February 2, 2004
I've noticed lately that blogs and blogging really seem to be gaining steam, with new ones popping up all over the place. The baseball blogging community, which has expanded an incredible amount over the last two years, is perhaps the best example of the growing blogging phenomenon.
I started this particular blog on August 1, 2002, nearly 18 months ago. I recently stumbled across a print-out I had of what the blog looked like on September 19, 2002, about a month and a half into its existence. Beyond a layout and color-scheme I am thrilled to be rid of, the other thing that I immediately noticed was how few other blogs there were back then.
I counted up all the links to other blogs that I had on the sidebar and there were exactly 25. Many of them are still around today and, not coincidentally, they are some of the best - Baseball Musings, TwinsGeek, Mike's Baseball Rants, Futility Infielder, Curse of the Bambino, The Cub Reporter.
In the 16 months or so since I had links to those 25 early baseball blogs on this blog's sidebar, the total number of linked-to blogs has consistently and rapidly grown. A look at the sidebar of this blog today reveals links to no less than 125 different baseball blogs, the majority of them less than a year old and many of them in their first few months of existence.
That number of 125 would be much, much larger if I hadn't recently trimmed the fat, removing links to blogs that hadn't been updated with new content recently. In addition to that, I probably have emails from 15-20 people asking me to add links to their new blogs in my mailbox right now. And I will, eventually, and then there will be 150 baseball blogs with links on this site. If I weren't interested in linking only to those blogs that consistently update their content, there could easily be links to over 200 baseball blogs.
When I started this blog I really thought I was simply jumping on the bandwagon created by guys like David Pinto, Christian Ruzich, John Perricone and John Bonnes. It's clear to me nearly two years later that, while I was jumping on the bandwagon created by others, that bandwagon has expanded in such a way since then that this blog is now, in the context of the entire baseball blogging community, one of the longest running blogs around.
In addition to the hundreds of new "personal" baseball blogs popping up recently, larger media outlets have started to jump on the blogging bandwagon too.
During last season, several large newspapers used blogs to supplement their online baseball coverage. For example, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Mariners Weblog was frequently updated throughout the season and even included multiple links to Mariners-related blog entries written by Yours Truly. Similar, newspaper-produced blogs were also done for the Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Red Sox, among others.
This past week, Bill Simmons, my favorite sports writer anywhere, updated a "Super Bowl blog" for ESPN.com several times per day. I also recently stumbled across a "daily entertainment web log" on USA Today's website, called "Hip Clicks."
Even the New York Times is getting in on the act, publishing "Times on the Trail," which is essentially a blog about 2004 presidential campaigns, although they aren't calling it a blog. Instead they say it is "a continuously updated report from the campaign trail." Well, whatever. I know a blog when I see one.
Personally, I think this trend towards more and more blogging is great. With each passing day, computers become a bigger part of our lives and the amount of people who rely on the internet for their news and reading entertainment is substantial and growing.
Heck, I am a journalism student who has wanted to write about sports for a newspaper for as long as I can remember, but even I haven't read an actual, ink and paper newspaper more than a few times in the last month. I get my news and do most of my reading online, and more and more people are doing the same all the time.
Which is where blogs come in. For a major media outlet, a blog is an easy way to provide fresh, new, timely content on a regular basis. Instead of asking Bill Simmons to write a typical Super Bowl recap article after he returned from Houston, ESPN.com had him write several shorter, less polished articles per day. This not only provided the reader with more content on a daily basis, it also gave them a reason to come back to ESPN.com multiple times per day.
For Simmons, it no doubt allowed him to write about things while they were fresh in his mind, and the fact that the entries were usually shorter than his regular columns allowed him to be less polished and more off-the-cuff (although Simmons' writing style is fairly off-the-cuff as it is). Of course, at the same time, Simmons' Super Bowl blog and the blogs on USAToday.com and NYTimes.com are presumably edited before they are posted for mass consumption. This fact is one of the things that sets a major media outlet's blog apart from a personal blog like this one.
The lack of an editor for a blog like this one can be both one of the best and one of the worst things about blogging.
It is one of the best things because it allows for a freedom of thought, expression and opinion that you aren't likely to find at a place where everything a writer writes is looked over by others before it is printed. Even if ESPN.com asked Simmons to write three blog entries per day, I am certain someone gave them each a thorough look to make sure nothing ESPN.com doesn't want said gets posted.
On the other hand, if an interesting piece of news breaks, like say Vladimir Guerrero signs with the Angels, and David Pinto from Baseball Musings wants to comment on it, he can have an entry up on his blog in the time it takes him to type it. He can make it however long or short he wants and he can say whatever he wants.
Of course, that same freedom can also be a negative. Just as there was nothing stopping David Pinto from quickly posting his thoughts on Guerrero signing with the Angels, there was nothing stopping Joe Ptak, author of the Cleveland Indians Report, from deciding to spice things up by writing a fictitious article about the Indians being close to signing Guerrero to a long-term contract earlier this off-season. Ptak's lengthy article included insider information, specific monetary figures and details about how the startling turn of events came about.
It was a complete hoax, of course. Ptak later said "it was intended to be nothing more than a humorous diversion so that Indians fans would laugh and say 'boy, I wish that was true' before returning to the reality of a very quiet winter meetings and offseason."
After receiving a fairly intense backlash to his "humorous diversion," Ptak said, "As is now known, the Vladimir Guerrero story that I posted on Thursday was a joke. It was never intended to be read as fact or rumor. Aside from how unbelievable the story itself was, clues hidden within the text pointed to the fact that it was a joke."
The clues, as Ptak went on to explain, were that the first letter of each paragraph spelled out "J-U-S-T K-I-D-D-I-N-G." I personally was duped by Ptak's story and, say what you will about my gullibility, but so were many others. While I didn't completely believe the Indians were close to signing Guerrero, I did believe Joe Ptak had sources telling him that was the case.
And why did I believe it? Well, for one thing, it wasn't April Fools' Day, so I had no reason to suspect what I was reading was a hoax. For another thing, Ptak had never done something similar before and had built up enough trust with his substantial audience, including even someone like me who only read his blog infrequently, to make them believe what he was telling them, despite Ptak using "how unbelievable the story itself was" as a reason why no one should have fallen for it.
Looking back on it now, there were certainly some aspects of the story that were fairly unbelievable, chief among them the idea that the Indians were going to sign Vladimir Guerrero. However, it seems obvious to me that Ptak went out of his way to make the story seem believable, if for no other reason than, without a certain level of believability, there is really no hoax at all.
I don't mean to specifically pick on Joe Ptak, because he certainly has taken enough heat for what he did already. I instead use him as the perfect example of what can go wrong when someone builds up an audience with a forum that is without an editor of any sort.
I know I have written many things on this blog that perhaps I would have been better off not writing. I would like to think that I would never do something that would anger or disappoint as many people as the Guerrero-hoax Ptak wrote, but honestly, who knows? The point is that a person writing to an audience without any sort of editing separating what they type and what appears on the page is extremely dangerous.
For me, that's part of the appeal of writing a blog. It is also a big part of the reason why I think you will see more and more blogs like the ones from ESPN.com, USA Today and the New York Times popping up all over the place. Trying to find a way to combine the freedom of expression and immediacy of information with the safety and security of having an editor looks to me like the next big step in blogging.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****