By way of introduction -- you see, I'm new around these parts -- a story ...
At my last job, some years ago, I once added something to the comments section below a colleague's story. This colleague, like nearly all of my colleagues, was a real sweetheart of a guy. But even though my comment was innocuous, suggesting that perhaps one posited explanation for a particular phenomenon might have been better than another, I heard through the grapevine that my colleague was unhappy about it.
Without meaning to, over the years I'd annoyed most of my other colleagues ... and nearly all of them with reputations as incredibly nice guys. So I figured it must be me. I hastily e-mailed this particular colleague to apologize.
His response: "Rob, no problem at all. I just thought the comments section was for them, not for us."
This isn't the place to enumerate the differences, for most of my career anyway, between me and the great majority of baseball writers in the mainstream media. They did finally let me into the Baseball Writers Association of America a few years ago, which I appreciated, plus (did I mention this?) they really are a bunch of really nice guys. And I'm not making value judgments here.
One difference, though, is that I've never thought of myself as a member of us rather than them.
I've got a lot of passions, and generally I won't bore you with them. But the passion I indulge almost every day of my life is good writing. I crave it, and when I find it, I treasure it. I surround myself with books full of good writing, and I can't get through the day without scribbling down a brilliant sentence or delightful word in a thick journal that's always close at hand.
Also, it's my business. I'm one of the lucky few who gets paid to indulge his first love.
Where the good writing comes from, though, is irrelevant. All that matters is the writing.
You're paid to write? I know lots of professional writers who either never learned to write well, or have forgotten. You work for a famous website or newspaper? The big boys don't have a monopoly on good writing, let alone facts.
There are a lot of things to love about SB Nation, which is why I'm here. But among them is that they -- excuse me, we -- don't see us as us and you as them. We've got bloggers who most professional writers probably consider them ... but we know better. We know that some of our writers are every bit as talented and knowledgeable as anyone you'll find working for newspapers or the Big Boy websites. We also know that today's readers are tomorrow's writers, and that often the only difference is opportunity (one fantastic thing about the Web is that opportunity is everywhere).
Nobody's got a monopoly on good writing, or the facts. If you can come up with one or the other or (ideally) both, you're in the club. That's one of the First Principles.
Another First Principle is that there shouldn't be any sacred cows. Not here. If Derek Jeter's not playing well, we have to point that out because it's our job. If we know reasonable people who think Albert Pujols might be a year or three older than we've been told, we have to point that out. If people we like personally have written things that don't make sense ... Well, it gets tricky but we're not doing our jobs if we let it slide.
And finally, a related First Principle: I'm no better than anyone else. I'm going to make mistakes, and I invite anyone -- readers, SB Nation writers, writers from anywhere else -- to hold me accountable wherever it's convenient. A favorite author of mine once wrote a book that was, quite frankly, not well done. This author was an older fellow, and had written a number of outstanding books earlier in his career. Some of my readers felt that my column (this was before blogs had been invented) was in poor taste, that I should have taken it easy on this fellow because he'd done so much good work so many years ago.
Well, I'm sorry but I'm not old enough to play that game. Some publisher was charging $25 for this book, and the author was taking his cut. The moment you engage in a profit-making enterprise, you lose the right to expect charity. Worse, the moment you expect charity, you're admitting your irrelevance as a writer. The moment you can't accept corrections or criticism or disdain, you've given up on getting better, or smarter.
That's not me, not yet, and it's not anyone else you'll find on this website. I probably shouldn't speak for the entire website, but I can promise you that as long as I've got any responsibility for what you see on SB Nation's baseball page, nobody will be above reproach. We're lean and we're hungry and we believe that Vince Lombardi was right, that if we strive for perfection we'll never find it, but we might find some excellence along the way.
We know we can't do it without you. Around here, there's no them. There's only us, and we're all in this thing together.