Back in early-2006 I made a point of reading everything Derrick Goold and Matthew Leach wrote. Still do, I suppose. Old habits die hard, which is a good thing when they're good habits. I even exchanged emails with Goold that offseason. I emailed Goold because I couldn't understand why the Cards were willing to go to four years with Edgar Renteria the prior Hot Stove but not two years for Mark Grudzelaneak during the 2005-06 offseason. I suppose I emailed him because I didn't have anyone else to discuss the matter with. To this day, I can't believe Goold was kind enough to indulge my emails. Maybe back then he somehow knew our grandpas both wore the same 1940s era Cardinals cap.
One of Goold's offseason pieces that spring, if my memory serves me correctly, linked to and recommended Viva El Birdos. So I went. And a whole new world was opened to me.
I had never read Moneyball. (In point of fact, I still haven't.) But as a coach I had filled out my lineup card based not on batting average, but on OBP and SLG. It was something that made intuitive sense to me. The higher the OBP, the fewer the outs. So why wouldn't we want kids with high OBPs batting early in the lineup and consequently most often. SLG too. All hits aren't created equal, so we'll have the kids with higher SLG bat in the middle of the lineup. More extra-base hits ought to result in more RBI, my thinking went. This was the extent of my baseball stats background when I first came to VEB.
I opened an account--the only commenting account I've ever opened on a website, unless you count the handful of times I've used my VEB account to comment on other SBN blogs--and waded in. There was no turning back. During my early commenting days, I was in way over my head. So I bought the 2006 Baseball Prospectus and Bill James Handbook. I actually logged on to VEB with both books opened to the Cardinals' pages. Sometime during the season, I first bookmarked Baseball-Reference. (It's still bookmarked.) All the way back then, you couldn't engage in a discussion on VEB without a player's stats immediately at hand. The main post analysis and community knowledge blew my mind. I was hooked. You see, VEB gets into your blood.
Living in central Iowa, there are a few Cardinals fans about. But with the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate in Des Moines and WGN a part of basic cable from the late-80s through the late-90s, there are many more Cubs fans here. It's hard to find anyone to really talk about Cards baseball with in person. Yet at VEB, by the power of the internet, there was a whole community of Cardinals fans from Montana to California to Korea to England to New York to Iowa. And they were well-informed. VEB was a godsend for me.
Without Larry Borowski and the VEB 1.0 writes, I probably wouldn't be the fan I am today. Eventually lboros handed the keys to the site over to Dan Moore. I'll admit that my initial reaction was like a kid who has had his favorite toy taken away from him. I didn't like it. But Dan quickly won me and all of us over.
What sets Dan apart from so many sportswriters is the fact that he started down the sports journalism track but decided such hackery wasn't for him and so he became a bona fide wordsmith. As a result, Dan writes about baseball with the heart of a diehard fan in the words of a novelist. The result is baseball insight that reveals the truths in the game the way the poet is able to reveal truths in matters of the heart. And how easy he makes baseball prose seem!
What made the transition to Dan all the smoother was the VEB community. I started as a member, nervously typing up Fanposts and keeping track of my recs. The amount of pride I felt when I first had my VEB peers make a Fanpost I wrote among the most recommended is kind of embarrassing. But it's a testament to how highly I thought (and still think of) the VEB community, the virtual highbrow frat house that it is.
In late 2010, Dan brought VEP on to write main posts. Only VEP failed to write a main post on multiple occasions. As silly and childish as it was, VEP's failure to write main posts on his scheduled posting days actually offended me. "You've been asked to write for VEB," my thinking went, "how can you not be writing posts!? Where is the promised Brad Penny Pitch F/X post!?" I wrote several emails to Dan, each one more forcefully asserting my availability to write Monday posts than the last. And I replaced VEP. (I loved and still love VEP, by the way, and am really looking forward to that Brad Penny Pitch F/X post.) It's hard to believe that was four years ago. Yet here we are, at the end of this era in my and VEB's lives.
Thank you, Larry Borowski, for teaching me and so many others about advanced metrics and showing how useful they are in gaining a better understanding of the game. As recently as last week I thought about a years-old lboros post about Kyle Lohse's swinging strike rate when I had writer's block and, as it had so many times before, that post caused me to look at things in a slightly different way and the analysis flowed. I owe the current state of my St. Louis fandom in large part to lboros and the VEB 1.0 lineup. For that I will be forever grateful.
Thank you, azruavatar, RB, and tom s. Sharing a masthead with you and Dan was an imposing prospect for me. Every week I strove to write something that was on par with the quality standard you all set. It was a privilege to write on the same blog as you.
Thank you, Dan, for your wonderful writing and for giving me the honor of writing main posts at VEB for over four years about whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I've never experienced editorial freedom like that before and I probably never will again. I truly appreciate being given the opportunity to write for what I consider to have been the best Cardinals blog on the internet. I'm looking forward to reading your new Cardinals blog, Mad Em-Dashes.
Most of all, I want to thank you, the VEB community, for the insights, the cleverness, the poetry, the gifs, the photoshopping, the debates, the irreverence, and the fun. I don't think I can overstate how much this community has meant to me over the years. I don't share a lot of personal stuff, but the VEB community helped me get through some difficult times by just being the VEB community. Almost daily for nearly eight years I've come to VEB to talk Cardinals baseball (and whatever else) with the community. Every week for almost four years I've spent hours working on posts that I hope shed light on the game and the team that we all love. It's with a heavy heart that I say goodbye. Thank you for everything over the years. I wish you all nothing but the best.