There is certainly a case to be made for Fire Joe Morgan as the most influential of all the sports blogs. Its coaching tree is quite expansive and some of the bloggers who were inspired by it are still working today — a not-insignificant thing considering how the arena has increasingly steered directly toward Bad Place territory.
Michael Schur, better known as Ken Tremendous, has gone onto bigger and better things from Parks & Recreation to The Office to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and was among the driving forces behind the site devoted to approaching baseball coverage from an analytical place, which often found him at odds with Morgan. Countless paragraphs were spent refuting a Morgan sentence that displayed what can be described as a harshly indifferent or even downright antagonistic approach to sabermetrics.
When news of Morgan's passing broke yesterday, more than a few people were probably wondering how Schur and the FJM crew would react to it. ESPN Daily host Pablo Torre was able to pull off such a booking.
In a brief interview, Schur spoke about his sadness and said that he and the other writers always regretted the site's name.
"We didn't want the guy to be fired, really," he said. "It was a crass sort of early internet version of making noise and banging on a pot and calling attention to yourself. What we were complaining about was that this guy, who in his career, did everything right. Every single aspect of his game was incredible. He was an incredible defensive second baseman, he led the league in on-base percentage four times. He was a 5-foot-7 second baseman who twice, I think, led the league in OPS. He was a marvel and not only did he do everything right, he specifically did the things right that the sort of modern analytic movement had shown to be the most valuable possible things you can do. He was just an incredible player in exactly the ways the Moneyball era was beginning to point out how undervalued guys like him actually were. And then he got into the broadcast booth and it also spoke to this kind of generational divide where this sort of old-school, 60's-70's kinds of players were fighting against the modernization of the way that we look at the game analytically.
He became a sort of poster child for us and for other people because he was the flagship commentator on the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast on ESPN, he was there all the time calling games and analyzing games and so as a result we just kind of located all our discontent onto him specifically but it really could have been, we could have located it on any other of 100 different people."
Schur went on to say that it's unfortunate that Morgan held that position just as the argument between old-school and new-school baseball fans boiled over. Unspoken here is that FJM was partly to blame for fanning those flames. Without those battles, Morgan would probably be remembered solely as the finest second baseman to play the game.
The remembrance was sweet and mature and the product of years passing with perspective. FJM was not nearly as cynical or mean as sites of the time and thousands that have come since, but few have ever been as closely tied to their subject matter in name.
My two cents that no one asked for: Morgan perhaps embodied and understood the human side of baseball better than anyone. He had tremendous heart and earned the respect of teammates and opponents alike. He wasn't looking for any more. Trying to get him to diminish the emotional response and revisit the snapshots in his mind of what baseball is was always going to be a dead-end.
The great realization is that there is room for both camps in baseball. Both end at the same place: a profound respect for the game, even if there's some internal friction.