they are also doing it. The paradox about all these bloggers and other Web sites is that while they are no doubt hoping beyond hope that a MLB team will "discover" them, if they're good enough to be hired the chances are the teams are already using their information gratis, a la BP.

If you're going to get hired by a major-league team in Law's capacity, you're going to need more than statistical guruness. (Maybe what you need is the ability to create neo-logisms like "guruness"!) And from what I know of Law, he's much more than a numbers guy.
Ron - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 02:32 PM EDT (#148130) #
I agree with what Tango and Gitz said. I have no doubt there are hundreds of qualified people that would be willing to work for free just to get their foot in the door in MLB. It's just like interning in College. Places like MTV and Howard Stern don't pay you a single nickle to "work" there because it comes down to supply and demand. There's no need to pay someone when there are hundreds of people that are willing to "work" for free.

I guess you could say  I'm surprised the Jays hired Keith Law in the first place. Heck all you need to do is subscribe to BP and you have a wealth of statistical analysis at hand.

TangoTiger - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#148131) #

The BP/Huckabay article is a good read, especially for those looking to get in. 

I was disappointed about seeing that professor to establish the credentials of the prospects.  The level of math abilities needed should not surpass what we have in the appendix of our book.  I think Gary was rightfully getting frustrated at the end of that interview.  To me, it felt like if the exec couldn't get 100% of what he needed for 50% the price that he'd rather have no one.  I agree with the exec with his viewpoint on the way ideas are presented to him (get a groundball pitcher with great control, etc).

Personally, I think a team should hire more scouts, and have someone who can cull that information into something that can be used proactively, not reactively.  The gap to fill is not forecasting players using readily-available stats, but making use of data that is being collected for the dustbin.

Craig B - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 09:11 PM EDT (#148155) #
I guess you could say  I'm surprised the Jays hired Keith Law in the first place.

Well, I was surprised too, but it certainly made sense once everything fell into place.  Gitz alluded to this, but Keith Law is much more than a numbers cruncher.  This is a guy with a rare mix of business skill and training, sabermetric knowhow, and a real gift for communication - and that's one of the stumbling blocks to getting the "sabermetric message" across, the fact that a lot of guys who work in this field are not great communicators.  Plus he's a natural enthusiast with the kind of sense of humour that fits in that kind of environment.  He took on a more traditional role with gusto, too. 

MLB is a tough place to work and not exactly a rewarding lifestyle... you'd have to really love it to do it for a career, or have a boatload of ambition.
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