A Baseball Fanatic’s Guide to the Offseason
Most sports aside from baseball bore me. I enjoy football on Sundays and college basketball is always fun, but I don’t put too much effort in following anything other than baseball. I’m still recovering from the World Series, and am not pining for live baseball just yet, but those feelings will probably start right around early December. Once they do, it seems like the winter just gets longer and longer. However, I’ve already started frantically checking websites for hot stove news multiple times per day. This article is for people like me, who need a daily dose of baseball in their lives even if there aren’t live games being played.
Recently in my sports communications class we talked about ESPN and surround programming. Surround programming means 24/7/365 coverage of your favorite sports. However, if television coverage is your preferred method for finding out the day’s hot stove activity, ESPN will probably disappoint you. ESPN does have surround programming, but it’s really only for one sport – football. Part of the reason I don’t watch college football is because ESPN covers it at a level that borders on nauseating. Like most American males, I can list SportsCenter among my favorite and most watched television programs. But the coverage of baseball on SportsCenter is pretty weak, usually limited to Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian or the Baseball Tonight crew talking about the day’s events for a minute or two. As a diehard Yankee fan, I took it personally when ESPN chose to lead off SportsCenter with a story about Chad Johnson Ochocinco’s Tweets, rather than something about Mariano Rivera, who had just become the all-time saves leader. ESPN does do baseball justice through other venues, which I will touch on later.
MLB Network is awesome. The analysts are enthusiastic, quirky and knowledgeable and the programming is easy to watch for hours at a time. Hot Stove is the show that covers the day’s events and covers both trade and free agency rumors. Matt Vasgersian is one of the best hosts in the business, with a very dry sense of humor, but he also has the ability to take on a serious tone when necessary. Guys like Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Mitch Williams, Dan Plesac and Larry Bowa provide great commentary and insight to the game from their days as players, coaches and executives. Intentional Talk with Chris Rose and Kevin Millar is MLB Network’s response to Pardon the Interruption, minus the time clock. While serious during select occasions, the show puts a humorous spin on the day’s baseball news. If anything, the show is worth watching simply because Millar is an utterly ridiculous human being and brings enormous entertainment value to the table.
The only sports radio program I can really comment on is Mike’d Up: Francesa on the Fan, because it’s the only one I’ve ever really tuned in to. That being said, most of the time I actually watch it on the YES Network if I want to kill twenty minutes eating lunch. Most sports fans from the Tri-State Area have already formed their own opinions on Francesa and quite frankly, his program isn’t my favorite thing to watch/listen to. It could be because I’m not the biggest fan of Francesa himself or that I have no interest in listening to people who think they know everything blabber on and on. But if nothing else, Francesa often has prominent figures call in to his show, whether it’s players, reporters or executives. He usually handles those interviews well and asks thoughtful questions, so he gets a mulligan for the Darrelle Revis fiasco. Despite the fact that Francesa sometimes seems stubborn in his opinions, if an important transaction occurs he’ll cover it with due diligence, whether you like what he has to say or not.
Everyone has their own favorite website to find out tidbits of sports information. Mine is Rotoworld. Rotoworld is technically a fantasy website, but it is great for finding things out right after they occur. If a beat writer tweets something of note, Rotoworld is usually on it pretty quickly. If you’re looking for content, Rotoworld is not the place to go. The descriptions of transactions are usually about three to four sentences long and will often provide a little humor. However, the blurbs seem rushed based on their terrible grammar and sometimes leave you scratching your head (they wrote that Mariano Rivera was no longer an elite closer after he blew two saves early in the season). If you’re looking for breaking news on baseball transactions of large and small significance, Rotoworld is a great place to go. Just don’t expect Pulitzer worthy coverage.
There is probably at least one blog that provides great coverage for each baseball team. Since I’m relatively new to the blogosphere, I can’t really list my preferred blog for each team. Despite only having read it a few times, I know that MetsBlog is both accurate and full of good content from several friends who frequent the site. My favorite Yankees blog is Riveraveblues.com, which I’ve been checking multiple times per day for more than a year. Although they have expanded their cast of writers, Mike Axisa and Joe Pawlikowski do a phenomenal job at covering both the large, pressing issues and the minutia of Yankees baseball. Depending on your taste, the blog can be a little stat heavy at times. However, I rarely read an article on Riverave blues that I do not enjoy.
Despite my small rant about ESPN’s television coverage of baseball, ESPN.com has phenomenal baseball content. The first thing I read every day is Buster Olney’s blog. Buster starts off his blog with a few paragraphs about important news of the day or a feature on a player, team etc. The rest of the blog is links from local newspapers providing coverage of each team. Buster is my favorite baseball writer. Not only does he provide accurate information – he seems to have a plethora of good sources, but everything Buster posts is thoughtful and well written. Jayson Stark writes quirky articles that anyone can enjoy. His love for baseball is apparent in all of his pieces. His Three Strikes blog compiles information that would seem useless to anyone aside from a baseball geek like myself. Keith Law is another one of my favorites. Law is an incredible writer, who covers offseason transactions with a bit of sardonic humor (my favorite). He also compiles comprehensive lists of the top 50 free agents and the top 100 prospects each offseason. Each list is a great read. The one problem with ESPN’s online content is that much of it requires an Insider subscription. However, I will be the first to tell you that it is a worthwhile purchase.
I use three sites for information on prospects. The first is ESPN – Law’s great content plus Jason Grey’s weekly posts are great for those who want to know a little bit about the top prospects throughout the league. However, if you want to dig a little deeper, there are two sites I read that provide much more comprehensive content. The first is Baseball America. Baseball America is the place to go if you want to expand your knowledge of minor league and amateur players. Period. I could go into detail but wouldn’t do the site justice, so I won’t bother. The other site I read is Baseball Prospectus whose prospect guru, Kevin Goldstein, seems to have a comprehensive scouting report on every player in the minor leagues. Every time I read something by Goldstein I come away feeling that my knowledge of the minor leagues has been enhanced. Like Law and Baseball America, Goldstein puts together a list of the top 10 minor leaguers for each team as well as the top 100 in baseball.
Aside from Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus has other stuff worth reading. The Transaction Analysis posts rank among my favorites. Ben Lindbergh and R.J. Anderson’s analysis of transactions are great for those who enjoy spending entirely too much time analyzing the trivial aspects of baseball. FanGraphs also has an incredible breadth of content. Like Baseball Prospectus, on Fangraphs you can choose the articles that are full of complex stats and the ones that aren’t depending on what you prefer. If you want to learn about sabermetric stats, the FanGraphs glossary provides an easy to understand explanation of many different categories. The PITCHf/x velocity charts on TexasLeaguers are also great, but it takes a little while to understand how to interpret them.
So there you have it. Through those mediums, I will attempt and fail to get through the offseason with my sanity intact. Unfortunately ESPN, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus require paid subscriptions, but if you are in dire need for a large quantity of baseball information then bite the bullet and pony up the cash. Hopefully this helps you out, because I’m beginning to lose my mind a little bit more each day as I wait for Spring Training to arrive.