The latest addition to The Athletic’s staff of MLB writers is Keith Law, formerly of ESPN. Law had worked at ESPN since 2006, and his contract with the company expired at the end of 2019. Most of his work his focused on evaluating prospects, which will continue at The Athletic.Law’s work at ESPN was also behind the ESPN+ (previously the ESPN Insider) paywall, meaning that his readers are used to paying for his work and won’t complain (too much) about needing a subscription to The Athletic to read his content going forward. This is a departure from other writers whose content went from free to paywalled after they joined The Athletic.In his obligatory introductory post, Law mentions that his usual work (namely, his prospect rankings and evaluations, transaction analyses, and MLB Draft coverage) will be making the leap to The Athletic with him, while also noting that he’ll be covering labor issues in baseball.
One of the many other reasons I came to The Athletic was the chance to write about labor issues in baseball, which will only become a more important topic as we head toward the next CBA negotiations, and as Major League Baseball’s proposal to realign and consolidate the minor leagues continues to attract unhelpful attention from various presidential candidates. Minor-league players are underpaid and often asked to work in suboptimal conditions, but they lack the protections of a union to give them a voice in any negotiations — and neither MLB nor the minor-league owners speak on behalf of those players. I hope to cover all of those negotiations, and the increasingly public nature of the battle, in a way that considers all of the stakeholders, whether or not they have an actual seat at the bargaining table.
Law was thrust into the spotlight back in 2014 after ESPN suspended him following a public Twitter argument with then-colleague Curt Schilling (who escaped punishment at the time) about evolution. He also opened himself up to criticism for daring to criticize the baseball career of Tim Tebow, who has a career .223/.299/.338 line in parts of four minor league seasons with the Mets organization. One would think at The Athletic, he won’t need to write about the baseball prospects of a college football player like Tebow, but stranger things have happened.In my opinion, his departure from ESPN also emphasizes how much ESPN+ will be focused on streaming video content rather than written content going forward. Several ESPN+ articles posted over the last week or so are listicles (including several MLB articles from Buster Olney, ranking the top ten players at each position), and don’t scream “premium, top-tier content!”. If that’s the route ESPN will be taking in regards to ESPN+, it makes sense that Law would want to take his talents to an outlet focused on journalism, with subscribers paying for original written content rather than live UFC events or soccer matches.[The Athletic]