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Getting Called Over to the Couch

July 30, 2023
Well, I guess it had to end sometime…..
By now, you’re certainly seen the announcement that BJOL will be shutting down soon (probably September, from what I understand). I’ve had several weeks to digest the news, and I felt the time was right to post a short retrospective of my time writing for this site over the past 8 years. I’m not saying that this will be my final article, but September will be here before you know it, so I felt compelled to write this one first in case I’m unable to post another one before the site closes.
First of all, in order to make sure this doesn’t get lost in the middle of an article that’s bound to meander a bit, I want to be sure that give a big public thank you to Bill James. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this previously, but I’ve been a reader and a fan of Bill’s for nearly 50 years now, and it’s always been a bit surreal to me that I have had the opportunity to write on Bill’s site. 
The best comparison I can come up with is the relationship between Johnny Carson and comedians on the Tonight Show. My life can roughly be split into two 30-year time frames – The Johnny Carson Tonight show era (1962 – 1992), and the post-Carson era (1992 – present). For those of you who remember Carson’s tenure well, the Tonight Show was essentially a Mecca for stand-up comedians. A gig on the Tonight Show was a real feather in the cap for comedians, and there were 3 different levels of responses that a comedian could get after completing his or her set:
1)      The camera would pan over to Carson and he would thank them
2)      Carson would give the comedian an "OK" gesture with his hand (basically giving his official endorsement)
3)      Carson would invite them over to the couch for a chat
That third one was rare indeed, something that only a few fortunate folks would experience over those 30 years….Eddie Murphy, Ellen DeGeneres, Roseanne Barr, Drew Carey, and Steven Wright to name a few.  
THAT’S what that this experience felt like to me.  I think of this period as my "time on the couch". And I thought the time was right for a little retrospective.
My Background
For those of you who don’t know, my background is that I was (and still am) a member of BJOL. My member handle is DMBBHF, which is shorthand for three of my favorite things (Daniel Marks (DM), Baseball (BB), and the Hall of Fame (HF)). Although, and I’m not sure anyone is aware of this, in 2011 and 2012 I actually went under a different member name – I used the handle "MarkoMachine", which is a reference to both my last name and The Big Red Machine, the team and era which sparked my fandom. I posted a little over 100 times under that name, took a hiatus away from the site for about a year, and then re-joined in early 2014 under my current name. 
I’m a member of the "3,000 post" club, currently 27th on the all-time list, but most of my heavy lifting was done in earlier years. My "posting" participation in that venue kind of came and went over the past few years as I tended to focus on researching and writing articles, although I always tried to read and stay current with the various reader threads.  
In mid-2015, Bill (through his son Ruben) posted a notice that they were looking to "hire" a couple of readers to post occasional content, and had an open contest to submit sample entries. As luck would have it, I submitted a piece and Bill liked it.
The piece I submitted eventually became the first article I posted on this site called OK…You Can Play……But Can You Manage?, which took a look at individuals who were both players and managers at the Major League level (not necessarily at the same time).  Actually, the piece I submitted to Bill was much shorter than the final article, and part of his feedback to me was that he liked it, but felt it was "a little short on analysis".
Which, I have to tell you, strikes me as a little funny in retrospect since "short" is not a word that tends to be associated with most of my articles. I admit, I tend to have an issue with conciseness. I "blame" my father, who always instructed me when presenting anything to anyone to do 3 things:
1)      Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em
2)      Tell ‘em
3)      Tell ‘em what you told ‘em
Also, it was often said about my father that, if you asked him what time it was, he would tell you how a clock works. So, yeah, I guess I take after him.
In any case, despite being a little short on analysis, Bill saw some promise in that initial piece I submitted, and invited me to be a regular writer on his site. He also told me that he would not "ride herd" over content or frequency of posting. And, true to his word, he never did.
Looking Back
This is article #179 for me on the site, so I’ve averaged about 2 articles a month over these past 8 years here. I’m reminded of something Billy Joel once said when asked about his expansive song collection, and he compared his songs to children.   I’m paraphrasing, but he said something to the effect of you don’t really think of favorites, they all have meaning to you, as you go through various stages with all of them: conception, nurturing, labor, and birth. And then you care for them, and eventually they go off and have a lives of their own….and some of them turn out to be bums, and some of them turn out to be doctors.
Most of my articles were, I think, fairly light-hearted and innocuous. They were of interest to me, and I hope of interest to you. Most of them were meant to be fun, definitely not in the realm of what I would call "serious" baseball research.
I definitely have an affinity for using the "fill out a team" template. Several of the articles followed that structure. I did "build a team" concepts based on Nomar Garciaparra (high peak value as a % of total career), Fielder Jones (players who were unusually consistently good but rarely poor or great), Billy Grabarkewitz (players for whom one standout season made up an an unusually high percentage of their career value), and a special Harold Baines Hall of Fame for Long and Meritorious Service, which compiled a roster of Harold-like players who best fit the following laundry list of criteria:
  • Played for a lot of years
  • Had a high number of games played
  • Accumulated a large number of hits (or wins for starting pitchers)
  • Had rWAR in the 30 to mid-50’s range (I didn’t want it to be too high, as we’ll see below)
  • Was named to a few All-Star games (but not "too many")
  • Preferably had a Hall of Fame Monitor score below 100, or at least not too far above
  • Had moderate "black ink" (league leadership in certain categories)
  • Didn’t get too much support in annual awards (MVP or Cy Young)
  • Received little BBWAA support while on the writers’ ballot
  • Has notable or unique "positives" that would look good on a résumé
There has always been something about that "fill out a roster" format that appealed to me.
However, if forced to pick one article that was a little more unique and memorable for me, I would probably pick this one: "Strange But True" turns 50. It was an homage to the first baseball book I ever read called "Strange But True Baseball Stories" by Furman Bisher, which was published in 1966. It told the tale of many very famous baseball tales (including Harvey Haddix’s "perfect" game, the one-armed outfielder Pete Gray, Johnny Vander Meer’s double no-hitters, the unusual career path of Dazzy Vance) as well as the more obscure (a bat boy getting inserted into a minor league game, a minor league catcher who pitched all 22 innings of a game, and a minor leaguer who hit 3 home runs in an inning). In my article, I identified candidates that might be included in a hypothetical "updated version" of that book. It was memorable to me for two reasons:
1)      Bill posted a reply in the comments section under the article saying what a great article he thought it was
2)      Rob Neyer reached out to me to tell me how much he liked it.
I can’t tell you how much getting feedback from those two gentlemen meant. So, even though I’m proud of all of my articles, that one has a little extra meaning.
What Now?
Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I’m still planning to work with Terry Vent ("Ventboys") on keeping the Gallery of Renown (GOR) project alive. We’re not sure exactly in what forum it will continue, but we’d like to keep it going. I definitely thank all of you who have participated in that project over the years, and keeping alive the memory of Bob Gregory’s brainchild.
As for me….well I’m not sure about continuing the article writing once this site shuts down. I know there are plenty of ways to get content out there, but I’m not sure I can ever have an opportunity like this one again.
I’m reminded of a quote from "Field of Dreams", where Moonlight Graham says "We just don't recognize life's most significant moments while they're happening. Back then I thought, "Well, there'll be other days." I didn't realize that that was the only day."
Now I’ll admit, that quote doesn’t exactly work here – I had more than just "a day" here. I had 8 years. But the underlying sentiment is true. I kept thinking there would continue to be plenty of opportunities to put out content and have it consumed, to have a good-sized audience see it. But those days are quickly coming to an end.
I’m a little saddened by it, but I’m comforted by the fact that I was able to do this, for a time. There were several satisfying moments along the way – Bill and Rob saying how much they liked that one article, Tom Tango reaching out to me with advice and suggestions after reading some of my content, David Schoenfield ( referencing an article I wrote from within one of his own articles, having the opportunities to meet (on separate occasions) Bill, Rob, and Joe Posnanski when they visited the Cincinnati area for various events, occasionally seeing my article content referenced on other baseball bulletin boards by baseball fans who had read them…..none of that happens without this experience.
But, in looking back, I think the most satisfying aspect was the anticipation of feedback from you, the BJOL readers. Whenever I would post an article, there was always uncertainty of how it would be received. Generally speaking, the reader responses were kind, appreciative, supportive, and even when there was "criticism", it tended to be of the constructive kind. I definitely appreciate the interest and the comments that you, the readers, have posted over the years. 
But, I guess it’s time for me to "get off the couch".
As always, thank you for reading,

COMMENTS (25 Comments, most recent shown first)

I'm a little bit late Dan, but I just want to let you know that I've enjoyed your writing and respect your research work. Oh, and I do remember Markomachine. I had no idea you two are one and the same.​
10:39 PM Aug 24th
It’s been fun reading your pieces the past 8 years. Like you, I was born in 1962 and share my admiration for Bill James. Best of luck to you. And keep on writing.
1:48 PM Aug 19th
Thank you all for the ongoing commentary. It's truly appreciated.

Wolfefan - yes, I'm from the Cincinnati area. Grew up in Dayton, live in Cincinnati.

6:48 PM Aug 13th
Thanks for all you've shared over the years. Thanks also for your mention of the Furman Bisher book - I had that one as a kid!! Tangential question - are you from the Cincy area? I grew up a fan of the Big Red Machine too, in Tipp City, OH. I started being able to understand the game a little in 1966, when Don Heffner made it only half a season or so as manager and was replaced by Dave Bristol. At my first game my dad bought me a Tommy Helms bat.
12:46 PM Aug 8th
Dan, I just wanted to echo everyone's sentiment. You're a skillful writer. Wishing you nothing but the best! Thanks for all of your contributions.
1:36 PM Aug 7th

It's been a pleasure to read your work. I particularly enjoyed your perspective on The Hall and 100% on board in honoring illustrious careers versus the current grading system.

All the best to you and your family.

7:59 PM Aug 3rd
Thanks for all the ongoing words, guys. It's truly appreciated.

Maris - yeah, to echo some of Brock's comment, I always took my dad's "3 times" approach to be a time tested truism based on research on how to achieve the optimal effectiveness in communicating or teaching something, where the 3 different mentions reinforce the material, but not to the point of diminishing returns. Sort of a sweet spot between not enough and too much. And, it's sort of a 1.intro 2. body 3. recap kind of cadence, designed to give it a framework. I think it's actually a pretty solid general approach for communicating to a group, although of course individual mileage will vary.

5:45 PM Aug 3rd
Our mom mostly told us to stfu and stop terrorizing the dog.
1:47 PM Aug 3rd
Brock Hanke
marisfan -

Your personal response isn't really relevant. Mom had more detail. She said that the three times thing was the result of research. Research had shown that, if you repeat something three times, with different wordings, people will remember it much better than if you do one or two versions. More than three versions doesn't add much of anything. There was nothing about whether people would LIKE hearing it that many times. It was just about how often they would remember it.

Since more than three times doesn't help, your teacher's refusal to stop at three isn't a good ides, but it also isn't any kind of commentary on what three times is like.

My personal experience is that mom knew what she was talking about. I cited mom rather than my experience because she actually had credentials.
3:09 AM Aug 3rd
Going back to Sean Kates and Dave Fleming at the beginning, this section of the site has been my second-favorite behind Reader Posts, and only behind RP because I get to interact more over there. The quality of the writing in the articles section is, in my opinion, good enough to bind and publish.

And I almost think your best work on the site never made it to this side; the amount of work you put into spearheading Bill's Hall of Fame project was tremendous, and the sense of community we all got from that was something I'll hold onto the rest of my life.

So far as the GOR, I already set up a GOR page on Facebook though I haven't invited anyone yet or figured out how much writing I'll be doing on there (probably a lot once this place shutters). That place (the Facebook GOR group) will be party central for the GOR process though the actual GOR voting will most likely be a combination of email, Facebook, messenger and whatever else we will need to get people the opportunity to vote every year.

I've asked Dan to keep writing over there, but it'll depend on how many people join the group. I'll get together with Dan and Doug (Bearzbyz) and Gary (GFletch) and somehow (they are all on different forms of social media) figure it all out.

And speaking for everybody, I hope all of you guys will join us. There will be an actual thread over on Reader Posts sometime this month with more details, but the gist is that it's called (have to go look ... ) oh, I went full meal deal ... here's the official group name:

Bob Gregory's Gallery of Renown

More on that later ... as Bob would say, glad to have met you, Dumb Buff. Hope to know you some more. That's an amazing body of work, 179 joyful love letters we all got to share.
2:09 AM Aug 3rd
Thanks for the articles over many years, Dan.

It's kind of an odd gig, I think. Bill James is the legendary guy, the one whose writing draws in the subscribers. We want to see his articles. People might renew for the other contributors, but I don't think they sign up initially for them. You're kind of like the opening act for the big concert: you can play excellent solid music, but it's a hard gig because the audience (95% of it anyway) came for the main act.

That said, I bet I've read every one of your articles and was always happen to see a new one appear with your byline.

8:01 PM Aug 2nd
......but nevertheless I love how your dad put that thing, because of how concise and powerful it is.
Even though I'm not with the content. :-)
I actually find it beautifully ironic, in how concise and powerful it is, while expressing a thing which to me is the opposite of concise.

It reminded me of a bit from the Mary Tyler Moore show.
Lou Grant was invited to give a talk on the subject of reporting the news.
So, he gets up there, carefully takes out his handwritten notes, looks at them, and says:
"News reporting is getting the news, getting it fast, and telling it well."
And he leaves the podium and sits down.
That was it. (amid huge laughter of course)
It was great.
1:08 PM Aug 2nd
Don't go by me, need I say :-) but I can't get with the "repeat it 3 times" thing.

To me, when someone starts repeating a thing, my reflex is that the person either isn't confident enough about how he said it, or that he's changing it because he realizes he made a mistake the first time. Either thing scrambles my brains a little.

I had a teacher -- very distinguished guy -- who would repeat things about 8 times, in slightly different ways. He wrote books (considered classics) and did it there too. His typical chapter would be about 10 pages; as far as I could tell, they should have been 1-2 pages each, and leave out the repetitions.
I allow for the possibility that his repetitions weren't really just repetitions and that I just didn't get how he was building further on the ideas. But to me he was just repeating the same thing over and over.
1:02 PM Aug 2nd
I wouldn't say that I was offered the job. They asked me if I was interested in doing it. I said no. I told them that if I could pretend to be Hunter S. Thompson and deliverer random notes, thoughts and ideas, drunk and passed the deadline, and then we could work out an article, I might go for it. I don't think that they wanted to play Janns Wenner.
9:57 AM Aug 2nd
I submitted an article to try to get one of the two writer gigs. Unlike Maui, I wasn't offered one of them. Like Maui, though, I agree that I couldn't have produced enough articles. You produced about two per month? I might have produced 2 or 3 per year. In the first year, anyway. Maybe.

Robert Heinlein once said that most writers will do anything to avoid real work...even meet a deadline. In that respect, I guess I'm not a real writer. Deadline, Shmedline.??

We've had a couple of short private exchanges over the years, Dan. You're a good fellow and contributed real value to BJOL. I hope to come across your writings after this site closes down.

A sincere Vulcan Salute to you.

11:18 PM Aug 1st
Brock Hanke
Well, first, I've liked your work, although I don't think I've commented on on it very often. But second....

My mom was a high school teacher. She told me, several times, that, if I was trying to teach someone something, I should repeat the message three times. She said that this was common knowledge in teaching circles, that it takes three repetitions to get through. So, your dad wasn't quite the obsessive he sounded like.
10:14 PM Aug 1st
I was offered your gig back in the day. I didn't think I could produce 2 baseball articles a month, like you did. About 180, no way I could have done that. You did good journalism. Honest, clear reporting, something often missing in today's media world. Be proud you did a good job. I always looked forward to reading your stuff. I've been in contact with Steve Goldleaf, the guy who got fired. He said you guys got paid 85 bucks for two articles. 85 bucks. Mr. James admits that he's a lousy businessman, but why 85 bucks. Would a hundred break the bank. Steve said he used it to pay his cleaning lady, 85 bucks from Mr. James, 85 bucks to her. Steve used to be 337. I called him Professor, because he was one. He's a classic progressive liberal, college professor, refugee from the 60's, like me. I'm not a college professor. We used to go round and round. I enjoyed the back and forth. I don't take it personally. We came to an understanding. I still think he's nuts. I'm going to miss you boys. This is my favorite place on the web. I've tried to engage in other places, but the people are so vapid and dumb, that it's not worth the effort. Here it was fun, interesting, a learning experience. I got my ass handed to me a couple of times, so it goes. Hopefully someone can figure out how to keep this going. If not, Good Luck and So Long. I might go out in a blaze of glory.
4:40 PM Aug 1st

Just wanted to check in and say thank you for all the kind words. I certainly appreciate the sentiments, and I'll miss this place and all of you.

7:37 AM Aug 1st
Hi Daniel
I have loved your writing and your enthusiasm for all of these years. Just as you were lucky to meet Bill, he was lucky to have you (and Dave) write for this site for what I am sure were modest financial returns. Maybe you could reach out to Joe Posnanski - he has a similar spirit and might like some help. In any case, all the best in your post-couch endeavors!
Marc Robinson
9:24 PM Jul 31st
Thank you for the writing, Mr. Marks. I’ve always enjoyed your “template” articles because, frankly, that kind of analysis/baseball history stuff is FUN - and dammit, ain’t that what it’s all about?

On an unrelated note, may I suggest an article that serves as a “Thank you, Bill, and thank you EVERYBODY” thread just for the comments? I suspect that many of us here are an odd sort of family, and it would be nice to have a big ol’ spot to pour some love and memories out.

3:53 PM Jul 31st
Dan, thanks for your articles, they have been one of the fun reads on the site for many years. I'm sure you'll find a home for your writing. And thanks for that Mets post on Facebook, I have been forwarding, since there isn't much else to talk about with the Mets!
11:43 AM Jul 31st
Well done, Dan. I always enjoyed your content. Please let us know if you change your mind and decide to publish stuff elsewhere.
10:24 AM Jul 31st
I've always enjoyed your oint of veiw and writing style.
8:13 PM Jul 30th
Thanks, I always enjoyed your writing.
7:29 PM Jul 30th

I don't think I knew that when we started seeing DMBBHF and Dan Marks, that they had been MarkoMachine. I remember MarkoMachine. I don't remember ever knowing that you were him.
Then again there's quite a bit that I don't remember, so maybe I did used to know.
I wonder if anyone knew, or remembers knowing, or remembers that they knew and forgot....

I knew about that "Tonight Show" hierarchy, via Jerry Seinfeld who did a riff on it.

About the opportunity that all of this has given you for contacts with the kinds of people you mentioned, I remember especially your telling of the time you first met Bill, and his knowing immediately who you are ("Ah, Mr. Marks.....").

And wow, "179" articles!
Thanks for these articles and all your great participation.
I know that you'll continue this kind of work (you won't be able not to!), and that some of it might make it into actual books.

11:30 AM Jul 30th
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