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November 21, 2012

The Lineup Card

8 Things About Baseball We're Thankful For

by Baseball Prospectus

‚Äč1. Retrosheet
I had a chance to meet David Smith, who runs Retrosheet a few years ago at the annual SABR conference. I made it a point to track him down and say thank you. But I think it's worth saying again, publicly. Without Retrosheet, the fun that I've had writing for Baseball Prospectus and other places for the last five-and-a-half(!) years doesn't happen, because more than half of my articles, maybe more than three-quarters, have used Retrosheet data. By working with their (ahem) vast forest of free data, I learned how to play around with databases.

I can't tell you how many times I've solved problems in my real job with insights that I gained by playing around with Retrosheet. I stayed sane in grad school because I could open up their data files and pretend it was my dissertation data set. It gave me the courage to write in public. And I've spent so many wonderful hours reading the work of others who have worked with those same data files. So this week, as I gather repeatedly for turkey dinner, I'll be saving a thankful thought for the fine folks at Retrosheet. If you enjoy reading about sabermetrics, may I recommend that you do the same. David, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. —Russell A. Carleton

2. Instantly Updated Box Scores
I'm not old enough to have walked five miles uphill each way to school through a snowstorm. However, I am old enough to remember when my main source for box scores came every Thursday when The Sporting News arrived in the mailbox. Though the local newspaper, the Beaver County Times, would be kind enough to eventually employ me for 26 years, including 21 years as the baseball writer, it only published the hometown Pirates' box. It only ran line scores for the rest of the major-league games, which didn't you a whole lot about what had happened. TSN, meanwhile, published the box scores from every game played in the major leagues during the previous week. It was a box score bonanza. Heck, if I had immersed myself in the study of something else as I did agate type—that's the word for smaller print in the newspaper world—I might have actually made something of myself.

In today's world, an up-to-the-second box score from any game can be accessed on a cell phone, and it's easy to take such a convenience for granted. However, as someone who once lived for Thursdays from April through September, I am most thankful not to have to wait for the mailman every week throughout the spring and summer to read 10-day-old boxes. —John Perrotto

3. Labor Peace
The fall of 1994 is certainly not a time I want to relive. Rather than watching the Yankees make the playoffs for the first time in my baseball life and the Expos enjoy their first non-split season playoff appearance ever, I instead watched the season end in early August as the players and the owners were unable to reach an amicable labor agreement. For the first, and only time, there was no World Series.

Luckily, after many months and a delayed start to the 1995 season, baseball resumed. And since that time, we've managed to survive three collective bargaining sessions without a stoppage. When I look at the other major sports and see each of them fall victim to labor strife in the past 18 months, I am extremely thankful for the relative peace and stability that the players and the owners have managed to find, that has allowed us to enjoy the national pastime for the past 16 years without fail.—Dan Turkenkopf

4. MLB.tv
Through MLB.tv, I can follow the Red Sox from Portland, Oregon more closely than I could when I lived nine blocks from Fenway Park a decade and a half ago. But yadda, yadda, yadda. MLB.tv is amazing. Everyone knows that. So instead of further rehashing it all, here’s a list of 10 things that are better than MLB.tv:

  1. Sex (sometimes)
  2. Beer (sometimes)
  3. World Peace (not really)
  4. Beer (other times)
  5. Breathing
  6. The Love of a Good Woman
  7. The Love of a Bad Woman
  8. The Love of a Good Woman and a Bad Woman Simultaneously
  9. The Rays of Sun as They Gently Peak Over the Horizon on a Hawaiian Beach (sort of)
  10. Friends (not the TV show)

So there. MLB.tv. Kinda sorta the best thing ever. —Matthew Kory

5. The Longest Regular Season of Any Professional Sport
I'm an ardent sports fan, but there often aren't enough games to get my fix. You get a little taste—that NFL game on Sunday (and sometimes Monday and Thursday), a college football game every Saturday, NBA games throughout the week, sporadic national soccer matches in non-tournament years—but it's never enough to be completely satisfying. Then there's baseball, which is reliably played daily from April through September (minus the awful nothingness during the week of the All-Star Game). No matter what, you're going to spend at least 162 games bonding with (or cursing at) your favorite team, and if your favorite team has a day off, surely another exciting club has a game to play that day.

Now that we have innovations like MLB.tv, baseball junkies can get a year-round fix. When the regular season fades and the championship has been won, there are still AFL games and winter ball to keep us going, and before you know it, we're at that magical time of year where everyone, fans and players alike, is reporting for watching or playing duty in the best shape of their lives. —Stephani Bee

6. Jeffrey Loria
I'm thankful for Jeffrey Loria's presence in MLB. Every story needs a villain, and it's hard to imagine one much worse than Loria. Plus, he gives us all hope that one day we will be thankful for his absence from MLB. —Geoff Young

7. Baseball's Learning Curve
I have been learning the game of baseball since I was a little kid in He-Man overalls, and I never intend to stop. It began on the field, learning how to read fly balls and grounders, how to hit a curve or throw a splitter, and how to get a good jump on the basepaths. My formative education was dominated by baseball history, baseball math (statistics), and baseball science (physics). In order to gain a deeper understanding of the game, I attended the University of Baseball Prospectus during my college years, and the academic curriculum covered topics such as the simultaneous utility and limitation of performance stats, the methodologies for evaluating prospects within context, the pitfalls of in-game tactical strategies, and on-field dynamics such as player health and injury prevention.

My post-graduate education was extended to scouting, coaching, and player development, including advanced concepts such as high-speed motion analysis and Effective Velocity, and how those principles can be applied on the field. I learned about how the body functions to throw a baseball, how the human eye can fool us when watching the game, and how coaches with good intentions can carry the burden of misinformation due to the power of conventional wisdom. The modern fan has access to mountains of data and years worth of ball games at the click of a mouse, with copious resources for acquiring baseball knowledge, and the adaption of new tools such as HITf/x and FIELDf/x will further expand our ability to comprehend baseball's physical environment.

Call me a baseball junkie, because I am addicted. I accept the label, but I refuse to allow myself to accept the realities of baseball withdrawal, because there is too much more to learn. And for that, I give thanks. —Doug Thorburn

8. Fantasy Baseball
There are many things about baseball that I'm thankful for, and fantasy baseball is near the top of that list. I dedicate countless hours to fantasy baseball yearly, whether I’m looking to improve my team's rosters, researching for articles, or simply perusing players’ stats. Fantasy baseball has made me a better, and more knowledgeable, baseball fan. It spurred my interest to dig into sabermetrics, PITCHf/x, prospects, and also better familiarize myself with players on all major-league rosters. I'm thankful for fantasy baseball providing me the motivation to become a better fan, even if I was initially only hoping to gain an edge against my fellow gamers. —Josh Shepardson

25 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

timber

I too am grateful for instantaneous boxscores. However, I still sorely miss that incarnation of The Sporting News, surely one of the best baseball-first publications ever.

Nov 21, 2012 08:00 AM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

On the subject of box scores, I'm grateful I don't have to wait until Thursdays(?!) to see the week's transactions.

Nov 21, 2012 11:31 AM
rating: 1
 
woodson
(802)

Last week, I thought it might be a good Christmas gift for my nephews to give them a sub to TSN. That's when I found out that it's no longer in print. :(

Nov 21, 2012 14:23 PM
rating: 1
 
reznick

Kind of obvious, but I'm grateful for Baseball Prospectus (which I pay for gladly) and baseball-reference.com, fangraphs.com, hardballtimes.com, etc, (which are free). I'm grateful for your combination of data and analysis (and narrative) that would have been unbelievable to me as a teenager in the late 1960s, cutting out Yankee box scores from the LA Times after we moved west from NYC. I'm grateful that there are still so many more things to learn about this wonderful game.

Nov 21, 2012 08:01 AM
rating: 4
 
suchit13

Vin Scully makes MLB.tv worth every penny.

Nov 21, 2012 09:03 AM
rating: 2
 
thedaves

MLB Extra Innings has shown me how much I don't like Scully. I don't mean to be a jerk here. I respect your opinion and I think I understand why you like him. For outsiders though, he sounds like he's just reading out of a baseball program for half the game. I need the back-and-forth or two people talking with each other, not not one man talking to me.

Nov 21, 2012 13:13 PM
rating: 0
 
cubfan131

As an Iowa resident I can say that MLB.TV is great in theory but their arcane blackout policy makes it akin to watching your brother open his presents and get an Xbox 360 and you only getting socks. The crushing disapointment!!! Yeah, you still have access to the Xbox which is better than no Xbox but your brother gets to lord the fact that he owns the Xbox over you. It makes your life miserable and you can only dream of what could have been.

Nov 21, 2012 09:16 AM
rating: 6
 
ahemmer

Yeah, MLB.tv is tough in Iowa. We can't get White Sox, Cubs, Twins, Indians, Tigers, Cardinals, Royals, or Brewers (maybe the reds, too?). I assume other parts of the country are similar, but not being able to see more than 1/4th of baseball teams is frustrating.

Nov 21, 2012 11:26 AM
rating: 0
 
misterjohnny
(925)

Wow. I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was *that* bad.

Nov 21, 2012 17:21 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Not only do I know about the plight of Iowan MLB.tv users, I regularly remind staff Iowan Colin Wyers about it. I can be cruel.

Nov 27, 2012 05:08 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

So, all the Astros have to do is offer him Comcast... :)

Nov 27, 2012 09:08 AM
rating: 0
 
brunocat

I love fantasy baseball too (even though I pretty much suck at it), but remember...it kills your loyalty to a real team! And it's for nerds with pocket protectors and slide rules and deviated septums!

Nov 21, 2012 10:24 AM
rating: 0
 
misterjohnny
(925)

When your team is owned by Frank McCourt, Jeffrey Loria, or some other lout, you are especially thankful for fantasy baseball.

Nov 21, 2012 17:23 PM
rating: 2
 
John Carter

Not sure if you are just joking, but you may have just made an enemy of yourself to a lot of readers. I play Scoresheet Baseball, because I can make my own line-up and not be as frustrated by my team's manager placing his best base-stealer and a low OBP guy in front of the league's best home run hitter (Detroit).

I am proof that it doesn't take fancy math skills to do really well in fantasy baseball. I do use one or two projection systems as a base, but then apply my own common sense. Pitchers with high strikeout totals and a season of past success (with three seasons: even better) are good bets. To know if a batter is having a lucky couple of months or has really improved, you not only look at his BABiP, but look for something that might have caused an improvement - such as a new team getting a guy's career back on track (Aaron Hill in Arizona), or a new approach that has worked for similar batters (Edwin Encarnacion a la Jose Bautista).

Nov 27, 2012 12:44 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Hey now, I'm the one who called right on Encarnacion. :)

Nov 27, 2012 12:48 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Yes, you certainly deserve credit for getting him in his break-out season this winter. I'm only trying to take credit for figuring that his first half excellence would continue - not that you disagreed - he didn't come cheaply, but it was certainly a helpful pick-up for me, if not for both of us.

Nov 28, 2012 08:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I was pretty sure he would sustain it, which is why I kept the price high and I definitely enjoyed buying low on him.

Though in retrospect, that Garza trade's been a bad mistake. Too many NL crossovers now since Segura (from the Encarnacion trade) is now in the NL.

Nov 28, 2012 11:38 AM
rating: 0
 
berkoffm

The MLB.tv black out policy makes me very very sad. I ditched cable television and hoped to watch the Cubs lose a ton of games via the internet. Lo and behold, the blackout policy. I can only watch my home town team if I pull off some Jason Bourne IP address relay through Bangldesh via Rome, Siberia and Argentina. Anyone hear if they are going to change this policy?

Nov 21, 2012 11:33 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Once Siberia produces a kid that throws 100 mph, the policy will change to black out Russia too.

Nov 21, 2012 15:37 PM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Naw. In Russia, the networks black YOU out.

Nov 21, 2012 18:08 PM
rating: 4
 
fawcettb

That was before 1989. Now the oligarchs have reporters who tell the truth killed. But television is as bad there as here.

P.S. the commies are gone from Russia. The only ones left are in Canada, and they're all over 75, and usually dead drunk by 2 PM.

Nov 21, 2012 18:15 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I was a communist once. Then I realized someone had to pay the bills.

Nov 21, 2012 19:51 PM
rating: 0
 
fawcettb

So, what does David Smith do now, and why was he only running Retrosheet at a SABR conference a few years ago?

Nov 21, 2012 18:09 PM
rating: 1
 
FletchLives

He is a professor at the University of Delaware.

http://www.bio.udel.edu/users/dsmith

Nov 21, 2012 19:55 PM
rating: 0
 
lipitorkid

The best part of baseball is the length of a game. Where else can you get away from home, house-work, bills, phone calls etc... for five hours and not take crud for it. It's even better if you bring your kid cause then you are being a good dad.

Whether it's sitting at a UC Irvine Anteater game eating tri-tip nachos; or watching the Angels or Dodgers, while eating a hot dog. There is nothing more relaxing than watching a baseball game. My blood pressure goes down 20 points easy.

Nov 22, 2012 13:33 PM
rating: 4
 
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Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (11/21)
<< Previous Column
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