As you may have noticed, Rob Neyer has announced that he is leaving ESPN:

Whether you’ve been reading my ramblings since 1996 or just since last week, you have my profound, impossible-to-express-in-words gratitude. There is not a working writer on Earth who’s more grateful than I for his readers. Without you, I would have nothing.

Today, I hand off this space to whoever’s next. I don’t know yet who is next, but I’m highly confident that this blog and the SweetSpot Network will soon be in excellent hands.

Meanwhile, I’ll be around. The kids tell me it’s all about search these days. You won’t have to search real hard to find me, if you want.

Happy trails, until we meet again.

I realize many of you may not care, but Rob Neyer leaving ESPN is a big story to me personally. A number of people are complimenting Neyer, but Jonah Keri summed it up best:

Rob Neyer was the gateway drug for baseball on the Internet. Can’t imagine how many of us would be doing something different if not for him.

It isn’t overstating the case to say that Redleg Nation would not exist were it not for Rob Neyer. In 1996/97, I was a first year law student whose knowledge of the interwebs extended not much further than this slow-loading website called ESPNet SportsZone. No more than a year or two earlier, I had been annoying people on the Reds Listserv by arguing vociferously that Wins was — obviously — the best statistic by which to measure the value of starting pitchers. Yeah, I was clueless.

Those discussions on the Listserv began to open my eyes, but when I discovered this guy Neyer at ESPN, wearing a flannel shirt and using that mainstream outlet to talk about sabermetrics — well, I was dumbfounded. His writing was crisp, his analysis was eye-opening, and he wasn’t as — I don’t know — mean-spirited as some other writers out there.

For a time, I read every word he wrote. I began studying the game a little more deeply. I harassed one of my roommates (a Yankee fan, alas) to read those columns. That same roommate once wondered aloud why he had never seen Neyer and me in the same room, because I kept making arguments that he was making at ESPN (though Neyer was always much better than me at disagreeing without being disagreeable). My interest in baseball, and baseball writing, rose exponentially. Eventually, those interests culminated in the creation of Redleg Nation back in 2005.

Over the years, Neyer linked RN a number of times, and that was always a bit of a thrill. However, when Rob contacted me last year, saying very complimentary things about the Nation, and asking if I’d be interested in making RN the newest member of ESPN’s SweetSpot Network, I was more than a little taken aback. Obviously, the answer was yes, and we’ve been very happy with our affiliation with ESPN. There are some interesting things planned for the SweetSpot Network in 2011, and we’re happy to be a part of that. We’re also interested in seeing who comes on board to replace Neyer.

This is sounding too much like a eulogy, and I had wanted to avoid that. (Guess my writing skills need work still.) I expect that we’ll hear very soon, maybe today, where Rob is going to be hanging his shingle from now on. Nonetheless, I just wanted to take the opportunity to note Rob’s influence on me and thus, his influence on this little community we have here. It’s just going to be strange not having Rob Neyer at ESPN. I wish him the best of luck.

UPDATE: As noted below, Neyer is joining SB Nation as their national baseball editor. Very interesting.