Now, Baseball Prospectus is an organization, and organizations, by definition, tend to degrade a bit over time and exposure. I’m halfway done with the Baltimore Orioles chapter in the new book already—roughly seven percent through the book—and I can’t help but notice it doesn’t have the same spark it used to. The book is better-edited (by Cecilia Tan and Bleacher Report’s King Kaufman) than it used to be, but it’s also a little tamer and safer. The book used to be fairly merciless (and undeniably hilarious) in its criticism of archaic front offices and players hanging around because of “veteran presence” rather than actual baseball skill, but it’s nicer now, more conventional, more team-friendly.
It’s also less Socratic. The intro chapters on each team used to be freewheeling musings on what a baseball organization was, what a team’s philosophy was, what it means to be a member of that organization. Now the team intros have been dramatically shortened, and chopped up into easy-to-digest but less meaty portions that aren’t all that different than a slightly smarter version of an old Street and Smith’s preview magazine.
The book is still essential—I’m still reading every word of it—but somehow less dangerous. Less outsider. Less … fan. It’s as if BP is self-aware and knows every front office in baseball has a copy now. You can’t help but lose a little of your edge once you’re no longer fighting against anything, once you’re accepted.
But that evolution is a small price to pay for what BP did, what BP is still doing. There are people in the world of sports, be it media or corporate, whose nods to fans are cursory, obligatory, dismissive, who act like fans are just heedless consumers ready to be led around. Fans prove the opposite every day. Baseball Prospectus isn’t the only example of it, but they’re one of the best. Now if you excuse me, I need to get back to my book. What is Nick Markakis’ deal, man?