Last week, Bill Heeter, one of the web's most well-known and longest tenured Royals bloggers announced "I'm Done". A few days later, in the dining room at the Royals Review World Headquarters I chatted with Bill over seafood paella and an amontillado sherry, while jealous and nervous interns looked on. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to ask him about his decision to quit blogging, as well as get his thoughts on the just-passed Winter Meetings madness. Along with the boys over at Royals Corner getting gobbled up by Scout, its been an eventful year in the Royals blogosphere.
The Royals Review caterers outdid themselves this time.
Seriously though, thanks again to Bill for talking with me.
RR: Before jumping to the Royals, I'd like to ask you about your decision to stop blogging. Was it just simple exhaustion/burn-out, or something more complicated?
BH: Burn-out is probably the best way to put it really. In the last year I've had to edit myself more because it was becoming far too easy to just gripe instead of offering some sort of constructive commentary, which had always been something I prided myself about. I always knew that nobody that could do anything about it was paying attention, but until recently just being able to say those things was enough.
RR: In your final post at Kauffman Confidential you wrote, "Most of all, I'm done spending time pouring over statistics I really don't care anything about to justify an opinion that's based as much as anything on a feeling. I'm just done." Was looking at stats a part of your frustration, or just a representative example?
BH: A bit of both. I'm very much of the mystical/baseball as religion mindset. I believe there are times when statistics can be a help in figuring things out, but there are times when what really matters is the undefinable feeling you get when you see some players. I tend to think that people who devote so much attention to stats sometimes miss that.
It seemed like more and more just saying I believe this because it feels right to do so wasn't enough, and there were readers who would openly complain if I didn't substantiate a position with a couple of books full of stats. So I took to doing like so many others out there and coming up with stats to back my opinions. The problem is, I don't really like stats that much, and that became a real chore that I didn't care for at all.
RR: I get emails occasionally but regularly from people starting their own blog and asking for a link, etc. I'm sometimes tempted to just reply, "run away from the computer as fast as you can! don't get pulled in!". Why did you start writing online, why do you think most people do?
BH: I sort of backed into it myself. Back in the mid 90's I was a participant in a couple of Royals usenet groups, and was contacted to write an article chronicling my experience at opening day for the Sporting News online. I did that two years, and was asked to start writing about the Royals for Sportznutz.com. Things just kind of took off from there. I had my own site for awhile, wrote guest articles for several other Royals websites, and for a while was a paid columnist for Comcast Online's "In Your Town", covering Kansas City sports. I eventually wound up with Most Valuable Network, and then was shifted over to all-baseball.com when they merged with MVN. I had been contemplating quitting for quite a while, and then we were told that all-baseball was going to be re-integrated into MVN. That seemed like a perfect time to call it quits, because it meant I wasn't really leaving them in the lurch.
RR: Where do you see the baseball blogosphere and the Royals blogosphere headed? Or is that a silly question?
BH: As far as the Royals specifically, I really don't have a clue. Baseball in general has such a huge online community of interested writers that it's gratifying and overwhelming all at the same time. I would like to think that the new generation of baseball executives would have the sense to pay attention to what the fans are saying online, because once in a while they might find a gem of an idea there.
RR: What did you think of the strange 2006 Royals campaign?
BH: I think that in a few years we'll be able to look back on '06 and say "that's when we turned the tide". Of course, I've said that before about other years as well, so what do I know?
Seriously, once Baird had been replaced with Dayton Moore, things really started turning around for the Royals. They started playing better baseball and by completely overhauling the organization I'd like to think that the table has been set for there to be many years of success in the not too distant future.
I like Shealy a lot. He seems to have a good idea of how to play his position, and has some pop in his bat. The fact that we got him in exchange for a player who never lived up to his promise no matter how many chances he was given makes his acquisition even better. I was never that down on Gathright, in part because his playing time was supposed to cut into Emil Brown's, which I said more times than I can remember could only be a good thing. Joey is not starter material to be sure, but he does at least have a clue what to do with his glove. That's not something that can truthfully be said about Brown.
RR: I don't know what to make of the Meche signing now that the first and second waves of spin have hit the media. Do the Royals truly see something in this guy? Did they make the signing to prove a "commitment to winning" or something like that? Do they know he's medicore but like the stability? What's your take?
BH: I could say that mediocre is an improvement over what we've had the last couple of years, but that would be kind of mean. Seriously, they must see something there that some of us have missed. He's got some experience in the trenches but isn't ready for social security, which might make him more accessible to the kids, if that was part of their thinking. Plus, I think splashing out on someone whose name is actually semi-recognizable but isn't a gamble like Juan Gone is a smart PR move. I suspect that part of it also was a way of showing the other teams that they aren't just stockpiling their revenue sharing payments.
RR: So regarding Dayton Moore you believe...?
BH: He's not a genius or anything, but he was at least smart enough to get the Glass family to agree to let him and his people run the baseball operation, which has to be an improvement over the Allard Baird era. We can feel fairly certain that any successes or failures will be fully his responsibility instead of having to constantly ask, "Did someone jump in here and screw things up?"
RR: Finally, whats the state of the Royals' fanbase right now?
BH: Well, just from taking a peek out the window I'd say a bit damp :) Seriously, I think there's more hope out there than there's been in Royals Nation for a long time. I think it's being tempered because we've been burned so many times before, but it's there nonetheless.