The Internet is a wonderful thing.
Information of all varieties can be sent by anyone to anyone — all with the click of a button. As a democratizing force, the Internet is unparalleled. The publishing of media is no longer restricted to the wealthy, elite or even news organizations. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection — or even simply a cell phone — can share his or her thoughts with the world at no cost and with almost no technical skills.
In the baseball world, wonderful sites like Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times, to name but a few, have given countless fans a greater understanding of the game with free — or very cheap — access to in-depth analysis and statistics. And blogs, Twitter and social media sites provide a venue for discussion and debate among fans — and even players have joined in. There has never been a better time to be a baseball fan, with information so ubiquitous and accessible.
But the Web, for all its merits, has a nasty vice. Because publishing is now instantaneous and available to everyone, knee-jerk and sensational reactions are all too common, as is the undying thirst to be first. Look no further than the typical blog’s comments section, or the typical blog itself. And news organizations aren’t exempt — they’re often driving sensationalism forward, looking to be first with a hot headline or scurrilous scoop. And something important often gets left behind.
On Friday, Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll asked:
Do we have to have everything right now, or would we be better served to step back, take a breath, watch an episode of Dollhouse, and then write? I think so. I’m not going to be first on some stories and I’m going to stay away from the rumor mills. I’m just going to try to be the best at what I do … on my pace.
That’s a sentiment with which I could not more whole-heartedly agree. Sure, there’s value in publishing new information as quickly as possible — but is the value of speed worth the loss of critical thought, reflection and context?
Glenn Stout wrote in 2007:
A measure of creative freedom exists both online and in larger formats such as books that is rapidly disappearing in newspapers and magazines.
But on the Web, that creative freedom all too often goes unexercised. Information about baseball flows freely, but great storytelling — great writing, even — is harder to find amid all the noise. Baseball is known for its literary tradition, but that ethos — championed by greats like Roger Angell and Red Smith — has yet to truly manifest on the Web.
The Baseball Chronicle aims to help fill that void. Web publishing need not be dominated by its potential velocity. There’s a place for the latest headlines and data, but there’s also a place for the carefully-crafted narrative and thought-provoking essay — and this is such a place. Statistics are deeply entrenched in the game, as they should be, but stories are just as much a part of baseball, and have just as much tradition, as numbers.
And so, I welcome you to The Baseball Chronicle, an online magazine of baseball storytelling. Every month will have a theme, and during that month the Chronicle will publish stories, essays and more based on the chosen theme. At the Chronicle, we think the narrative — of a moment, a game, a season — is a thing to be celebrated, and we hope you do too.
—April 4, 2009