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

Saturday, January 12, 2008

From the basement January 12

Sometime between now and tomorrow I am expecting to see something I wrote here. Here is Baseball Digest Daily. The plan is that I will submit a weekly column on matters pertaining to the baseball industry.

I've been perusing BDD the past several days and the contributors are serious fans. A handful have impressive resum├ęs. There is one former THT writer, Craig Brown. And one current THT writer, Geoff Young. Rob McQuown worked for STATS, Inc. in their formative years. STATS, Inc. - as detailed in "The Numbers Game" by Alan Schwarz - had an enormous impact on how baseball statistics are compiled, interpreted and utilized in MLB. Mr. McQuown has also consulted for both management and labor. Gordon Berger is a former player agent ( NFL & CFL ) and has taught sports and entertainment law. Bill Chuck has contributed his writing to MSNBC.com and MLB.com.

BDD is also comprehensive, transactions, stats, standings, prospects and news. There is also some pretty good chat. Kudos and best of luck to Joe Hamrahi and his colleagues who have obviously invested a lot - and I don't mean solely monetarily - into this endeavor. Thanks to Joe for the opportunity.

Also I like what BDD is not. It's not cheerleading, or jock sniffing fandom or baseball as a metaphor for "life" ( whatever "life" is, not even I'm stoned enough to ponder that ) nor is it a Deadspin knockoff, which there are a plethora of.

I don't read Deadspin although I have read a few Will Leitch pieces that I found linked elsewhere. The bits of Mr. Leitch's writing that I've read I liked. His post indictment Bonds piece for instance. I don't read it either because I'm too old or I just don't like the hipster, slacker, pop culture, ironic, sarcastic etc. tone. In fairness to Will Leitch - like he'd give a shit - my perceptions of him and Deadspin stem primarily from:

1. His headshot, which I've seen a few times in SBJ and hasn't been updated in at least a year. He may be a recovering slacker ( I say recovering because I suspect he works way too hard on Deadspin to qualify for slackerdom any longer ) but retains the haircut. ( I, on the other hand am 45 and my hair has recently started leaving. ) Anyway, his haircut says hipster, it doesn't say Bristol CT. ( Maybe he's not in Bristol but that's not my point. )

2. I read he wrote a slacker blog before Deadspin. Once a slacker....maybe I'm just anti slacker.

3. His acolytes, they're everywhere on the net and multiplying daily. If imitation is the sincerest....Will Leitch is a sports web deity. His legion of imitators invariably list Deadspin on their "blogroll" and include lots of pictures / video and pop culture riffing. I think I "get it" but I don't give a shit, which isn't to say it's bad.

What is happening with baseball on the web?

I see more and more baseball blogs. I've been yammering on here off and on for about a year and already I see plenty of baseball blogs that have debuted subsequent to mine. I suspect this trend isn't about to change. I think I'm also ( I have zero empirical evidence ) seeing more baseball / sports blogs with a stable of regular contributors. I suspect - again only instinct - that it is an attempt ( probably futile and misguided ) by us ignored, near smart, amateurs to enlarge our audience ( perhaps audience is a misnomer ) and reduce the time commitment by joining the digital commune. Writing for BDD puts me at the front of this line.

How do we baseball web geeks spend our time online? Are we consuming information? Opinion? Are we chatting / arguing? Watching video, live games? The obvious answer is all of those. But how much time are we devoting to each? What do we want more of, less of? I want information primarily, particulary during the season. The fundamentals, box scores, stats, transactions etc. The opinions become redundant, i.e. how much is there to say about the Swisher trade or Clemens / McNamee? Chatting is an offseason time waster although if I was of Deadspin age no doubt I would be conversing via my laptop while simultaneously watching baseball, listening to music, masturbating (not to imply that masturbating is particular to the Deadspin generation) and doing my homework.

How many read the baseball geek sites? Is it a small group of us - thousands, tens of thousands? - who read THT that also read BP, that also read BA....Does it matter? Do we know? Even the big media companies can't agree on "internet metrics" or "analytics" or whatever. From SBJ's "ratings issue" last year. " ...there is no de facto standard of traffic measurement, and there likely never will be. Sites freely pick and choose among the sea of available numbers, traversing everything from page views and unique visitors to time spent online, constructing and depicting at will their own preferred version of reality." In a recent interview with Maury Brown, Bob Bowman President & CEO of MLBAM is unequivocal in his criticism of Nielsen Media's online rating system. Mr. Bowman admits that Nielsen is the "standard bearer" of the third party measurement agencies but calls their online ratings "a shot in the dark".

Do the big media companies and leagues understand the web? ESPN believes more is more, buying writers and web sites as fast as they can. They lured Rick Reilly away from Time Warner / SI for a reported $3 million per and also brought aboard Howard Bryant ( The Post ) and Selena Roberts ( NY Times ). According to this - H/T Shysterball - ESPN "...in the last 18 months, it has hired at least 15 writers and editors from major newspapers and magazines..." The buying spree is likely the genesis of this rumor. Amongst the many web sites ESPN has purchased are the internationally focused Scrum.com and Cricinfo.com. Why not buy up all the content? Disney is thought to be worth roughly $67 billion dollars with ESPN responsible for $30 billion of that figure. But does the buying spree mean that ESPN is making money off the web or they have so much money they just don't know what else to do with it?

Are the big media companies still trying to build the first "Facebook" of sports social networking? Time Warner / SI is attempting with Fan Nation, Disney / ESPN does the same schtick and I have to assume their competitors are doing more of the same. Or has the "Facebook" for sports been built. Is it called "Facebook"?

What about the leagues? Do they understand the web? The NHL is in court with one of their own - MSG - over digital rights and the NFL only recently brought all their digital under "The Shield". MLB, while the most succesful league on the web, is still grappling with control - should it be at the league level or franchise level? - of in-market broadband and mobile streaming rights. Rights to and league approaches to secondary ticketing on the web is also evolving, often
contentiously, in all the "ball & stick" leagues.

At least one banker wonders if teams are making money off the web or well, digitally. Mitchell Ziets from a recent SBJ, "...there is going to have to be a quest to monetize digital media. You're building on value obviously with MLBAM as a good example of one....It goes league by league, but it's not being monetized yet...when we do our advisory work on acquisitions, it's hard to figure out the value of digital media because they're not monetizing that." So why the huge investments in it? So that the consumer isn't somewhere else? Maybe the web can't be monetized? ( what a fucking awful verb ) At least not to the degree that big industry requires?

Is this the future? ( From this guy's book ) "The information business is being transformed by the Internet into the sheer noise of a hundred million bloggers all simultaneously talking about themselves." Or baseball in our case.


John Brattain said...


Congrats on the BBD gig. Looking forward to reading you on a more regular basis.

Best Regards


Shyster said...

Great news, Pete! I don't know the answer to the many questions you pose in your post, but one of the things I like best about your work is that you ask them, when so many don't take the time to think about them.

I look forward to reading you on BBD!

Diesel said...

Whoa, congrats Pete. It's nice to see you'll be getting a wider audience.


Anonymous said...

Hi Nice Blog .I think HR understands the importance of other people tracking time--IT, Lawyers, non-exempt employees, but struggles with the idea of web time clock .