March 28, 2011

Posnanski Named Writer Of The Year By BBA (He Was Not On My Ballot)

Joe Posnanski was named the winner of the inaugural Writer of the Year Award by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Posnanski is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and posts regularly to his personal blog.

A press release from the BBA:
"The Writer of the Year Award was created by the BBA to honor those writers who, beyond being exceptionally great at their craft, have taken to the internet in a full and vigorous fashion. Voters were instructed to take into account not only the writing abilities of the nominees but also their online presense, whether via blog or other media, as well as how they interact with their followers and fans."
There were 15 nominees and 110 BBA members (including me) cast a ballot.

Posnanski won handily, receiving 35 first place votes and 218 overall points (the ballots were tabulated on a 5-3-1 point scale). Rob Neyer had 12 first place votes and 136 points, narrowly edging past Peter Gammons, who had 20 first place votes and 134 points. Buster Olney and Craig Calcaterra were the only other nominees to receive at least 10% of the total vote.

My admiration for Posnanski's writing* should be well-known to everyone reading this, and I'll say some more nice things in a minute, but I did not include him on my ballot.

* The quality is almost always top-notch and the excellence never suffers from the daunting number of posts. Words just pour out of this guy. He never stops writing! He's the Stephen King of sports bloggers.

In his latest post, which serves as an acceptance speech, Posnanski writes:
I believe that we are in a bit of a golden age of writing in America. I would not be able to put that in any great historical context, but I know that there is way too much wonderful longform writing for me to read, and I read a lot. ... There is also incredible sportswriting going on now. ...

And yet ... I'm not sure we appreciate how good it is out there because at the same time there's also more terrible work out there than ever before, or anyway it seems that way. That's the power of technology -- there is just MORE, always, everywhere. It's hard to keep up, and it's hard to know which way to turn.

So, in this way, I admire the people who give out awards; I appreciate their quest to find quality.
All right, so why didn't I vote for Pos at all?

Three weeks ago, BBA members received voting instructions for the Ring Lardner Award:
You can judge the best way to mix and match these, but the qualities of the Lardner winner should be quality writing, a strong internet presence, and interaction with their followers/fans/commenters. Again, you may want to put the emphasis on writing, which is perfectly fine. The others should be at least considered, though.
I emailed BBA founder Daniel Shoptaw: "Is this a lifetime award or just for 2010 or something else?"

He replied: "We'll give it out every year but [you] probably should consider their entire career."

My ballot:
1. Peter Gammons
2. Rob Neyer
3. Thomas Boswell
Posnanski does not yet have the longevity as a nationally-known writer to unseat any of those three guys. Gammons and Boswell wrote their best stuff long before the internet came along, and Neyer's cumulative influence - using his ESPN column to bring progressive statistical thought to a mainstream audience - surpasses Posnanski's.

The BBA plans to rename the award after Posnanski. I'm not in favour of that.

Maybe Pos is an all-time great sportswriter. Perhaps he belongs in the upper echelon of writers that we will be reading and re-reading 50 years from now, but it seems far too soon to decide that right now. As good as he is, Posnanski doesn't come close to someone like Roger Angell (who, admittedly, has zero internet presence and I don't think was even on the BBA ballot). If the award is going to be named after a writer whose career has included the internet era, then how could the choice not be Gammons?

If this is an award for only (or predominately) internet writing, then Pos is a great choice, perhaps the perfect choice. Although most baseball journalists have their stuff online, and they use Twitter for quick news updates, no one blogs as often as Posnanski. Plus, all of his work can be read for free.

Posnanski has embraced the internet, using it to have a dialogue with his readers (though he rarely, if ever, appears in his blog's comments) and as an outlet for the dozens of ideas and hundreds of thousands of words that he could not possibly post at SI. Much like Bill James, Posnanski can make you laugh while you are learning, a rare trait. He has established a standard (or one standard) by which future baseball writers will be judged.


laura k said...

Very nice post, and your explanation makes a lot of sense.

I can kind of understand why a an association of baseball bloggers wants to associate its award with Posnanski, but it seems a bit silly to name an award for a current writer, no matter how good he is. It's just too soon.

Jimmy said...

Kudos for the excellent choice. More evidence that baseball bloggers generally know what they're talking about more than other groups of writers.

Now if we could only get SI to make another great choice (the first being hiring him and featuring him so prominently) and fire CHB...

Jimmy said...

Whoa. Read the rest of the post, now. I agree, naming it after Joe goes too far. Why not just call it the "top writer award" or something like that? Naming it after a writer gets into matters of taste, what should be emulated, etc....

allan said...

Maybe: "King of the Basement"?

allan said...

By the way: If it was internet-only or solely for 2010, then Pos would have been my #1 pick.

Zenslinger said...

Posnanski is not that old -- but he's clearly over 40.

allan said...

Posnanski was born January 8, 1967, so he's 44.

I had a "unrelated note" at the end of the post that mentioned Pos was roughly three years younger than I was, but I took it out. In looking for a decent pic, I stumbled upon an online Q&A in which Pos explains that he and his wife each have one actor they are "allowed to run off with" should such running off opportunity present itself. Pos said that for a long time, his choice was Winona Ryder. In L's recent celebrity crushes list post, I had Ryder on my list -- and she is probably my #1 pick as well. He added that he has "some issues with her history in crime". I am not bothered by her criminal activities, though I may be hot and bothered by them.

Soooooo, anyway, Pos is over 40.