Hit the Poz Button

A couple years ago I was talking with a Yankees fan, a true-blue New Yorker as typified by that classic Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover, “A View of the World from 9th Avenue,”. We were talking about our online baseball reading habits, sites we visit regularly and such, and I mentioned an article I’d read earlier that day by Joe Posnanski.

“Who?” he replied.

“Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star. You know, Poz.”

“Why would I care what’s going on in Kansas City?”

The conversation ground to an abrupt halt. There was no sense in pressing the issue with my provincial acquaintance; it was like showing a pig a wristwatch. We simply consume baseball differently; he’s a rabid fan of the hometown nine, and I’m someone who likes to — needs to, given my writing responsibilities at Baseball Prospectus and Fantasy Baseball Index — be conversant about every team. Fair enough. I like knowing what’s going in Milwaukee, Miami, Pittsburgh, or Kansas City, not just because they’re exotic non-New York City locales but because just as there are players worth watching on other teams, there are writers worth reading all over the country, and they don’t write about the Alex Rodriguez v. The World soap opera twice a week.

Posnanski’s one of them. He’s had to endure some pretty dark days covering the Royals, yet he always seems to strike the right note, never strident, neither too suicidally pessimistic nor too insanely optimistic about the home team’s situation. And his street cred, as far as I’m concerned, is impeccable. He’s a SABR member, friends with Bill James and Rob and Rany, hip to Baseball Prospectus, he’s interviewed with Rich Lederer, he actually gets to vote for Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammell and Rich Gossage in the Hall of Fame balloting, and he counts the futile Duane Kuiper — one home run in 3,379 career at bats — as his all-time favorite player. With stats like that, the dude can pound Budweiser at my table anytime.

Posnanski’s got a new book on the way out called The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neill’s America, and alongside a more traditional book home page, he’s rolled out a blog that’s been pretty entertaining thus far. Here he reflects on the cast of zombies that make up the Royals’ five previous Opening Day starters; they combined to go 31-58 with a 5.68 ERA, while opposing hitters wailed the tar out of them at a .291/.354/.500 clip. Here he writes at length about the Royals’ infamous Gil Meche signing and a possible rationale behind it, one that doesn’t involve photos of executives with dead hookers. Here he offers a rather surprising and contrary take on Barry Bonds, even while admitting that Bonds has painted himself into a corner. Here he writes about James’ seeing the light on Blyleven (believe it or not, this took until recently).

Even if you don’t agree with every position he takes (and I don’t), it’s good stuff, several cuts above what many of his ink-stained colleagues are offering up elsewhere. The world of mainstream baseball writing needs more Joe Posnanskis; failing that, at least we’ve got more Poz.

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