Just Trying to Keep Up

Let’s begin with the expected apologies — I haven’t done the newsletter for a couple of weeks because, no exaggeration, I’ve been working night and day on the Baseball 100. It has been so much more of a bear than even I expected. On Thursday, my essay on Josh Gibson ran … and I can tell you that it pushed the word-count on the project to 237,526.

Word counts for some books:

Ulysses, 265,222

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 216,020

Crime and Punishment, 211,591

Moby Dick: 209,117 words

The Fellowship of the Ring: 187,790

Great Expectations, 183,349

Dune: 187,240

There are still FOURTEEN MORE of these essays. Ulysses is in my sights.

I didn’t expect these to be as long as they are. I didn’t expect these to be as deeply researched as they are. I didn’t expect these to be as NEW as they are; I was really hoping to rely on past efforts a lot more than I have.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s been an absolute blast. They are longer and more in-depth and more lovingly written BECAUSE of how much fun they are to do. And I’m as proud of this as just about anything I’ve ever done professionally. I’m still hoping/planning to turn it into a book. I’m just trying to figure out how to do that in a way that offers something new.

But, I will tell you since we’re friends that it has taken up every ounce of my being. And so there has been no time for anything else (other than a couple of PosCasts! Now on The Athletic podcasting network!)

The idea, as you might remember, was to time these 100 essays in 100 days so they ended on Opening Day.

Well, as you might have heard, some stuff has happened. It has been dizzying (and impossible) to keep up with the way that COVID-19 has altered the world and America and our communities as we know them. Sports seem like just about the least important part of it all, but it’s the part I know at least something about so, yes, MLB has announced that they are canceling the rest of spring training and pushing back Opening Day at least two weeks. There’s every reason to believe it will be longer than that.

At this moment, the NBA season is suspended, the NHL season just did the same, tennis tournaments are canceled for the foreseeable future, March Madness is canceled. the PGA Tour insists on going on for the moment with no fans in the stands, all NCAA spring sports are canceled, it is so unlike anything in my lifetime I don’t even know what to use as a comparison.

We’re bunkering down just like everyone else. My hopes for you and your families are that you be safe and stay safe and that we all work together to get through this.

Again, this is the unimportant part — but I do wonder what our lives will be like without sports. For so many of us, sports fill our worlds with so and joy and laughter and fury and sadness and wonder and all the emotions that make life rich and colorful and unpredictable and happy. Sports will be back, of course. But it will feel empty for a while.

I actually thought, briefly, about pausing the Baseball 100 until baseball returns. I am NOT doing this — I realize this might bring up some bad memories of Baseball 100s that died in the past — but I did think about it because it just seems like there are so many other things to worry about, to think about, to do. I thoroughly understand that fewer people are going to have the time, will or interest in reading about old ballplayers.

But we’re going to keep going. In fact, we’re going to add something to it. We are going to do is slow down the pace of the Baseball 100s. That is to say instead of them appearing every … single … day (including weekends, man, what was I thinking?), they will now appear at The Athletic every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. By doing it this way, the final 13 (No. 14 will appear tomorrow) will last for four weeks, which I’m hoping will take it to right about the beginning of baseball.

But here’s the thing: In between the Baseball 100s, my plan is to write a different (hopefully shorter) essay every day about some random baseball player. And I do mean: RANDOM. Some will probably be great players who didn’t quite make the Baseball 100. Some will probably be not so great players who did something unusual. Some will probably be players who are entirely random, as if picked out of a barrel.

I say “probably,” because I’m not going to choose the players. You are. Well, you and some of my friends around the game will choose them … I’m taking requests. If you would like to make your request below in the comments, that’s great. If you want to email me with your requests, that’s good too. If you want to hire a skywriter to write the name in the sky, sure, go for it.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me here. Be well. Be prepared. Wash your hands. I now wash mine while humming the Final Jeopardy theme.

Oh, and try a Cosmic Crisp apple. They’re delicious.