MLB.com’s MLBlogs tries a corporate approach to baseball blogging

The cyber-world of baseball blogs has become a very successful cottage industry over the past few years. Baseball blogging is, by far, the most vibrant of any sports blogging community. In fact, baseball blogging seems to rival political blogging in terms of its popularity.

This revolution in amateur commentary and analysis has brought about a growing awareness of cutting-edge statistical analysis in assessing players and teams. It’s tough to imagine the Moneyball Era without popular bloggers and Baseball Prospectus leading the way. I think it’s safe to say that the increased attention paid to baseball and all facets of the game is one of the greatest stories illustrating the benefits of the Internet.

Today, baseball blogging gained yet another measure of legitimacy as MLB.com announced the creation of MLBlogs.com, a pay-per-blog service established by Major League Baseball to create a more interactive community under the auspices of MLB’s Web site. For $4.95 a month or for $49.95 a year, potential bloggers get a site address of http://something.mlblogs.com, and they have the opportunity to sound off on the game.

For MLB.com, this represents another example of the site rushing headlong into the Internet’s unknown future. MLB.com already has the best real-time game-tracker on the Web. They have long offered fans the opportunity to listen to every game of every day for a flat rate of $14.95 for the season. And last year, they introduced MLB.tv, giving fans the chance to watch many games online for only $79.95 for the entire year. This is cutting-edge exploitation of the Internet’s multimedia capabilities.

I wonder, though, if Major League Baseball may be overestimating the potential of blogging. While baseball blogging is pervasive on the Internet, the idea of paying for a blog may not appeal to many casual bloggers. Those that are interested in paying for a blog have already purchased their own domain spaces.

One of the best aspects of blogging is how the only cost is time on the part of the blogger. If I were to use Blogger, as I have done in the past, then I would be blogging for free. Many popular baseball sites are hosted on Blogger. Considering their popularity, these sites wouldn’t gain much from a move to a pay-per-year blogging service.
A quick glance through MLBlogs.com reveals a service trying to address two distinct ideas. First is the one I’ve already mentioned. Major League Baseball wants this new site to develop into a blogging community for fans. Whether this can be successfully accomplished while charging a fee is up in the air. The second function is more in the spirit of other corporate blogs such as those hosted by major media outlets. MLBlogs.com will provide baseball figures with blogging spaces of their own.

In introducing MLBlogs.com, MLB.com’s Mark Newman wrote about some of the more prominent baseball officials and personnel joining MLBlogs.com. Included in this group are Tommy LaSorda, Brewers broadcaster Daron Sutton, and a groundskeeper. The site also features blogs from many of MLB.com’s reporters.

For me, these blogs are the draw of the new site. Hopefully, these “celebrity” blogs will contain interesting insights into the way the game is played and manage. Those of us who blog from the outside looking in often do not recognize the complex economic equations that baseball teams must consider when constructing a team. We don’t have the behind-the-scenes look at baseball that these baseball guys may share with us.

I don’t think MLBlogs.com will be a financial success in the same way that MLB.tv or Gameday Audio is. I think bloggers still like the opportunity to blog for free or on their own domains. I’ll tune in to MLBlogs though to see what those baseball insiders have to say about the sport, and I hope these new venture adds to the already-vibrant discussions that take place within the baseball blogging community.

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