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— SABR's First Virtual Chapter

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   1. Mike Emeigh Posted: May 30, 2010 at 02:28 AM (#3545970)
I would like to extend the discussion, if I can, beyond Chris's initial question. I'm personally less concerned about trying to convince Tango, Cameron, et. al. to become SABR members, and more concerned about what SABR can/should be doing to faciliate the work of non-SABR members. SABR's mission, after all, as Chris cites above, includes:

1) Encouraging the study of baseball, past and present, as a significant athletic and social institution;
2) Encouraging further research and literary efforts to establish and maintain the accurate historical record of baseball;

and if people like Tango and Cameron (and others) feel as though there isn't any value in what SABR has to offer, then I see that as more SABR's failure to encourage their efforts, and those of other dedicated researchers who for one reason or another aren't members of the organization.

So I would like to turn this around a little bit, and put the question this way:

What can/should SABR do to encourage the non-SABR research community? How can SABR foster and faciliate up-and-coming researchers, regardless of whether or not they are SABR members?

I think that if SABR looks for that kind of feedback and acts on it, the membership question will take care of itself.

-- MWE
   2. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2010 at 02:56 AM (#3546002)
I joined SABR in 1978 on the same day I shook hands with Fred Lieb at Cooperstown, which still ranks as my top baseball handshake ever. I lapsed for a few years but joined again in the late 80's and have kept it up ever since then.

The DC meetings are all either at the wrong time or on the wrong night or in the wrong place, so I guess I'm one of the few people left who still "joins for the publications."** But I also think that people should support SABR for the same reason you should buy at brick and mortar bookstores whenever it's possible, even if the "competition" is cheaper and better; for the same reason you should buy the NY Times print edition if you can afford it, even if for the time being you can still mooch it online; and for the same reason you should contribute to BTF: Because all of these institutions make this a much better place to live; because you won't know what you have until you lose them; and because if you don't support them, who will?

**most of which I still don't see as being replaced by the internet. IMO those two volumes of Deadball Era bios were worth the price of a year's membership all by themselves.
   3. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: May 30, 2010 at 03:25 AM (#3546022)
I agree with Andy.

If you love baseball but aren't necessarily able to or you don't have a desire to take time to do research, you can still support SABR. You'll get something out of it, and it's a good cause as you'll be supporting the work of others. I remember at one point Cameron saying something on USSM about some project he was involved in or donated to so that more clean water would be available in Africa. So he knows something about giving to others and I think anyone looking for a value prop from SABR has it if they look beyond what it does for them.
   4. Mark Armour Posted: May 30, 2010 at 05:46 AM (#3546071)
If there are 6000 people in SABR there are likely nearly that many reasons for joining. This creates a bit of a problem, because when trying to get people to join it isn't always obvious which hook to use. A few years ago a well-respected SABR member, an historian, quit SABR because he felt it had been taken over by statheads. That was amusing, since some statheads think it crawling with historians. Both are true, I guess, but there a lot of awfully good people in SABR who might be one or the other, or both, or neither.

One could join SABR for no other reason than to support what "they" do. That is why I am a member of the HOF, for example. It is the work of SABR members, for example, that is responsible for the accuracy of all of the statistical data, and all of the biographical data, and all of the minor league data, at baseball-reference.com. All of that data is a work in progress, and the people working on improving it are SABR committees. Retrosheet operates as a separate organization, but is in many ways a SABR project--the management and all the contributors are SABR members, and their annual meeting is at SABR's national convention. All of the important work on understanding the Negro Leagues is due to the work of SABR. Current work on understanding the origins of the game is all the work of SABR. SABR is attempting to collect oral history interviews of all major league players, and has donated much of this material to the Hall of Fame. SABR has created an on-line bibliography that contains 250,000 records and counting. SABR also has committees on Latino Baseball and Scouts and Statistical Analysis and Rules and, just recently baseball cards. SABR has a project devoted to writing biographical essays on baseball people--1400 bios and counting.

Most of the explosion of information about the game, all the books and web sites and encyclopedias, rest upon a foundation built by SABR's committees and members. It is fine organization worthy of being supported for all of this.

Even better, SABR membership allows you to help do some of this yourself. And you can meet people who are doing it. You can join as a stathead and have lunch with an historian, or vice versa. There are many ways to enjoy this game, and SABR does not suggest that one way is any better than another.

Or, you can just join for the tangible benefits--the three books of articles per year, the discounts on newspaper archives, the community, or even the free access to 100 years of the Sporting News.

Or the laughs.
   5. birdlives is one crazy ninja Posted: May 30, 2010 at 06:27 AM (#3546083)
What can/should SABR do to encourage the non-SABR research community? How can SABR foster and faciliate up-and-coming researchers, regardless of whether or not they are SABR members?

Make datasets publically available in excel, or even better, a common statistical package (e.g., SPSS, Stata, etc.) at a central location. Like U. of Michigan's ICSPR except for baseball datasets.
   6. Flynn Posted: May 30, 2010 at 06:35 AM (#3546086)
There needs to be an online only SABR membership. I'm not that interested in the publications, the UK chapter seems to exist only on paper and living overseas the membership rate is exorbitant. What I am most interested in is the online discussion and the Paper of Record access.
   7. fra paolo Posted: May 30, 2010 at 09:57 AM (#3546105)
the UK chapter seems to exist only on paper

The Bobby Thompson chapter focuses on Origins themes, and meets irregularly. There is also a British-based Internet Chapter, which is more about the history of Baseball in Britain, and seems to function as a batch of linked sites.

Mark Armour in [4] makes the best case for being a member. It's a civic responsibility for all 'real' baseball fans to join and pay the 'tax'. One owes it to the 'happy few' who set it up and have kept it going over four decades for all the work they've done that makes baseball such a vital part of one's life. Being a baseball fan would have been far worse without them.

I know this can seem self-satisfied, but the same idea applies to the body of scientific knowledge. We all freeload off that, too, but some of the debt we owe is paid by taxes transferred to national and international scientific academic organizations that fund work that will improve our lives in the future by building on what was learned by Thales or Arab students of optics or whatever.

The body of baseball knowledge is still privately financed, and if the history and statistics of the sport is a significant pastime for one, SABR offers one way to subsidize future work through the networking and 'professional' independent review at conferences and chapter meetings it offers.
   8. Mike Emeigh Posted: May 30, 2010 at 09:50 PM (#3546313)
Make datasets publically available in excel, or even better, a common statistical package (e.g., SPSS, Stata, etc.) at a central location. Like U. of Michigan's ICSPR except for baseball datasets.


When I ran for the Board a few years ago, I suggested something like this as one of the things I thought SABR could do. I still think this is an excellent idea, although there would be some hurdles to overcome WRT licensing issues, and it would have to be done as a public-domain dataset that could be imported into a variety of statistical packages, rather than as SPSS or some such.

-- MWE
   9. RedRobot8 Posted: May 31, 2010 at 03:06 AM (#3546398)
Make datasets publically available in excel, or even better, a common statistical package (e.g., SPSS, Stata, etc.) at a central location. Like U. of Michigan's ICSPR except for baseball datasets.

If SABR did this, I'd be in.
   10. como10 Posted: May 31, 2010 at 10:16 PM (#3546732)
Chris,

I'm a consultant who deals with questions like this all the time. I would frame your question a little bit differently, to focus less on the "what" and more on the "why." I don't think it's as easy as asking potential members specifically what they want. Most people, in most situations, don't know exactly what they want. But they do know how they want to feel.

So a better approach (in my opinion) would be to ask current SABR members what their membership does for them. The answers to that question would have to go beyond, "It gives me access to Paper of Record" and instead dig into the emotional benefits of membership. In other words, if someone really loves Paper of Record...why?

For example, maybe some members want to leave their small, little mark on their world by being able to publish their research. Maybe others feel more connected to their fathers or grandfathers because they can learn a little more about players from a bygone era. Still others might thrive on the camaraderie and social connection, as Mark suggested.

You'll probably find that deep down, SABR members are more alike than different. There probably are only a handful of emotional drivers at work. Then once you know those answers, you can create outreach and communication (and offerings) that tap into those deeper, often unconscious motivations -- which non-members probably share.
   11. Mike Emeigh Posted: June 01, 2010 at 12:17 AM (#3546780)
Make datasets publically available in excel, or even better, a common statistical package (e.g., SPSS, Stata, etc.) at a central location. Like U. of Michigan's ICSPR except for baseball datasets.

If SABR did this, I'd be in.


What datasets would interest you?

-- MWE
   12. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: June 01, 2010 at 11:33 AM (#3546964)
Since you asked, Chris, I am not a SABR member because I have absolutely no desire to be a SABR member, and have no desire to get any of their publications or anything else. Even if it was free, I'd be very unlikely to sign up.
   13. Chris Dial Posted: June 01, 2010 at 01:19 PM (#3546995)
Fly,
thanks. Frankness like that is greatly appreciated. No, seriously.

Perhaps I over-estimate the appeal of the "professional association" aspect. Perhaps it is partly an age aspect: when I was Fly's age, there were three sources of baseball info: SABR, Elias and Bill James (well, STATS started when I was 23 or so). Everything was books and publications. Now, as Mike says, very little is books and publications, but rather electronic media. Yes, there are still lots of books, and they are terrific, but for lots of people over the last 15 years, electronic info is where it is at, so that would decrease the view that SABR is a critical need in the baseball research/propagation industry.

I remember when TSN stopped publishing boxscores. That was a strange day.

Separately, Fly, BTF the community that you participate and enjoy is very much how SABR is - collaborative, varied interests, good friends talking about baseball and beyond, and largely a large group of people (not a group of large people) that share a deeper love for baseball than most. BTF is free, and you have "signed up". And for that, I am thankful.
   14. scotto Posted: June 01, 2010 at 01:26 PM (#3547000)
Make datasets publically available in excel, or even better, a common statistical package (e.g., SPSS, Stata, etc.) at a central location. Like U. of Michigan's ICSPR except for baseball datasets.

Most of the stats packages will easily import datasets from a variety of formats. I'd guess that anyone able to use SAS, SPSS, Stata, etc. and who can afford the licensed product can already do that.
   15. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: June 01, 2010 at 01:55 PM (#3547017)
I have belonged for many years, at least a dozen.

Membership is expensive if you are not very interested in the publications. I personally belong for the publications, and to an extent accept the tax in the way fra suggests. However, I believe the number of fans that would have an appetite for that sort of tax is quite limited relative to the total number of baseball fans, and that any attempts to grow the membership base very broadly have to be balanced by the costs of significant changes in the types of programs SABR would need to offer to reach such fans and whether that effort would jeopardize what so many already find appealing about SABR.

I don't think membership growth in and of itself is as valuable as finding fans of a feather (the BTF Chapter is a fine collection point for them, IMO). Instead of pursuing significantly broader membership appeals, I would suggest consideration of efforts to generate publications of interest to academic institutions and libraries (and perhaps the public) that could be sold like academic journals at prices that might support the work. This might put the organization in competition with some of its financial supporters/advertisers, but could be worth it. Of course, this is not my area of expertise in the least, and perhaps it has already been tried, failed, considered, rejected, etc. Related point: I don't think every publication has to/should be included as of right with membership.

Also, SABR should find a sugar daddy or 12 to establish something like an endowment to support its mission or perhaps a specific aspect of its mission. The pressures of living year to year on a budget supported by membership dues could perhaps be somewhat alleviated by this. It should consider hiring a consultant to advise it in that regard.
   16. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: June 01, 2010 at 01:56 PM (#3547018)
Why am I not a SABR member? Because I'm a lazy-ass guy who has a bad habit of not doing anything he doesn't have to do. I just don't feel that I'm lacking anything as someone with an interest in baseball history.

In fact, I picked up one of the Deadball Stars books a few years back at a used bookstore, and I've never gotten around to reading it. (Even by my standards, there's no justification for that, but it's what's happened. I guess I mostly forget it's there & start reading through the New Historical Abstract again.)
   17. Andere Richtingen Posted: June 01, 2010 at 01:57 PM (#3547021)
Perhaps I over-estimate the appeal of the "professional association" aspect

Perhaps, but that doesn't mean it isn't an important factor. It might lack inherent "appeal" but that doesn't mean that the "professional association" aspect cannot be developed to be very appealing to new members. As you and Mike point out, SABR is dealing with the same "times are changing" issues that virtually all professional societies are dealing with. Dues tend to go toward publications, and the publishing business is in quite a state of flux nowadays. Many societies are looking hard at, and in many cases succeeding in developing, services and other valuable offerings as new sources of revenue. $65 is not a large amount, but it isn't nominal either.

That said, why am I not a member and not likely to become one any time soon? 1) The chances of me being able to attend a SABR conference are very low. I use up my travel chit on professional conferences that are associated with my job. 2) Internet sources have done a great job of providing me with the community of baseball fans I need. My baseball fandom went through a renaissance in the early 90s when I discovered usenet and rec.sport.baseball. When Primer and other sites debuted some years later, it got even better. I don't have the time now to explore all of the potential baseball internet communities out there. And 3) I'm not really interested in the publications. So, it is not a good use of $65 for me. If I were to do it, my main motivation would be probably to support an effort my friends have initiated in the hopes of helping it succeed. That's probably not the best motivation.

My take on this: It's now a point where there is little use in pursuing any sort of "professional association" outside of an internet context. It's appealing if it's more of an internet community than a professional association. The annual meetings will remain worthwhile and probably even improve if internet communities are the horse driving the cart. I think you, Mike and the others who started this have provided a great first step in associating SABR with BTF, and I think it would be smart to look at it as a brand association that is mutually beneficial and really going places with it. Unfortunately, I think there are probably a lot of significant barriers to that association developing as dynamically as it could, but you're a persistent fellow with big dreams and a lot of energy.
   18. The Robby Hammock District (Dan Lee) Posted: June 01, 2010 at 02:03 PM (#3547026)
The biggest problem for me (as a non-member) is that I almost always have something higher on my "I need to spend $65 or more on it" list. It's not so much that I don't have the money, it's that it's an inconvenience to come up with $65 at once to pursue my nerdy interests when I've got a cracked windshield or a leaky dishwasher or kids who need new clothes for school.

If there was some way to pay monthly or quarterly, I'd be much more likely to join.
   19. Chris Dial Posted: June 01, 2010 at 02:37 PM (#3547057)
Como,
those are good points. As I have said, I am not a member for the publications - they are a bonus. I am a member to support the research of others - without SABR, for instance, would we have ever gotten Chris Jaffe's book on managers?
   20. Gaylord Perry the Platypus (oi!) Posted: June 01, 2010 at 02:40 PM (#3547059)
I've long considered joining, but have just not gotten around to it. A lot of that is the same thing Dan Lee mentions - there always seems to be something else to spend the $65 on. I expected to go to the St. Louis and Cleveland conventions, but then had a kid, which made that a non-starter at the time. This year, it's in Atlanta, so I'll be joining this month, and most likely doing some volunteer work at the con as well. I'm not sure if I'll stay a member going forward; I guess we'll see...

If there was some way to pay monthly or quarterly, I'd be much more likely to join.

I definitely agree with this statement.
   21. RJ in TO Posted: June 01, 2010 at 02:52 PM (#3547068)
If there was some way to pay monthly or quarterly, I'd be much more likely to join.

I definitely agree with this statement.


As would I. I'd never even notice the cost of $5 a month.
   22. Ron Johnson Posted: June 01, 2010 at 03:18 PM (#3547096)
Just to 4th Dan, I think Bill James' pay site was smart to go for a $3 a month fee structure. I's bet $3 a month is an easier sell than $25 a year -- not that this makes a lot of sense.
   23. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: June 01, 2010 at 03:35 PM (#3547115)
without SABR, for instance, would we have ever gotten Chris Jaffe's book on managers?

Answer: no. Because without SABR, I never would've been aware of Phil Birnbaum's Database, and that kicked it all off.
   24. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 01, 2010 at 03:37 PM (#3547118)
Just to 4th Dan, I think Bill James' pay site was smart to go for a $3 a month fee structure. I's bet $3 a month is an easier sell than $25 a year -- not that this makes a lot of sense.

I'd rather pay it all at once and get it over with, but OTOH I wonder how many cups of $3.00 coffee Starbucks would sell if they asked for $1095 a year in advance?
   25. BWV 1129 Posted: June 01, 2010 at 04:14 PM (#3547145)
When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a member of SABR when I grew up. But now that I've been grown up for several years (by age, anyway), for whatever reason it just doesn't appeal to me. I'm not sure what the reason is. The cost may be part of it, not that the cost is outrageous. I guess it's just that the publications don't interest me, and I don't feel that I need to be a member so as to keep up with the latest research.

The other benefit of joining would be to contribute money to a good cause, I suppose, but the thing there is that there are plenty of causes that are quite frankly more deserving of my money, and I'm not giving anything to them, either, so if I'm going to start giving out donations, it would probably be to charities and such first. (I do subscribe to P-I, so maybe that's my baseball research contribution every year.)
   26. birdlives is one crazy ninja Posted: June 01, 2010 at 05:11 PM (#3547211)
What datasets would interest you?


Team specific datasets would be awesome. Fans are always inductively developing observations about their team. For example, O's fans have been hammering Terry Crowley for years. It would nice to play with some data to show some actual evidence.
   27. Chris Dial Posted: June 01, 2010 at 05:51 PM (#3547252)
I appreciate the good specific responses.

So there's at least one solid recommendation: different offers of payment. Credit card withdrawal or whathaveyou. I don't really know the ins-and-outs of that, but it sounds like it would make that hurdle more attractive.

Thanks, Dag, for your confirmation. That alone is a dang good reason to support SABR (to me).

I think the answers given by BWV and others - the research available makes it not seem so critical to keep up with the latest works. the Internet provides it without being a member. I think Tango has mentioned that in past discussions as well.

Next year, the convention is in LA. I hope BWV decides to join for that event.
   28. Mark Armour Posted: June 01, 2010 at 05:58 PM (#3547258)
Having once managed a monthly withrawal system for a local school foundation, the cost was pretty low especially if the withdrawal was perpetuall--IOW, it required the member to turn it off, rather than have to manage potentially dozens of schedules.
   29. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: June 01, 2010 at 06:41 PM (#3547301)
I was a member for one year, largely to pay a "baseball tax" (though I liked the publications too). If I ever had a chance to go to the conventions, I'd rejoin - or if I felt due to kick in again (right now, other stuff is ahead of SABR in the queue).
I'd also never select a monthly over an annual scheme, but that's irrelevant - it's a good idea if cost effective.
   30. Chris Dial Posted: June 01, 2010 at 06:53 PM (#3547321)
If I ever had a chance to go to the conventions, I'd rejoin -
This year is in ATL. I can give you a ride...
   31. Chris Dial Posted: June 01, 2010 at 08:37 PM (#3547447)
I have to say, the "balanced payments" is a good idea, and one I have to consider for the pool I sit on the board of.
   32. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: June 01, 2010 at 08:43 PM (#3547451)
This year is in ATL. I can give you a ride...
Take it up with my spouse, kids, and employer. :)
   33. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: June 01, 2010 at 09:47 PM (#3547520)
Separately, Fly, BTF the community that you participate and enjoy is very much how SABR is - collaborative, varied interests, good friends talking about baseball and beyond, and largely a large group of people (not a group of large people) that share a deeper love for baseball than most. BTF is free, and you have "signed up". And for that, I am thankful.

And I'm glad BTF is here. But I think I've made my opinions on BTF known over the years, too. Frankly, I'm just not interested in original research, statistical, historical, or otherwise. I recognize that this makes me something of an exception around here, but I read the mainland for the news updates and bizarre minor league stories. I never read any of the original work that has been posted outside of Clutch Hits, and as I admitted last week in the lounge, I honestly had no idea who ran ZiPS until I happened across it in wikipedia. My interest in baseball, for the most part, begins and ends with last night's games.

In other words, I think I have very different priorities in my baseball information intake than you do. And as such, I certainly don't wish any ill upon SABR, I just don't really have any interest in it.
   34. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: June 01, 2010 at 10:10 PM (#3547553)
I'm a member and have been for close to a decade. What benefits do I get?

There's the nat'l convention. I've been to five of those. I won't make it this year, but I think I will go to LA. But there are also regional events; at least in my corner of New England. I've been to various meetings and ballgames with other members. Every six weeks or so, the Connecticut chapter has a Saturday breakfast at some diner.

Also, I've written some bios for BioProject. My relative lack of quantitative skills means I won't ever be MGL or Tom Tango, but I can put my skills to work this way. It hasn't turned me into a latter day Bill James or Rob Neyer yet, but it is a start.

That's just a couple of the things: the camraderie and the opportunity to be creative.
   35. dlf Posted: June 01, 2010 at 10:30 PM (#3547576)
My $0.02. I've been a member since '86 or '87. Beyond the dues, I also contribute to the endowment fund. Why? Well first, when I joined the sources for scholarship about the game were very limited. Second, I like having printed publications if for no other reason than it is easier to read in my private thinking spot - a/k/a on the commode -- than carrying a laptop. Third, getting newsletters from varied committees (business of baseball, statistical analysis, NeL, bios, etc.) is easier than searching the web when I just want something to read rather than look for a specific topic to research. Fourth, I like the organization's support of things like retrosheet. Fifth, I've been to a number of regional meetings and enjoyed the presentations. This year will be my first national convention since the late 80s. I look forward to putting names and faces together with identities I've been reading here for nearly a decade. I don't blame anyone for not joining, but I've recommended membership to a number of folks and have never had someone who joined say it was a mistake.
   36. Chris Dial Posted: June 02, 2010 at 02:23 AM (#3547816)
Thanks, GGC and dlf. To Como's suggestion hearing what members get may spark the interest by touching on what non-members look for.
   37. Tango Posted: June 03, 2010 at 02:17 PM (#3549267)
So there's at least one solid recommendation: different offers of payment.


Chris, there was another one way earlier, and that is have a SABR online-only subscription instead. There seems to be a large enough group of people who don't care about the printed material (they are available as PDF anyway, aren't they?) that SABR can save on the printing and shipping costs (sell themselves as green even) and maybe even cut the fee in half. I used to subscribe to Consumer Reports (printed) for I think 30$-35$ a year, and now I pay (I think) 19$ a year for the online version.

In fact, when it came time to renew the print version, I would always ask myself "should I or shouldn't I?". As a result, I'd let it lapse and then restart at a later date. (Same thing with my past subs to Baseball America, Hockey News, SI, Time, etc.) I don't know how many times I've started/stopped those. But, with CR online, I have never let it lapse, simply because it automatically renews, and I can't be bothered to even remember the renewal date, think about whether I want to renew, or anything like that.

This is a no-brainer for any online outfit.

***

As for other suggestions that can be implemented at little to no cost, and have good benefits: accept PayPal or Amazon payments. PayPal even has a subscription option, so that it automatically renews. I don't know about Amazon.

***

It's not like these ideas are outside the box thinking. They are so inside the box that one wonders why they can't be implemented right away.
   38. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: June 03, 2010 at 04:07 PM (#3549434)
Tango,
thanks. Sometimes, even obvious solutions are overlooked.
   39. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: June 03, 2010 at 08:22 PM (#3549765)
I have shared much of this with the SABR Board and cognoscenti, and certainly these options will get very serious consideration. Thank you very much for the input and insight.
   40. djrelays Posted: June 05, 2010 at 08:29 PM (#3551182)
I was close to joining--as were several colleagues--when I discovered that one of SABR's greatest benefits was also one of its least publicized: subscription to the ProQuest newspaper collection.

When the ProQuest benefit was eliminated shortly after I first discovered it, my interest in membership waned. I have more than enough to read without having more books and journals join the pile that already sits and pouts because I've ignored it so long.

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