Ostensibly, Carroll wrote to bemoan a lack of top-notch talent among baesball bloggers. In his typically controversial style (important player on a playoff team, anyone?), he wrote:
So I looked again. I’m not sure that right now I could name the ten best baseball bloggers. Maybe my eye for talent is miscast. What I don’t see right now is the next Jaffe, Belth, or Gleeman, but what I do see is what feels like the start of a sea-change in blogs. We’re shifting from revolution to evolution and the use of the blog metaphor by ESPN, newspapers, and even teams could well supercede the bloggers by mere weight of marketing and distribution.
Will’s challenge to name or not name the ten best bloggers, however haughty it may be, got me thinking: Why do I blog about baseball?
For two years now, I’ve toiled away writing about baseball. I’ve written for a group blog over at Blogspot; I’ve written a column for an independent site that has now gone to an all-Podcast format; I still write for one of conglomerate blogging networks that Carroll mentions. I’ve never seen a cent of compensation for the time I’ve spent writing, and I don’t include any of these sites on my résumé because employers just don’t give much weight to something you can do without any modicum of talent.
What amounts to an unpaid, uncredited hobby comes with a lot of sacrifices. Some nights, I write well past when I would like to be in bed. Other nights, I just don’t have the time to put in an adequate amount of research. Most of the time, what you see and read has been read by no one else so it’s raw and unedited. As someone who edited his college paper and is used to seeing works go through multiple revisions with feedback from multiple perspectives, it’s odd to see something I write get “published” as a first draft.
Meanwhile, I am just one of hundreds of baseball voices on the Internet. There are professional sports writers for sports-oriented Web sites, the Peter Gammonses and Jayson Starks, the Ken Rosenthals of the world. Then, there are the newspaper guys of various stripes. I don’t always like or agree with the words of Tyler Kepner, Murray Chass, Bill Plaschke, or the most infamous of all Dan Shaughnessy. But I am jealous of their readership; just be dint of their being published in a newspaper means they have readership on a magnitude of at least 40,000 times what I see. Are they 40,000 times better than I am? Probably not. But that’s beside the point.
Then, there’s everyone else in trying to cut it as a baseball blogger. That blogroll is a woefully incomplete list of sites. You have conglomerates and individuals who have built up followings. You have your David Pintos and your Baseball Toaster teams. You have everyone on Blogspot who want to write for themselves and people on MVN and SportsBlogs who enjoy the benefits of an established network.
But what all of those discordant voices mean for baseball is that despite its popularity, baseball blogging, as Will and others have written in the comments to his post, carries with it a different set of results than political blogging. Whereas in politics, bloggers have made waves in the mainstream media (and I’m thinking about Dan Rather here), in baseball, bloggers have been somewhat responsible for the growing acceptance of statistical thinking in baseball. But even that should be credited to the approach of people within the game, and plenty of writers – Plaschke among them – look down upon the stats community.
In my mind, baseball blogging isn’t necessarily about creating a seachange or making waves. Rather, it’s about making people think about the game as they watch it and enjoy it. What does it mean for our team that they signed a 32-year-old coming off of two injury-field years? How does our ballpark affect the way our new slugging second baseman will hit? Do other people agree with me about Curt Schilling’s attitude, Dungy’s decisions? Did they notice that interesting article? It’s not really about changing the baseball world.
So all of this – a rather rambling look at the baseball blogging world – brings me back to my original question: Why do I write about baseball? I write about baseball because I like to think that if 150 people read what I write, that even just 10 of them will think about it. I write because maybe something I say is an original idea, and someone just like me stops to think for just one minute about what I write.
I write for the feedback too. I am always trying to become a better writer. I try to make a better argument and hone my style. So please leave me feedback. That’s the lifeblood of any writer. Writers can only improve when someone else tells them how to be better.
Finally, I write to share my love of baseball with like-minded fans. Millions of baseball love baseball, and I like to connect with other fans. I’ve made great friendships through baseball, and I hope others have too.
In ending his piece, Will Carroll wrote, “At this time next year, the ten good bloggers had better be doing what Belth and Jaffe did.” Belth is currently writing a column for Sports Illustrated’s Web site. Sure, I’d love to be doing that. But at this time next year, I just want to see a few more people reading my site, responding, telling me that I’ve improved as a writer, and that what I’m writing is encouraging dialogue.
While my own analysis may portray blogging an exercise in vanity, I don’t mind. While Carroll looks for baseball bloggers to be something else, something that he doesn’t articulate, I just want to entertain you and improve myself at the same time. That doesn’t seem like it’s too much to ask.