August 1, 2012

10 years

You'll soon find out, if you visit this blog more than a few times, that I am a huge Minnesota Twins fan.

- Me, August 1, 2002

Ten years ago today I was 19 years old and home from school for the summer following my freshman year at the University of Minnesota. I knew then, as I'd known without even a shred of doubt since I was about eight years old, that I wanted to write about sports for a living, but having already been turned down twice in applying for a spot on the Minnesota Daily school newspaper I was left with no obvious path to pursue that goal.

I'd spent the previous two months doing basically nothing productive, but in between eating all the food in my mom's refrigerator and watching the Twins and first-year manager Ron Gardenhire emerge as legitimate contenders I stumbled across a website called Baseball Musings. It was run by former ESPN researcher David Pinto and he wrote short articles throughout the day about a wide range of baseball topics while calling the website a "blog."

I had only a vague notion of what that word meant--this was 2002 and, for example, most people still used AOL as their internet provider--but I liked reading Pinto's articles and liked the less formal approach he took in his writing. One day he mentioned that his readers ought to consider starting blogs of their own if they liked reading his. And so I did. That day was August 1, 2002 and it all began with me typing Blogger.com into what was surely Internet Explorer.

I signed up for a free account, entered in a few details about myself, picked the most basic visual template, and chose a name: Aaron's Baseball Blog. Looking back, that name alone is a pretty strong indication that I hadn't planned on the blog turning into much of anything. But it was free, both to write via Blogger and host the site on Blogspot, and within five minutes I'd published my first article on the internet. I remember thinking it seemed almost too easy.

I'd just watched Marlins starter A.J. Burnett shut out the Cardinals on 128 pitches and he'd also thrown 132 pitches in his last start. It seemed to me that manager Jeff Torborg was overworking him and so I wrote 372 words about it, linking to Baseball Prospectus' "pitcher abuse points" and declaring stuff like "there's no way a 25-year-old in his second full season should be allowed to consistently throw that many pitches, start after start after start."

I then noted that Torborg could have lessened Burnett's workload by removing him from the game once it was no longer in doubt and concluded: "Burnett has been great this year and he looks like he'll be a stud for years to come. But the way he's being treated makes me think he's in line for some arm troubles. I hope I'm wrong." I wasn't wrong, as Burnett went on the disabled list weeks later and, after briefly returning, had Tommy John elbow surgery.

And yet looking back on my blogging debut whatever foresight or dumb luck was involved in being "right" about Burnett's workload seems totally unimportant compared to the annoying one-line paragraphs, obvious grammar mistakes, and other cringe-worthy aspects of that first 372-word post. Luckily for me no one was reading. Not that day and not for many days afterward. Actually, that's not quite true. My mom was immediately a daily reader, of course.

At some point I e-mailed Pinto to say he'd motivated me to create my own blog and he was nice enough to send some readers my way with a link. I remember that being a pretty big day, as I constantly reloaded "Site Meter" to track what seemed at the time like a huge amount of traffic roll in. Looking back, it was probably fewer than 100 visitors. But none of that mattered then because I was hooked from the moment I clicked "publish" on that Burnett post.

Later that same night I wrote about David Ortiz, who'd been named AL player of the month in what proved to be his final season in Minnesota, and began the post by saying: "You'll soon find out, if you visit this blog more than a few times, that I am a huge Minnesota Twins fan." I wrote six more posts in the next two days and almost literally no one was reading, but I was writing about baseball for what could in theory at least be an audience and that was the goal.

Ten years later I'm 29 years old and living in my own house. And still blogging, after 9.1 million visitors and 2,223 posts. I never did land that spot on the Daily despite applying nine times in four years. They didn't want me, but it turned out I didn't need them. Every rejection increased the size of the chip on my shoulder, pushed me further into blogging for the audience I built for myself, and motivated me to continue down the untrodden path of online sports writing.

It wasn't by design, certainly. My dream job had been newspaper columnist since the moment it occurred to me to have a dream job. I read the sports section every day as a kid, waking up early just so I had time to devour every word before heading to school. I dreamed of one day seeing my byline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press or Minneapolis Star Tribune, but when I couldn't even get my byline into the Minnesota Daily there was no choice but to change plans.

And luckily the rejection and uncertainty pushed me to a better path. In fact nearly every good thing that's happened to me can be traced to that spontaneous decision on August 1, 2002. Through blogging I discovered the like-minded community at Baseball Primer (since renamed Baseball Think Factory) and found my first real audience writing there. Friends made at Primer convinced me to attend the SABR convention in 2003 and I haven't missed one since.

Through blogging Gregg Rosenthal became a fan of my writing and asked me to contribute to Rotoworld's baseball magazine. Through blogging I co-created The Hardball Times and got to work with some of my favorite writers. Through blogging I was featured in Sports Illustrated, pictured in bed with a dog and a laptop. Through blogging I met John Bonnes, whose Twins Geek blog is one of the few that pre-dates this one and who's become a friend and co-host.

For decades the path to sportswriting was straightforward. Graduate from college, hopefully with experience at the school newspaper or a journalism degree, take a low-level job at a newspaper, work your way up from covering high school sports to covering a college or pro beat, and then somewhere way down the line perhaps move from reporter to columnist. I wanted nothing more than to follow that path, but I couldn't even complete the first step.

After devoting less and less of my time to journalism school and more and more of my time to paid writing work I dropped out of college to take a full-time job with Rotoworld. I worked long hours covering MLB and NFL, often six days a week with no offseason. I wrote bylined columns and non-bylined blurbs, became editor-in-chief of Rotoworld's print magazine and senior MLB editor of the website. And then when NBC took over Rotoworld I shifted to NBCSports.com.

It's been an amazing journey and along the way I've learned some lessons about how plans don't always work out and how, hard as that may have been at the time, it can actually be for the best in the long run. I'm not sure where the next 10 years will take me, but that's all part of the fun. Whether you've been reading this blog since 2002 or just discovered it today thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping to make that 19-year-old's dream come true.

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  • nodakbob

    You are helping to define the blogging genre on the fly. And what keeps me coming back again and again is not only your top flight analysis, but also your willingness to share with us a bit of who you really are. We get glimpses into the Gleeman psyche. And he seems like a good guy. Not just some glib bomb thrower, but a real live person.

    And we care.

    And “Gleeman and the Geek” is must listen pod casting.

    Congratulations on 10.

  • mackenzie

    Aarongleeman.com is a dog eared bookmark on my desktop interwebs.
    I anxiously await your posts. Thanks for talking Twins & baseball. Really appreciate your work. Totally dug the Sabermetrics convention coverage…and am really warming up to Link-O-Rama.

    (and thanks for introducing me to HardballTalk & Rotoworld. I and the ‘Nymore Diamonds’ thank you.)

  • Kyle

    I mostly want to say thanks Aaron for a great decade of writing. I started reading you in 2003 and have read 90% of your posts since then. After every Twins move, you are the best place to go for solid analysis with a limited agenda. However, the best stuff is definitely the Friday columns and those have made the blog a blast to follow no matter where the Twins are in the standings.

    Also, “Do you read Aaron Gleeman?” has become a great way of vetting people at a social gathering when it comes to Twins debates.

    Here’s to 10 more years of great blogging, although if the Twins won’t let you blog when you’re the GM of the team, that’s okay too.

  • ewen21

    Aaron, I have read your blog from the start. I don’t always agree with your takes but I generally see merit in almost all of them. From the start you’ve provided the reader with detailed and unbiased anecdotal accounts of this team. Obviously you are a fan but you aren’t wearing rose colored glasses and that is important to me. I sometimes find humor in your style and I appreciate the way you use and wide range of statistics to support your opinion. I like it when you prove how stats sometimes confound things. Your real strength lies in the way you follow up with better more representative stats to show a truer picture of what is actually happening. That is the kind of analysis which keeps me keep coming back. I know that whether I agree with your take or not you can be relied upon to offer up something compelling for the hardcore fan. Thanks for that.

  • Pamela Hill Nettleton

    It was obvious how good you were in my journalism course—and you did all that yourself. It was also obvious you were going to be successful in about 10 minutes. Nonetheless, I brag about you as if I had something to do with it. P.S. I dropped out of J-school my first time through, too.

  • Jim

    Congrats on 10 yrs (and many more!), Aaron; have been a regular reader for many years (not a twins fan even), my favorite post is when you had a computer that was about to crash and you asked for readers who felt so inclined to send a few bucks your way…appreciate all of the pop culture I’ve learned from you too!

  • Schu

    Thanks Aaron! You’re my homepage, and I’m a nerd. For other reasons than just that tho

  • Michael L

    I found your site when the Twins Geek was writing on the Star Trib website before the reporter’s union shut him down.
    I have been hooked ever since.

    People like you make the internet worth something. Thanks for writing.

  • Jared

    Thanks for keeping it up all these years! I really appreciate it. I come to you for Twins news and analysis before anywhere else.

  • (the other) Neil

    Thank you Aaron! I also visit this site daily, and have learned so much from you. I called you once when I was on mushrooms and talking about baseball.

  • Tim

    Aaron, I’ve been reading every day since the very first month you started. It’s been great to see you receive the much deserved accolades and attention. Keep up the great work!

  • Jayson

    Love your swag in this post, Aaron. Hard-earned. Stay disciplined and keep up the good work. It’s wonderful to have your type of analysis for my team.

  • Jon W.

    Congratulations Aaron and thanks for all your work. I am another one of the many who knew nothing about sabermetrics before reading your blog. Now my wife can’t get me to shutup about it – so much so that she now regularly checks out your blog as well.
    Similar to all the diet and exercise information in the comments section of your weight loss post earlier this year, it seems that this blog post also has a lot of useful information. I never even considered reading your work while on mushrooms, but that’s a great idea. I should try a lot more stuff on shrooms. Thanks for fostering such a creative community!

  • Matt N

    Congratulations on ten years! I have only been a regular reader for the past four or five of those years, and it is fun for me to read how it all got started.

    As others have said, your blog is the first place I go when the Twins make a major move, and I enjoy reading your stuff even when I disagree with it because you always back up your assertions with statistics and quality analysis.

    Thank you for enriching the lives of so many of us beleaguered Twins fans. Here’s wishing you many more years of blogging success.

  • John B.

    Hey Aaron – I’ve been a regular reader since at least 2003… and I’m not even a Twins fan! Congratulations on all your success – you definitely deserve it.

    I hope you never lose your passion for internet sportswriting, because you do a great job.

  • John

    Yay, Aaron! Thanks for writing such a great blog. And thanks even more — I’ve lost 55 pounds based on your example. So baseball and weight loss together . . . you should have a syndicated daytime TV show!

  • AM.

    In addition to the #GleemanForTwinsGM campaign, there should clearly also be a #GleemanWhileShrooming campaign. Maybe it could just be a verb “Gleemaning.”

  • Spoofbonser

    You are the best baseball writer out there imo, seriously. You should considervwriting a book. Don’t let it get to your head.

  • Lou

    Thank you for being worth reading. It’s not the readers, but the writing that made this happen.

  • Corky

    I think I discovered your blog sometime during the Twins incredible 2006 run, and it’s rare that a week has gone by that I haven’t checked your site at least once. Thanks for consistently putting up amazingly well-researched articles grounded in stats, leaving the emotional, analogy laden drivel for the newspaper columnists.

    Here’s to another 10 years…

  • marc

    Congrats Aaron. We all owe you a thank you for elevating the discourse. It seems quaint now thinking back on reading the usual suspects in the Strib and the Pioneer Press from the 70′s on. But that seems now long ago, and I would never go back. I always devoured the articles and the box score and since I used to play baseball growing up I always mentally added a walk to the hit column and then had the real total, ie. OBP. But that’s about as far as it went: I still admired wins and saves, even though I pined for a day when stats would reward an obvious defensive shift or defensive plays, but even then I thought that was all positioning and managing. It was only when I was much older and non-athletic and frustrated reading cranks in the local papers without knowing why, that I discovered your blog in about 2007 or 2008. Then it hit me: oh yeah, writing is a job. It can be lazy or ignorant, but as long as it gets done on time and eyeballs see it, the person gets paid. The “twin” discovery that baseball writing and stats could be so much better really changed and improved my appreciation for baseball, and quickly made me understand how much more fun it was to see the game league-wide and not just through the local Twins homerism lens. Thank you.

  • Civil Guy

    Thnpank you! As a young professional branching out and taking the road less traveled by working for myself I really appreciate your courage and success. The passion you have for your work and the independent thought that you bring to the table are inspiring for us all and a model for success regardless of the area of expertise. Keep it up.