I’m Not Smart Enough to Understand Rob Neyer’s Authorial Tics

Rob Neyer, currently of SB Nation and formerly of the Worldwide Leader, is a baseball writer with no shortage of bona fides or respect. He worked for Bill James for a number of years and is often credited with helping bring sabermetric theory to the masses during his time at ESPN.

It’s a defining trait of sabermetrics — like all sciences or intellectual pursuits — to be upfront about your lack of knowledge and the scope of what you don’t understand. Knowing enough to know what you don’t know…that kind of thing.

Neyer, though, has turned that trait into an intellectually dishonest habit in much of his writing. What Rick Reilly is to dental metaphors, Neyer is to the phrase “I’m not smart enough…”

As in…

“I just think we’re missing something, and I’m not smart enough to figure out what it is.” (here)

“I admire some of those quite a lot, and some I don’t. But does Passan seriously mean to suggest that Moneyball can’t comfortably take its place among them? He does have his reasons, but apparently I’m not smart enough to understand them. You should read his piece; maybe you can explain it to me.” (here)

“Brad, it’s a great question but I’m afraid I’m not smart enough to answer it. Between the huge number of outstanding candidates and the steroids thing, it’s just too complicated for me to figure.” (here)

“Then (again) he should have been specific. Should have cited a specific example of Hippeaux using WAR incorrectly. You can read his mind if you like. I’m not smart enough to do that.” (here)

“Anyway, the question of course isn’t who’s got the record, or even what it “means” (because the first of those is self-evident, and I’m not smart enough to answer the second). (here)

“You know you’re a baseball geek if … you want to know why TangoTiger challenges Baseball Prospectus to fix VORP. I’m not smart enough to know if BP should fix VORP, but BP’s reluctance to respond to criticism has long been a source of frustration to me, as a big fan.” (here)

“Phillies obviously deserve to be favored in this game. I’m not smart enough to know who’s actually going to win.” (here)

“First, it’s not my formula; it’s Bill’s (I’m not smart enough to come up with something like this).” (here)

“The downside is that I’m not smart enough to figure Game Scores in my head.” (here)

“I’m not smart enough to know whether Ron Washington is admirably flexible or painfully indecisive.” (here)

“I’m not smart enough to get the Tostitos reference, but the rest makes sense.” (here)

…and there’s plenty more where those came from.

This mannerism is particularly grating not only because Neyer’s obviously a deeply intelligent dude, but because he’s using the phrase as a device to ingratiate himself with readers — to make himself a man of the common people through false humility. It’s pure affectation.

It’s all well and good to admit that you’re not omniscient, but playing dumb for its own sake is a waste of everybody’s time.

Rob Neyer contemplates the national pastime

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