This week, David Appelman, founder of FanGraphs, and Dave Cameron, full-time writer for FanGraphs, visited Virginia Tech for a panel discussion on careers in baseball. The guys themselves were awesome-very friendly and very laid back. They also were quite encouraging as far as the various projects the Sabermetrics Society at Virginia Tech was working on. They also did a great job fielding the questions I offered in my impromptu role as panel facilitator for our careers in baseball event.
Overall, the event took on somewhat of a pessimistic tone. Again and again it was emphasized that a job in an MLB front office is not exactly ideal. It requires a huge amount of work and commands a low level of pay. More attractive are jobs writing about baseball, but here the guys were also pessimistic. Essentially, they argued, there are not that many jobs available for writing about the game, so getting paid to write is difficult. Even on the issue of press passes, which teams are making available to bloggers on a more regular basis these days, the guys were downers stating that sitting in the press box isn't as fun as you might think.
But, even with all the negativity, the talk was ultimately very positive. It seems that if you possess skills such as computer programming, good statistical chops, a penchant for hard work, strong writing abilities, and, perhaps most important, creativity in getting a team interested, landing an MLB job is very possible, even with all the tough competition these days. And there are enough success stories, of guys landing jobs or getting rapidly promoted, to balance out the horror stories. There are also many jobs in baseball outside of the MLB front office: in marketing-ticket sales seem particularly important these days-or finance, as a lawyer, or at a variety of positions throughout the minors leagues. And once you are within the MLB system, promotion becomes a lot easier.
As for writing about baseball, there are actually a surprising amount of jobs for baseball writers out there; FanGraphs employs many part-time writers, SB Nation is a great starting place for potential writers, ESPN and others are constantly looking for help, and there are certainly a number of traditional writing positions out there at newspapers and other media outlets. Perhaps more relevant, however, is the changing face of baseball writing. It is no secret that newspapers are rapidly losing their importance. It would not surprising to see bloggers take a bigger and more legitimate role in covering baseball in the very near future.
Indeed, the dynamism of the baseball writing industry seems to be part of a larger trend in the baseball world. Though at the moment working for an MLB team may not seem particularly attractive, it is likely with the increasing importance of the internet and the proliferation of computer skills amongst young people, that teams may not be able to afford paying their employees so little for much longer; the most talented workers can simply begin contracting their skills out as people such as Tom Tango already do. It will be interesting to see how dramatic the changes in the near future will be-if they're anything like the extreme changes in the seven years since Moneyball came out.