SABR has been great for me, for its members, and for the game … but now I think it is poised to be even better. The “New SABR”—in its new location, with new leadership, a new digital publishing program, and a new initiative of sponsored conferences—has been embraced halfheartedly by many longtime members. They liked the “Old SABR” just fine the way it was, and have opined, in effect, that if a thing ain’t broke, why fix it? Given the troubling demographic trends of our membership, the question confronting the Society appears to be whether we may continue to enjoy it as we always have—in my case for thirty-two years—or whether we ought to do some “estate planning,” to leave something of enduring value to those who follow.
I have long described SABR as baseball’s best-kept secret. That was once a compliment but became a problem. I believe that SABR’s leadership, in a moment of crisis, has seized an opportunity to promote the Society’s work before a broad fanbase, and to raise awareness of the broad benefits to baseball of historical study and statistical analysis. Set aside for the moment whether—as a byproduct of, for example, SABR’s newly announced relationship with Major League Baseball Advanced Media—membership increases, remains stable, or marginally declines. Set aside whether the new readers SABR gains at mlb.com will be researchers or, more likely, consumers, unconcerned with how the sausage was made. Writers ought to want readers, and more of them rather than fewer.
Will the New SABR have to change its focus? Will those who loved the Old SABR be cast out of the revamped organization, at the hands of some death panel? I would like to suggest that the new opportunities to extend our message and to enhance our value require the very traits that have permitted SABR to continue into a fifth decade. We are nerds, you and I. We endure the predictable slings and arrows on the whole cheerfully, not only because we know who we are but also because we live in the age of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other nerds for whom data, when shared, become life’s most rewarding currency.
Posted: June 30, 2012 at 06:33 AM | 29 comment(s)
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