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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

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Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (11/21)
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The Lineup Card: Seven... (11/14)
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The Lineup Card: 9 Off... (11/28)
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On the Beat: AL Shoppi... (11/21)

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