I'd always wanted to do a Q&A with Rob Neyer. Now that we're part of the same network, he can't really say no, can he? The Editor of SB Nation's MLB coverage, Neyer was kind enough to answer questions about being a Royals fan, the different stages of his career, and whether or not the Royals can win a World Series under Dayton Moore.
Can you talk a little bit about your connection to Kansas City? You’ve lived in Portland for awhile now, I believe. Do you consider yourself a West Coast guy? A transplanted Midwesterner?
Neyer: It took me a couple of years, but I certainly have grown to love the Pacific Northwest for any number of reasons. That said, I don't think of myself as an anything guy. Wherever I am, that's the place to be.
Rob, I’d like to start by asking you about your famous status as a Royals fan. Or is it still an ex-fan? You’ve been very candid about how the years of losing and incompetence beat you down. Do you still root for the Royals?
Neyer: I will always be a Royals fan, down deep. I just spent too many years living and dying with them, game in and game out for six months. I'm also constitutionally unable to switch allegiances. I didn't become a Mariners fan while living in Seattle, even though I had season tickets. I didn't become a (serious) Red Sox fan, even though I spent a season at Fenway Park. I haven't become an A's or Giants fan, even though I sort of made the Bay Area my second home for a couple of years (and still might wind up down there, at some point).
It's also true that I don't live and die with the Royals anymore. I've just been away for too many years, and seen too much front-office incompetence. The last time I really, really cared about them was 2003. I doubt if I'll ever get those feelings back, completely. But I would love to find out.
On a scale of 1-10 how much meddling do you think took place during the Baird Era? Similarly, when you look back on those years when the Royals went super-cheap in the draft, was that Baird trying a bad version of Moneyball, a response to a direct imperative not to spend, or something in between?
Neyer: I don't think we'll ever know, unless Baird comes clean someday. Definitely above 5, though. He certainly made a great number of mistakes when evaluating major league players, but I'm sure he was compelled by ownership to make some deals he shouldn't have, and prevented from making some deals he should have.
We’ll never quite know what the details were, or even if they existed, but assuming that there was a Montero+Soria trade, of some shape, on the table with the Yankees, should the Royals have taken it?
Neyer: Well, the devil really is in the details. I don't think Montero for Soria straight up would have been worth doing, but Montero plus a couple of other prospects? Yeah, probably. I love Soria, but if the farm system's really as productive as it has to be, should it really be that hard to come up with someone who can protect a ninth-inning lead?
What did you think of the Greinke trade?
Neyer: I thought Dayton Moore did about as well as he could have.
With the farm system now drowning in hosannas Dayton Moore’s job is once again safe and his development bonafides are once again unquestioned. The big question: do you believe that the Royals can win a WS under Moore? How would you predict the next few years playing out?
Neyer: Hey, anything's possible. But I don't think the Royals will even reach the playoffs under Moore, if only because 1) there's a fair amount of strong competition in the American League Central, and 2) for the Royals to win 90 games, Moore will have to supplement the home-grown players with a few canny trades and free-agent signings, and he's done little to suggest that he's up to that chore.
It’s striking when you think back to the 1990s, or even the middle of the last decade. People talk about steroids, of course, but it was also a wilder, stupider industry: bad contracts everywhere, a number of teams pretty openly not valuing prospects or young players, weird trades, etc. Do you miss those days?
Neyer: Hmmm ... No, not really. I suppose stupidity makes my job easier, but I also prefer to live in a (relatively) rational world. And fortunately there are enough players and teams that there's almost always something to write about.
Within the baseball media, when you see Baseball Tonight using stats like WAR, UZR, FIP, do you think that sabermetrics has finally arrived or is it more tenuous than that?
Neyer: Oh, it's certainly not tenuous. Not at all. As young baseball executives and TV producers and broadcasters -- men (mostly) who grew up reading Bill James and (maybe even) Rob Neyer -- move into positions of influence, modern statistics will only be more visible wherever people are talking about baseball. There's just no way we're going backwards (though the popular discussion will always be a little behind the really interesting work).
When you look back on your career, when did you realize that you were becoming both influential and well, famous?
Neyer: I'm not famous, and it's still hard for me to believe that I've been even the least bit influential. I will admit that I was gratified to read all the nice things people wrote about me, when I left ESPN.com and joined SB Nation. But none of these things are for me to judge. If I were a baseball player, maybe after my career I could look back and say, "Huh, I guess maybe I was pretty good." But in my line of work there aren't any (meaningful) numbers and I obviously can't be objective about whatever I've done. So I'll leave the judgment to others. (Also, I'm not done yet!)
Do you have another book project planned?
Neyer: Alas, no. I essentially had to give up writing books when I began blogging, three or four years ago. I'm just not willing to give my life completely over to writing, which these days is what it would take for me to write a book worth publishing.
It’s striking to me that in addition to being the saber-guy, you were one of the first web-only columnists as well as one of the first fan-bloggers, right when those were first becoming things. Do you see your new place at SB Nation as another emerging form/approach or is that too grandiose?
Neyer: Well, my current role does seem something like the logical culmination of what I began doing 15 years ago, and I certainly feel a spiritual kinship with the bloggers in our network. Which is part of the reason the move to SB Nation felt so natural to me.