A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Monday, December 10, 2007

From the basement December 10

Saturday, late afternoon, after family tobogganing, I went to the basement - because that's what married fathers do - and went online. I finally caught up on my baseball reading - interrupted last week by shovelling 40 cm of snow off various parts of our estate, 1 PD day & parent / teacher interviews - and was about to start writing a post when I surfed on to my favorite baseball blog where I found a link to a thread @ BTF - Baseball Think Factory. And down the internet baseball geek rabbit hole I went for the first time. Man, what a revelation. And not an entirely positive one.

I'm late to baseball on the internet. Probably because of age, born in 62. I think I've only been wired ( internet, not intoxicated ) a handful of years. I was enthralled instantly. The vast amounts of baseball geek information that I had access to. Even routine stuff like reading the boxscores became more fun. All the stats - minor, major, career - scouting reports etc. a few irresistable clicks away. What an improvement from the days of going to specialty magazine shops to find a Baseball America or The Sporting News to know how top prospects were performing or who that new Gonzalez back up infielder in KC is or that new Smith guy in the Padres' bullpen, is he a LH or RH? or...it's endless. Hardcore geek stuff like Maury Brown, Rob Neyer, Keith Law, THT, BP...some of it I didn't even know existed. Baseball geek crack available 24 / 7. Love it.

BASEBALL GEEK CLEANSING 2.0

I thought I'd become part of baseball 2.0. My own blog, commenting on other blogs, some email exchanges with other bloggers and even a few legitimate baseball writers. But after Saturday nite I realize that I've only been on the perimeter of 2.0 baseball conversation. I'm a baseball charlatan in comparison to these folk @ BTF. I think I should rename this blog, " I thought I was a baseball geek." To rip off High Fidelity, I'll be one of the Dark Ages baseball fans executed during the BTF baseball revolution.

Typically I comment @ Shysterball, Out of Left Field & until recently a AAA blog for our former local team. There are different reasons I comment regularly @ these blogs but my experience at all three is similar. Similar in that the tone of the bloggers and posters? commentors? ( I learned Saturday nite that people can be posters, I'd been unaware ) is most often polite, respectful and relatively light hearted. Hey, it's only sports. Similar in that a lot of posts generate no comments. When there are comments, a handful is typical, more than a handful is a lot and more than 10 is Super Bowl type #'s. Well, Saturday evening I posted the 275th comment on a thread started less than 24 hours prior and within 2hrs 15 minutes - and 5 comments, 1 an apology to a few of the BTF true believers - of having "joined the conversation" someone told me to STFU. I had to look up the acronym, I hadn't a clue what it meant.

I suspect that my BTF experience is more representative of the typical 2.0 conversation, not only 2.0 baseball. I think I have to pack up my bong, hunt down Andrew Keen, lay on a couch and talk to him about all of this until I make some sense of it.

I had never paid more than a passing glance to BTF but I understand why I was so attracted to the thread. I was astounded to see that writers whose work I respect and enjoy - and often refer to here - were participating in this "conversation" and golly I could too! Neat! Cool! This is the 2.0 baseball utopia! Me, Maury Brown, Keith Law, Rob Neyer, Tracy Ringolsby ( until post # 100 when he, using a pseudonym, dropped out ) Dayn Perry ( who I was unaware of prior ), Craig Calcaterra and John Brattain ( I think ) all talking about baseball. VALIDATION! I was surprised ( naive ) that these "industry" people engage in these web debates / chats. I thought they'd be sick of it after a day of reading and researching and writing but I was wrong, they were all there. And not all the "posters" were nasty and insulting. Some of the "postings" were the most insightful and intelligent I have read. And some of it was salacious, Law & Neyer openly feuding with BBWAA member Ringolsby.

A day later I remained stunned. Stunned that approx 48 hours after the thread started, 400 comments had been submitted on the subject - and derivations on the subject - of whether Rob Neyer and Keith Law should have been admitted to the BBWAA earlier that week. Stunned at the levels of anger ( I suspect a lot of it contrived? is that better? ) and vitriol and web chauvinism directed toward the BBWAA. ( And I've never been interested in what the BBWAA does. I'm only aware of Awards & HOF elections via baseball osmosis ) Evidently this is the norm in the BTF world, in both quantity and tenor of comments. What is it about the internet? Why is it that behind our keyboards, sitting in our basements, cubicles, offices, dens, living rooms, we become so confrontational and rude? Commentary directed to and by a community using false names who we'll likely never meet? What is that? Everybody wants to be the smartest guy in the chat room. Everybody wants to win, to be right. I've heard that having to be right is aggressive in and of itself. Anger is a staple of the internet. We're mad as hell and....we're addicted to it.

I wrote last post here that this is the age of 2.0 narcissism. Blogging is narcissistic. Even the reactions to the blogs are narcissistic. IMO, IMO, IMO ( I only recently learned this acronym and I'm already sick of it. I think it is redundant. I assume you are stating your opinion unless you state otherwise, you don't have to tell me ) The BTF thread dwarfs the posting that spawned it. What does it mean that a posting of several paragraphs illicits 400 + comments? Are we interested in the opinion at the site or are we interested in our responses to it? Is it about the reactions to the responses? What's left to be said after the first 50 or 100 comments? If you are the 350th comment, have you even read the original posting? or the 50th comment? Does that matter?

I tried to point out to the BTF zealots that maybe by comment # 275 - my initial posting - wasn't this all ridiculous? I was quickly informed that there was likely something wrong with me, the BTF crowd are all fine. No, threads of 100's - one evidently exceeded 1,000 - are not uncommon @ BTF and it is completely reasonable that they devote this much attention to the ways of the BBWAA. I was cowed and embarrassed, I wanted to fit in and I even apologized. But a few days later, I am right. They have collectively gone off the 2.0 baseball deep end. Threads of hundreds of comments is crazy, incomprehensible and jesus christ I'm a geek ( or I thought I was ) but it's the BBWAA!

For the most part, the 400 or so comments are a collective screed against the BBWAA - who in the estimation of the BTF folk represent the intellectually inferior Dark Ages writers - and an affirmation that the only baseball opinion worth reading is written by the math literate, web based, progressive BTF types. It was a reminder that the Moneyball debate is still alive. The debate is all one sided, the stat analysis guys won, but they enjoy reinforcing their superiority. Many GM's are of this school, most if not all teams employ consultants from this community and the best team is owned by one of their own. But old school newspaper BBWAA member Ringolsby challenged them on their turf and the BTF crowd were horny to have the old Moneyball argument all over again.

This thread is also the latest instalment in the petty, blogger / internet vs MSM debate. I read more and more about this feud. Initially it was confined to the virtually unread blogs ( this one is unread but not anti big baseball media ) where it is common to find this unfounded, adolescent, irrelevant, anti "the man" attitude. The MSM don't get "it". They've been co-opted by "the man". We're bloggers, we're passionate, we're real. Recently though I see an increase in big media writers / higher profile bloggers participating in this debate. I think the sniping from the blogosphere is irritating the big media writers. The 2 most talked about instances are Stephen A. Smith's criticisms of bloggers and the infamous Bill Conlin / Crashburn alley pissing match - made famous by Conlin's bizarre and racist remark; “The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler’s time on earth — I’m sure he would have eliminated all bloggers.” This BTF pissing match between Ringolsby - the MSM newspaper guy - and most everybody else in the "conversation" is the same feud. We're the progressive web people, you're a dumb newspaper reporter. There is much boasting in the 400 or so comments that these folks ignore the MSM when it comes to baseball. Odd that they're so pissed about what the BBWAA is doing though.

So what the hell is going on? What's changed? Maybe nothing. Maybe I just fell into an internet conversation with a bunch of other middle aged, middle class, caucasian baseball geeks ( I bet the BTF crowd overwhelmingly fit this description, birds of a feather... ) who need to get out of their or their parents' basements and GET A LIFE! But it is obvious and well chronicled that there is a change. General interest newspapers, which I was raised on and adore, are dying. Instead we have the age of obsession ( one of the BTFers told me I use that word too casually, 400 + comments about the BBWAA isn't obsessive evidently, I guess it's enthusiastic ) and special interest. Talk to your community of 1 ( yourself ) or 5 or 10 or....to the exclusion of all else. You can, easily. But should you, should I?

It's this age of audience fragmentation, of blogs and Facebook and My Space ( one word?) that helps make pro sports more valuable - to broadcasters and advertisers and perhaps to us as a whole - than ever. Sports is one of the last mass shared experiences.

More likely, I'm just a curmudgeonly, middle aged, narcissist struggling to fit into a medium that I'll never understand. Maybe the insults and anger in the "conversations" are a diversion - a form of joking and riffing - that I misunderstand. Maybe it's a silly game of text one upmanship that I'm too thin skinned ( I am, I wish I wasn't ) to enjoy.

Maybe I need May 22 to come so I can drive the 10 minutes to the ball park and sit outside and watch a baseball game.

9 comments:

belfry bob said...

Very well said.

I'm even more of a Luddite, born in '52. I've been a writer in cyberspace for a good while, though, writing a regular column for the Orioles Hangout since '99 and for my own site, Birds in the Belfry, for the past six seasons.

I came to BTF when they linked an article of mine based on a discussion then-GM Jim Beattie had with fantasy campers in Florida. When I came to the site after a couple of comments were made on my own message board, I was surprised at the wealth of information, the bright minds, and the dark underbelly of incivility. (The discussion there was centered around the authenticity and accuracy of my column; though a lot of folks applauded what I'd written, everything including the background of my parents seemed to come up at one time or another over the next 48 hours.)

My own message board is a lot like what you describe...about 50 regulars who speak to each other in respectful, if occasionally teasing/mocking tones and rarely in more heated ones...so this was quite a shock.

That said, I became a regular reader and occasional poster. That being said, I could do without the 'I'm smarter than you' tone, along with the vitrol towards 'traditional' media, the Yankee, Red Sox, and Mets fans who come down hard on anyone who suggests the sun doesn't revolve around them, etc, etc.

But there's a lot to be said for the place. If it wasn't snarky, it probably wouldn't be as funny. There's a place for everyone in the cyber-universe, and BTF is the place for those who think they are the Smartest White Guy in the Room, and they'll be glad to take you on and prove it. But there are plenty of other folks there, too.

I saw the fellow with the STFU aimed at you and thought, 'man, this is nasty, even for BTF.' I'm glad I get to 'meet' you so I can aplogize on the site's behalf, even if I'm not quite representative of the 'typical' participant.

Anyway, BTF brought a lot of new readers to my place, which was nice, and it's brought me to other sites I've enjoyed, as I expect to enjoy yours.

Keep on truckin', I enjoyed your thoughts.

Happy holidays!
bob @ birdsinthebelfry.com

John Brattain said...

Peter:

I’m sorry if you got a bad response on BTF--it happens, especially in ‘hot button’ threads. Anyway, my handle there is “Successfully evading natural selection since 1965” and my comment was just above yours (post# 261). At any rate, I do hope you’ll stick around. I enjoy this blog and your comments on BTF.

I noticed you’re not much older than me. Heh … I know what you mean when you wrote “But after Saturday nite I realize that I've only been on the perimeter of 2.0 baseball conversation. I'm a baseball charlatan in comparison to these folk @ BTF. I think I should rename this blog, " I thought I was a baseball geek." To rip off High Fidelity, I'll be one of the Dark Ages baseball fans executed during the BTF baseball revolution.

I’ve been sent to the guillotine a few times by bloggers since I don’t fully embrace the sabermetric model. There is a human element of the game that cannot be measured and I take that into account in my writing. I also think bunting is still a valid strategy if used intelligently--I do realize that it depresses scoring over a season but it needs to be used in games to make sure that you can get a crucial run across. The season isn’t measured by who scores the most runs but how many times you score more runs than the other team.

That is why I penned articles dealing with the occasional use of the bunt--the Jays were trying for 4-6 run innings in games where only a run or two was needed for a win. The philosophy of maximizing offense over a full season doesn’t always translate into wins. The D-Backs this year was a good example of this phenomena. If you win 80 games by four runs or more yet lose 82 by 1-2 runs you may end up with a superior RS/RA over the course of a season but not a superior won/loss record.

A team can only play one game at a time and that’s how you have to manage them.

Best Regards

John

Shyster said...

Pete,

Just echoing Belfry and John B. I think you jumped in during a particularly charged thread at a time when, to be honest, most of what could have been said had already been said and thus people were just hanging around spoiling for a fight. It happens.

I think, overall, the discourse at BTF is higher than your average web forum. Much higher, actually. It gets heated from time to time, but that's the exception, not the rule.

All of that said, it's handy to see how an "outsider" for lack of a better term perceives those of us who live at BTF. We have to face the fact that we aren't always as smart or civil as we think we are, and we need to be mindful of it going forward.

Lurk around a while. You'll get a better sense of the rhytms of the place and know which threads aren't worth entering and which ones are. Based on our conversations, I have a strong feeling that you fit in with the crowd better than you may think.

And no, that's not an insult. ;-)

salvo said...

I don't think the argument is necessarily "bloggers" vs. "the Man"; it's just that the MSM routinely showcases it's ignorance and arrogance at the same time, and they're called out on it.

They're used to being the gatekeepers, and they're the ones who vote on the major awards as well, and sometimes when you read their stuff, well, it's hard NOT to feel like a lot of these guys are proud of their ignorance, especially if it separates them from the teeming mass of bloggers.

Some of these guys seem to think that just because they've written about something for 30 years, that makes their opinions more valid than someone else's---but it DOESN'T. You earn your credibility and respect one column at a time, and with the explosion of information and analysis, a lot of these guys are being exposed as frauds---it's natural that they'd turn dismissive, defensive, or both.

What you're witnessing is bloggers vs. bad, anti-intellectual writing.

Dan Szymborski said...

I do feel a bit like I have to jump in and say a few words in defense of BTF.

Yes, it's a very contentious group. However, the recent thread was more contentious than average as it really was on a topic that struck a never with a lot of people. I'm just glad that Pete's first exposure to BTF wasn't a Bonds/steroids thread.

But it's definitely a tough group. It's not just tough on non-stats guys - Law and Neyer take a lot of heat there. Even I run into a tough crowd there with things that I write at times and that's ostensibly my home turf.

In a lot of ways, BTF/Primer is a spiritual descendant of rec.sport.baseball on usenet.

I do hope you take time to read a few of the more productive threads. The group of contributors and posters have a lot of collective baseball knowledge - quite a lot are actively involved in SABR, some were hired by MLB teams partially (and sometimes more) due to BTF/Primer exposure, and others have used the community to move on to other wonderful projects such as the indispensable Hardball Times.

belfry bob said...

What you're witnessing is bloggers vs. bad, anti-intellectual writing.

an early poster at BTF this morning sort of shrugged his shoulders at the comments here concerning BTF by saying, 'well, if you don't like it, move along', or something to that effect; but too many posters at BTF won't take the same advice when talking about mainstream writers.

I have issues with them, as well; I've crossed swords with local Oriole beat writers on the air occsaionally (I spent an incredibly frustrating half-hour debating Orioles marketing practices with Peter Schmuck on the radio last winter; I'll never bother talking to him again) and through written word more often, and find them to be less informed and/or interesting than most of the posters at my website - but I don't call them names or beat the horse incessantly or spew venom at them. I can be dismissive, poke fun, or debate an issue briefly, and then move on. Too often certain BTF threads read like Holy Wars; I do like my baseball taken a bit less seriously. Too much of the other stuff is just polarizing and preaching to the choir.

There ain't nothing wrong with it, per se, but it's not really accomplishing anything - or even entertaining anyone.

Ironcheffie said...

The group of contributors and posters have a lot of collective baseball knowledge - quite a lot are actively involved in SABR, some were hired by MLB teams partially (and sometimes more) due to BTF/Primer exposure, and others have used the community to move on to other wonderful projects such as the indispensable Hardball Times.

Most of the users, like myself, just use it to distract our selves from our boring boring lives.

BTF crowd were horny to have the old Moneyball argument all over again.

There's a lot of things we're horny for, you should check out the BBTF Wiki, but the Moneyball thing?

Not so much.

Oldcurmudgeon said...

I don't consider myself a Luddite despite having been born in 1940, and I troll through BTF on a daily basis. But I've pretty much stopped even looking at any comments/threads, and just peruse the articles that interest me. Frankly I got tired of plowing through all the "snarky," cutesy stuff (that seemed more designed to showcase the poster's IQ than it was to add anything to the discussion), looking for any comments of substance. Pity, because as you folks have pointed out there are a lot of substantive comments to be found. It just isn't worth my time trying to pick them out of the white noise submitted by many posters.

Guts said...

Pete - I felt bad about the STFU, and removed it pretty quickly, and I apologize fully now. But you were accusing us of having no life....which may be true. But still. I encourage you to keep hanging out at BTF, as it is an awesome forum, which is best served by having as many points of view as possible - yours is certainly welcome.