This is the first of the non-book associated Starting IX lists that will pop up every now and then on this website/blog/online notepad. Here’s a brief rundown on how these lists work:
Starting IX is a corny, baseball-themed way to simply make a “Top Nine” list. It uses the positions on the baseball diamond – starting pitcher through right field – and uses the ascending order of their position when scorekeeping. For those that have done baseball scorekeeping before, skip ahead, for those who haven’t, you could probably use those strong context clues you learned in fourth grade, but let’s spell it out: Starting pitcher (SP) = 1; catcher (C) = 2; first base (1B) = 3; second base (2B) = 4; third base (3B) = 5; shortstop (SS) = 6; left field (LF) = 7; center field (CF) = 8; right field (RF) = 9. Other than that, the only rule is no touching of the hair or face. (Of course.) And that’s it. Now let’s do this:
There is currently as deep a pool of talented writers on the internet than there ever has been, in part because the internet has only been around for so long, but mostly because the internet is the greatest proof of crowd-sourcing the world has ever seen. We, as an internet collective, have done an excellent job of discovering the best writers out there and given them the following they deserve. This Starting IX will be focused not on the best writers on the internet (sorry Luisa Thomas, Zach Lowe, Kathryn Schulz, and David Aldridge), but rather the most entertaining. The only criteria is they have to be writing frequently enough to satiate our need for content (sorry Bill Simmons, Ta Nahesi Coates and Chuck Klosterman). Without further ado, here are the nine:
RF) Bethlehem Shoals – SBNation, GQ, The Classical, Victory Journal, among others
One of the busiest writers on the internets, Shoals broke on to the scene with freedarko.com, and solidified his post as one of the most entertaining voices on the NBA with the subsequent FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, a must-read for any hoops fan. He’s one of the few I google every day to see if any of his work has popped up anywhere around the interwebs that afternoon.
CF) Jamelle Bouie – Slate; CBS News
Slate’s ace political writer, Bouie balances deep knowledge of political history (thanks to that degree for the University of Virginia, Wahoo Wah!) and a unique perspective with an incredible writing style. Slate can get bogged down in their collective bias at times, but Bouie offers facts over opinions, and makes it much harder for readers to dispute the claims of each article’s thesis. He’s also as busy a Twitter follow as you’ll find, if you like to make sure your Twitter scroll is always full.
LF) Jason Concepcion – The Ringer
Concepcion, formerly known as Netw3rk, is one writer who could potentially move up this list once he gets back to writing full-time. One of the most versatile writers out there, Concepcion was writing about basketball, Game of Thrones, and video games among other topics at Grantland before the modern marvel was shut down by “The World Wide Leader in Sports, sarcastic quotations added” ESPN. It appears he’ll be used in a similar role at The Ringer, Bill Simmons next venture, which is good news for readers that enjoy his pitch-perfect metaphors and relatable tone.
SS) Rembert Browne – Vulture
Another ex-Grantland writer (there are plenty on this list), Browne has one of the highest ceilings of any of these writers. His article on Ferguson in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting was arguably the best piece of writing of the year if not the last five years. His annual “Who won the year?” article is a must-read and one of the most entertaining pieces of writing without fail year-after-year. The only thing holding Browne back in that he is writing less for Vulture than he did for Grantland, and sometimes his pieces shoot for the moon and fall a little flat. Still one of the best writers around, however.
3B) Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic
Similar to Bouie at Slate, Friedersdorf offers a more even-keeled approach than some of his fellow writers at The Atlantic, and demands a “Command + F” search for his name on the front page during the daily stop over to The Atlantic. For someone who considers himself logical almost certainly to a point of failure at times, Friedersdorf’s writing holds heavy appeal for me, as he lays out his points as logically as anyone out there, and is one of the few writers around that can convince readers to change their mind on issues, or at least be informed of another perspective than their own.
2B) Will Leitch – Sports on Earth, New Republic, Bloomberg Politics
OK, I might have lied when I said Shoals was the busiest writer on the internet earlier. It’s Leitch, and it may not even be close. The founding editor of Deadspin, Leitch has his hand in about as many different outlets and topics as one possibly can. He’s a die-hard sports fan, but also writes plenty about culture for New York and Bloomberg Politics, and reviews movies with his childhood buddy Tim Grierson for The New Republic. Oh, he’s also written four books and is only 40 years old. Somehow despite being this busy, his work never suffers, and he is one of those writers you just find yourself nodding along with as you read his/her work.
1B) Andrew Sharp – Sports Illustrated
The Great Philosopher Andrew Sharp is one of those writers who makes you exceptionally self-conscious about your age. The youngster has already had gigs at Grantland and Sports Illustrated, my (and many other sports fans) two dream jobs. It’s not without reason that he has enjoyed such success, however, as he is a young, Bill Simmons-type, who writes in a perfect fan voice, while exploring “what if” style questions you and your friends would debate at the bar after a couple beverages on a Friday. You never find yourself skimming his articles or zoning out for a paragraph or two because the articles are consistently engaging from start to finish.
Two of the preeminent voices on baseball, Brisbee is the national baseball writer for SBNation for going on five years, while Keri splits time between CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated. I really can’t separate these two because not only are they my two favorite writers about my favorite sport, but they have similar, heady and nuanced writing styles that sneak in the occasional pop culture reference for those who like their baseball with a touch of the outside world. There are tons of great baseball writers that could have made this list (Joe Posnanski, Jeff Sullivan, Christina Kahrl, Jay Jaffe, Joe Sheehan, Sam Miller, Rob Neyer, Ben Lindbergh and innumerable beat reporters), but these two stand out even from that loaded field.
SP) Shea Serrano – ex-Grantland, probably The Ringer, currently releasing his weekly “Basketball (And Other Things) newsletter
It was Serrano’s most recent newsletter that spurred the idea for this list, so he gets the honor of the top spot. If you don’t agree, you’re the police.
Seriously, though, if you haven’t signed up for his newsletter or read any of his stuff, Serrano is (hands down in my opinion) the most entertaining writer (and Twitter follow) on the internet right now.