The Editor’s Desk with Billy Brost: One For The Road…


Well, today is it. Two weeks ago I gave my notice to my superiors at Fansided, letting them know that I would be leaving both Friars On Base and Yanks Go Yard, relinquishing the editorial duties I’ve carried since December of 2013. The folks at Fansided have grown to become like a second family to me, and as much as they didn’t wish to see me go, they respect my decision, and I hope as loyal readers of our work, you do as well. It’s rare that I get the opportunity in a public forum, to pull back the curtain, and share some of the ups and downs of my time here at Friars On Base, and to give my thank yous, but that is exactly what I’m going to do in this final piece for the site.

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So how did my journey with Friars begin? Well, my division editorial director at the time, Kyle Franzoni, reached out to me to see if I knew of anyone who might be up for an editorial position for the San Diego Padres‘ site in the network. Kyle knew I was a west coast guy, and had gone to school at UNLV. And the answer, I absolutely did. One of my best friends in the world, a man who is like a brother to me, Dave Warren, grew up in San Marcos, and he loves to research and write about baseball as much as I do. He was my recommendation, and within a few short days, Dave was the new editor here at Friars.

About six weeks into it, after going over the model and game plan that had helped turn around Yanks Go Yard in a hurry, Dave reached out to me. He said, “I can’t do this by myself. I need a bad cop.” The bad cop obviously is the heavy, the guy that has zero issue lowering the boom, and not making too many friends along the way in getting the mission accomplished. Friars On Base had been a mess. In January of 2014, the site pulled 14,725 page views for the entire month. February was even worse, garnering a whopping 6,836, March had a decent bounce back–which was Dave’s first full month as the editor, to 11,597. So I said, sure, why not. I volunteered to join the staff at the beginning of April in an unofficial capacity.

Even as difficult as I am to work for, I saw potential with a handful of writers: Mark Whelan, Daryll Dorman, Nick Lee, Tim Richer, all of whom have great ability, they just needed a push. Others were on staff, and didn’t necessarily buy into the program. They either left or were shown the door. April, my first month with the team, was almost identical to March. That wasn’t going to cut it. I had to recruit, we had to produce content. We enjoyed a bump in May, and by now, I had been officially named as Dave’s co-editor at Friars. I wasn’t making many friends, nor did I expect to. As Mark, Daryll and the rest of the boys will tell you, the term tyrant wasn’t too far off of how I was operating, trying to save what I’ve termed an “absolute dumpster fire” of a site. I pushed, harder than they had ever been pushed before. More writers left, more came on, but it still didn’t feel right.

By June, we had surpassed 30,000 views and were rolling. In July, we set a new site record for views with almost 49,000. The staff was miserable, and Dave and I openly wondered if we were going to be able to turn things around. Even with the success, it wasn’t enjoyable by any means. Then in August, Dave left his post as co-editor, leaving me to fend for myself, as he accepted a teaching gig in Las Vegas, where we both went to school, and the results began to show. We dipped below 33,000 views and I was on a rampage. I fired half of the staff before September began, and I made a conscious decision right then and there: no matter how long it took, no matter how many people I had to fire and hire, we were going to get this thing straightened out and on the right track.

My biggest hire to date, was John Hiatt. He joined Mark, Darryl, Nick, Tim, and my co-editor from Yanks Go Yard, Jason Evans, who helped me out by writing. Several of my Yanks’ guys crossed over and stepped up in my time of need. Matt Mirro, Jacob Winters, Ricky Keeler, Wayne Cavadi, and Scotty Alfano. They brought the kick-ass attitude with them from Yanks Go Yard, and showed the staff at Friars how it’s supposed to be done. It was a slow burn and we suffered with a low 17,000 view month. Things were not looking good, that was, until I begged Jason to be my co-editor at Friars too, and he accepted.

The next hire was Ryan Pedersen, who will write 20 pieces per day if asked to. He’s not choosy, and is the consummate team guy. Devin Sparks and Pat Callahan then joined the fray, and Jason and I saw the results, the slow burn as I always call it, starting to spark some new life and energy into the site. We added over 11,000 more views in September, to just over 28,000 and we were rolling once more.

In October, when other teams were playing in the postseason, the Padres were sitting at Fort Livingroom, and yet with the new crew joining the hard working vets on staff, we surpassed 48,000 views, just shy of breaking our previous site record set a few months prior. The turnaround was almost complete. John Hiatt took on the additional role of Social Media Manager, and we took off like a bottle rocket. Keegan Tatum and Jason Cooper were the next pieces of the puzzle that Jason and I brought in, and Dave Warren also returned in the role of assistant editor/senior writer. Nothing was going to stop this site now.

Of course there were times I still had to send out my trademark emails, threatening firings, demanding work when none was being produced, remaining the heavy, as Jason does the good cop as well as anyone I’ve ever worked with. Did it help that A.J. Preller was making moves reminiscent of Yankees’ teams of yesteryear? Hell yes it affected the outcome. In December, to close out the year, we fell just under 7,000 views short of our first ever 100,000 page view month. Jason and I believed with just a couple more pieces added to the team, we’d be where we wanted to be heading into 2015.

The final three pieces were sent straight from the heavens in James Clark, Jeremy Loeks and Andrew Beccarelli. The new trio came in, and re-energized a staff that perhaps had gotten a tad comfortable, especially the veterans, whom I could tell were wondering if the ultimate success was ever going to be attainable. It hadn’t taken this long at Yanks Go Yard, but Jason and I knew deep down, we were on the verge. We opened the 2015 campaign with a strong 80,000+ view month, down from December, but that wasn’t the point. January is always a slow month, and we were competing with our fellow NFL sites in the network as the drive towards the Super Bowl was well underway. We were excited about the coming months, as pitchers and catchers were reporting in February, with full squad workouts slated to begin before the end of the month.

When this month began, I had absolutely no intention of leaving either site, or the network. Then life happened. Some off the field concerns in my personal life took center stage, and I had to make the difficult decision of walking away from two dream gigs for an editor and a writer. My two favorite teams, having built a brotherhood at both sites, guys that I’m proud to call teammates, brothers, family.

So while continuing to push the staff further than they ever thought possible, Jason and I had to find our replacements, as Jason also decided that editing for two sites was just more than he wanted to continue doing, so along with today being my final day, Jason Evans is also leaving the site. We had to find suitable replacements and change the hierarchical structure of the site. After all, we want Friars On Base to continue being the machine it has now become.

That’s where James Clark, Andrew Beccarelli, Daryll Dorman and John Hiatt rose to the occasion. James and Andrew have been named as the new co-editors, while Daryll and John will join Dave Warren–the original editor in this tale, as assistant editors. Today is our final day on staff, and as I write this, we reached our goal that Dave, Jason and I set out to accomplish in what seems like a lifetime ago: a 100,000 page view month. Everyone doubted us. They doubted you, the readers. Our loyal followers that make everything we accomplish possible.

I heard all the excuses, from the writers, from our readers at the time, even from people within our own network: the San Diego fans are too laid back, the staff is too lazy, the market too small. There is no way you guys will ever get this site in the top ten in the division, let alone get them over 100,000 views. Well boys and girls, as I write this, my final entry into the Friars On Base blogosphere, we are sitting at 106,694 page views–our first ever 100K month, and easily a new site record by more than 13,000 views. And that’s with a full day left in the month, which just also happens to be the shortest month of the entire year. My mission here at Friars On Base is complete, except for one last thing…

To my current staff, Mark, Daryll, Andrew, Coop, James, Jeremy, Keegan, Nick, Ryan, and the two Tims, you guys are some of the best writers and teammates an editor could ever ask for. If I was blueprinting it out, you guys are the ones I would pick every single time to help make this site relevant now, and for the foreseeable future. To my editorial directors: Kyle Franzoni and Dave Hill–the two of you allowed me to do what needed to be done to make this thing a winner. Thanks for never doubting my ability or leadership. To my two co-editors Dave Warren and Jason Evans, you have talked me off the cliff, calmed me down, put out the fire of temper tantrums, and acted as the perfect moral compasses to my constant volcanic eruptions. I am forever in your guys’ debt. Last but not least, my perfect foot soldier, my do everything, anytime, day or night, John Hiatt, you are the glue sir, and I hope you continue to work towards your dream of becoming a mainstream writer and editor some day. You’re going to get your chance. All of you, including the readers, it has been an honor, a privilege, and one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life to have served as your leader, your mentor, your sounding board, your antagonist. None of you will be forgotten anytime soon. Thank you for everything and God bless.

Next: Padres Spring Update: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

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