The last day of the year is usually a time for reflection, a final look back at the good and the bad of 2010. However, I'm already looking forward to 2011, specifically changes in how I'm going to go about writing On The Beat, my non-award winning column here at BP.
On The Beat went from running twice a week to three times a week last season. Next season, the plan is for it to be posted at least four times a week and sometimes five. It's an ambitious undertaking but I feel I'm up to the challenge after spending 22 seasons as a beat writer at daily newspapers, the majority of which was spent trying to make bad-to-awful Pirates' teams sound remotely interesting.
I want to tweak On The Beat, make it more interesting and more informative. And I'd like to solicit your help. After all, it is you for whom I write the column (which sounds like something Not Jim Tracy would say on the podcast).
I remember when old friend Buster Olney began his now very popular blog on ESPN.com. We talked about what he was attempting to do with it and he said he was looking at the undertaking as a blank canvas.
I, too, want to have a blank canvas in revamping On The Beat and I'd love you to grab a brush and help paint. Ideally, I'd like it to become a catch-all type piece full of interviews, analysis, newsy tidbits, rumors, gossip, humor, links and maybe even a little fantasy baseball and wagering advice.
And I'd also like to make it more interactive. For example, say I'm going to be catching up with a certain team, perhaps the Yankees. I'd like you to offer suggestions of questions I should ask Joe Girardi or the players. I can't promise I'd be able to ask them all but I'd consider each and every one.
Please feel free to leave your comments below and try to keep the wisecracks to a minimum. When it comes to getting my chops busted, my wife already handles that job quite ably and doesn't need any assistance.
Happy New York and let's all look forward to a great 2011!
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now
Happy New Year to you as well!
I'd like to see a two-part feature at the end of each "On The Beat," titled "What I See." You see things about baseball that most fans don't, simply because of your experience and wisdom. I'd like the first part of "What I See" simply to be a short candid observation about some small part of the game that stands out in your mind: a catcher who suddenly looks much better throwing out baserunners, a team whose chemistry looks better in April, or a pitcher who just looks lost on the mound. The second part would be a different view, also in very few words, from a different member of your staff who is well-suited to see the same thing from a different perspective: Matt Swartz could look at obscure stats, while David Laurila could comment on team chemistry, for example.
John, you're an excellent journalist, and journalists are objective. I don't want to lose that. I would like you to add a little bit of an editorial section to your work, complemented by the perspectives of others on your staff in their areas of talent.
Also, I mildy disagree with Matty above...i do come to BP to avoid being overwhelmed by talking points. But in order for BP to be my complete news source it does need to cover the talking points, or else I'm missing out on the water cooler talk.
Keep up the good work.
If I want detailed technical articles, there are many BP authors that offer that. What I can't get anywhere else is the kind of beat writing that infuses the advanced stats with the traditional coverage. I really enjoy that when I am in a more sit and relax kind of mood.
IMHO, asking John to have less of the beat coverage would be like asking Kevin Goldstein to give us more stats on the prospects instead of his balanced coverage - which I wouldn't like either.
On a side note, as mentioned above, I too am a fan of the scouting reports. In terms of the suggestions, I would highly recommmend a fantasy flavor added to the segment and possibly some minor league reports as well (to coincide with KG's Future Shock/Monday 10 Packs). Perhaps a player from his Monday 10 pack could be featured in one of your weekly On the Beat posts, a little greater in depth of what scouts are saying about the player!? Just a thought.
BP readers already have access to a boatload of statistics and can screen for "who's hot/who's not" themselves. What we can't normally get is the insight on who's throwing a new pitch, who's progressing by covering the strike zone better even if the statistical success is not obvious or glaring yet, etc. -- the human element, if you will.
Your columns are the first thing I go to, since they never fail to entertain and inform.
Frankly, for the coming year, the best strategy might be for BP to swallow its collective pride, regroup, and try to develop the kind of contacts that Will Carroll had, and to some extent, Kevin Goldstein still has -- the kind that set BP apart from the crowd in a way that OTB cannot. Both on the field and on the web, I can tolerate a "rebuilding year," with evidence of a clear plan to rebuild, better than I can a long descent into everybody's-doing-it mediocrity. But that's just me...
I have also enjoyed other baseball writers' ongoing "beat the Vegas line" efforts when they have included tracking. A PECOTA inspired version would be entertaining.
And with all due respect, I agree with lemurranger. "On the Beat" has always been, to me, alot of vanilla. Reporting on what's happened or why some manager feels like their team is playing real well right now and has a chance to do some damage in their division. While that has it's place, it's not what I'm paying money for.
Best thing you can do for me John is have a once or twice weekly op-ed piece about a baseball current event. Team A (or Player B or Manager C) did Action X (and then compounded it with Action Y) and it was smart/dumb. Here's why. Back it up with stats, convince me that your point is correct. Make me care, make me get riled up and pissed that my team is doing something so stupid, or even better that the cross-bay rivals are doing something just as stupid, but getting away with it (and then winning the damn series to boot...but I digress).
Sure do like those scout quick-takes though.
Water-cooler stuff is easily available and free elsewhere. What I hope BP always believes in is that if some story is well-covered in the mainstream sports media, then it isn't necessary to repeat it here.
I think this is what initially turned me off by the idea of a seasoned beat writer here (you've mostly won me over, btw) - a paper HAS to cover the major stories, and cover the "faith-and-hope" beat. BP doesn't - you can count on us to have read those pieces elsewhere.
And thus I get a little worried about MORE frequent OtB columns. It's undoubtedly hard enough to find fresh, uncovered stories twice a week - if you are going to write four or five OtBs a week, I am skeptical that they won't have to draw from the same well the rest of the sports journalists drink from.