UCB Roundtable Response: Internet impact on baseball

by on March 8, 2010 · 0 comments

[Ed. note: Once or twice throughout the season, the United Cardinal Bloggers undertake a roundtable discussion via e-mail that involves and answers various questions from the bloggers taking part over the course of a few weeks. We’ve spent most of our writing time answering those questions and taking part in those discussions (gladly, I might add), so figured they are fair game to post here – not to mention trying to gain a little exposure for both the project as well as some other blogs you all should be reading.]

Matthew Leach of MLB.com and Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer asks:

How has the Internet changed the way you follow the Cardinals and baseball? More specifically, and more immediately, what about social media? Twitter in particular has drastically altered the way those of us who cover the team do our jobs. What has it meant to fans, for better or worse? Where do you think it’s all going? What excites you, and what concerns you?

As someone who follows Cardinal games via MLB.tv, the internet is obviously instrumental to my day-to-day fan involvement with the team and MLB. In fact, Pitchers Hit Eighth was born in May 2008 of my desire to reacquaint myself with the team after moving out of the FSMW broadcast area during the 2006 season. I wanted to commit myself to paying closer attention to the team, feeding my love of the game and the hometown franchise, and thought writing down what I thought would be a good way to be certain I was making time to follow the club.

Social media has clearly had an impact on how information is distributed, but also on what information is distributed. While the amount of writing and information presented on the internet about baseball and the Cardinals has always been fairly plentiful, the onslaught of social media and social sharing has brought much more of that information to the forefront. Follow someone on Twitter who manages to find an article that you otherwise wouldn’t have, they tweet the link, and you’re able to click and read that piece yourself.

Twitter and Facebook and the like have certainly changed the way us “casual” fans receive our information from the beat writers and insiders, but I don’t think it’s as simple as just saying “Twitter brought this all about.” After all, what good would Twitter be without users? What purpose would Twitter serve if no one chose to use it? I think the true change and improvement in information delivery has been the willing adoption of it by those writers and others who use it. Matthew, if you decided that you didn’t have time for Twitter, or weren’t interested in taking the time – the medium is really irrelevant. Furthermore, if MLBAM or the editors at the Post-Dispatch were to decide that having the newest tidbits or news on their websites was more important than being on Matthew Leach’s, or Derrick Goold’s, or Joe Strauss’ Twitter feeds, then just having Twitter is kind of pointless. As papers continue to fail and website business models continue to change, I find it commendable that the respective higher-ups understand the value of direct communication with their customers. The adoption of the medium has been key to the explosion in a new kind of interaction between fans and insiders. And, dare I say – and Matthew may be able to answer this directly – the medium has probably been just as motivating and inspirational for the writers. The direct communications with fans asking varied questions and curious about wide-ranging topics has an obvious potential to create further writing opportunities and research projects for the scribes.

Where social media’s role in the game of baseball going is morphing on a daily basis. As players continue to get involved and blur the lines between on the field and in the stands, as writers continue to be immediately accessible to the fan on his couch, or the blogger in his basement, or even other writers and assorted colleagues, the information the rest of us are fortunate to receive will continue to evolve. I’m excited to see the next wave. Could there be an agreement between MLB and Twitter or some entity using Twitter that provides for real-time updates from ballparks? Could Twitter and their coders hold the key to the next development? Twitter already has a pretty robust search API – perhaps the next step for that is to allow users to set TweetAlerts that will bring a message up in a user’s timeline if it contains a certain search term, even if said user is not following the sender? Or a push notification that will allow a user to receive a Tweet containing certain terms, or from a certain user, immediately – instead of having to be actively viewing your Twitter account at the time a message is sent to view it?

All of the boundless possibilities that exist merely in improving the code and capability of Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc. are exciting in themselves. It’s also pretty safe to say that there really isn’t a handbook for how to use Twitter, or any other social media avenue. As folks continue to take advantage of the robust features already available, or third party add-ons continue to pop up, it seems the potential for information to continue to be more accurate and more immediate is uncapped.

What scares me is that social media in many ways is still similar and bound by the traditional media pursuits. Everyone wants to break a story, but now instead of breaking a story in the morning paper – after editors have reviewed it and additional sources can be found to confirm or deny – folks are trying to be the first to break news on Twitter. For instance, how many contract extensions has Joe Mauer signed now, according to various folks on Twitter. And the inherent viral nature of social media means that as soon as one even remotely reputable source posts news, it gets retweeted and passed around the various sites like wildfire. One Twitter user picks up a Tweet on their feed, retweets it – but then also copies and pastes to Facebook, MySpace, their blog, a group e-mail listserv, and any other number of social media outlets they use.

We are certainly living in exciting and high-tech times and continue to go down a path that will bring us the next great thing – like Hit F/X and Field F/X and the next great sabermetric stat – just around the next corner. It’s all accessible at the click of a button and every day is seemingly the new highest level of access available to the common fan.

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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