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February 27, 2004

Prospectus Today

February Thoughts

by Joe Sheehan

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February is like being stuck in a footlocker with Katie Holmes: Short, cramped, and full of distractions.

I can't stretch out my arm in February without hitting some date of importance. I guess I could blame my mom, who pitched me out into the world 33 years ago yesterday, setting the stage for the month to hold a bunch of birthdays: my closest cousin's, both my parents-in-law, and a number of other relatives on both sides of the family. Valentine's Day is wedged in there, of course, a day that requires weeks of planning and meticulous...oh, heck, Sophia doesn't read my column...a day that requires my attention.

The month features less enjoyable markers as well. While I've been fortunate in that I've lost just a small number of loved ones over the years, many of those have died in February, some recently enough to still cause pain as the anniversaries approach.

Memorable dates aside, February has less emotional ways to turn my head. I have a passion for college basketball--Jonah, Will and I often kid about launching College Basketball Prospectus--and the game holds my attention throughout the shortest month. While I don't play the game as much as I used to, the February arrival of the new Strat-O-Matic cards is a time sink that will probably be with me until I can't see anymore.

The point of all this is to say that as I sit at my laptop at 5:15 a.m. on Friday morning, I genuinely have no idea what to write about. That happens maybe a half-dozen times a year, and you'll usually recognize those times as columns with an awful lot of bullet points or reader mail. I have concepts, I have great and wonderful writing ideas, but they're not making through the process today, caught up in the mind along with memories of a birthday wine-tasting, analysis of bubble teams, missing my grandparents, and the jaw-dropping power of an Eric Gagne Strat card.

So today, I navel-gaze. Not so much personally, but professionally, because this particular February is notable for its importance to Baseball Prospectus. Come Sunday, the first batch of BP Premium subscriptions will expire, and while renewals are proceeding at a great pace, I'm going to sweat until every last person re-ups for a year (or two!). Perhaps that's unrealistic, but 18 months ago, so was the idea of a subscription service that brought great baseball content into people's homes every single weekday for pennies an article.

I've gotten a lot of feedback over the year on BP Premium, almost all it falling into the categories of "positive" or "constructive." We've used that feedback to boost our confidence and improve the product, and we'll continue to do so. We're working every single day to be worth the $39.95 that you've shelled out. That money wasn't just a fee for service, at least not to me; it was an expression of confidence that we could continue to do the work we'd done for eight years. I think we've honored that, and I hope the thousands of people who took this trip over the past year agree.

So if you'll be with us on the other side of the weekend, thank you. I can't think of a single company that's benefited more from loyal customers over the years, and I appreciate the support. If you're haven't re-upped yet, and you have questions, drop me a line and at least express them to me. I can't guarantee we can address them, but I can tell you that we want to know why you're on the fence, and what we can try to do to keep you.

On everyone's mind, if my Inbox is to be believed, is that no one has Baseball Prospectus 2004 yet. This is the latest in the year we've been unseen since, if my memory serves, the first edition, and the frustration level among both staff and readers is a tangible thing, something we can see and feel and touch.

There are a lot of inside-baseball reasons for the delays, none of which are worth delving into here. I can tell you that after publishing six books under the Brassey's imprint, it's fair to say that Workman Publishing is going to be a fantastic partner for BP, the kind of strong company whose experience on both the production and publicity sides is going to help us grow the book, and by extension the name, exponentially.

To get to that point, we have to go through the process of putting out the first book with them. A BP annual is a unique product in publishing, a book with a completely different set of guidelines and deadlines than anything else. Until we get an extra month wedged in between December and January--one with a roster freeze in MLB--the challenges of putting out the best possible book while getting it out as early as possible will persist. Having gone through it once with Workman, just as we did it a first time from scratch, and a first time with Brassey's, will make us better for the next one.

The benefits of the new publisher are showing up already, however. The marketing department has been working overtime to set up bookstore Pizza Feeds throughout the country. I'm excited about what amounts to an East Coast book tour in late March. Readers in New York and Philadelphia should mark their calendars; I'll be making two stops in Philly on March 23 (one in the city, one in Paoli) then heading to the Big Apple for Feeds in Yonkers and Brooklyn on the 24th and 25th. I'm an East Coast guy, and the chance to do this kind of thing in two of my favorite cities is a thrill.

That's the kind of thing Workman has enabled. So while you stare down the mailman or the UPS driver, wondering why he's not weighed down by a ridiculously large edition of your favorite baseball annual, understand that the delay is a good thing in the big picture. We're not happy about it, we're working to ensure that it doesn't happen again, and we're certain that this year's book is worth the wait.

I don't say it enough: thanks for reading, and thanks for being the best audience a writer could hope to have.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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