December 2008

John Sickels’ Angels Top Prospect Report Input

John Sickels is one of the leading independent baseball analysts. His self-published books sit on my shelf next to the Baseball America top prospect books.

John is soliciting input for his annual Angels top prospect analysis. Click Here to contribute to John’s research. I’ll post the link to his report once it’s on-line.

UPDATE December 31, 2008 8:30 PM PSTJohn has posted his Top 20 Angels prospects report. The first ten:

  1. Jordan Walden RHP
  2. Trevor Reckling LHP
  3. Hank Conger C
  4. Nick Adenhart RHP
  5. Will Smith LHP
  6. Peter Bourjos OF
  7. Kevin Jepsen RHP
  8. Mark Trumbo 1B
  9. Anthony Ortega RHP
  10. Clay Fuller OF

MLB Network Begins January 1

For those who haven’t seen it, Major League Baseball launches the MLB Network on cable January 1.

The official web site is www.mlbnetwork.com. You can enter your zip code on the home page to determine if the channel is available on your cable or satellite system, and if so what channel.

The first program is at 3:00 PM PST, a live “Hot Stove” program that seems to be their version of the ESPN Sports Center. At 4:00 PM PST, they’ll broadcast surviving footage of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

Looking at the schedule for the first few days, it seems to be mostly rebroadcasts of World Series games, previously aired documentaries and the ubiquitous Hot Stove show.

Once spring training starts, presumably they’ll have much more.

I’d like to see them broaden their horizons.

My immediate concern is that this isn’t “the Baseball Channel.” It’s MLB Network. Which suggests it’s more about promoting Major League Baseball than the national pastime in general.

For example, they could have launched by showing us games from the Dominican winter league. I know those are available because they air on the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes channel. Baseball is being played throughout the Caribbean right now, so why not introduce us to that brand of the game?

This would also be an opportunity to introduce American audiences to Japanese baseball. Certainly there must be some games in the can of Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matzusaka, etc. while they were playing in Japan. Teach us about the Japanese major leagues so we understand the teams, the rivalries, the star players, etc.

It would also be nice if they’d add a Minor League Game of the Week telecast, at a minimum. That would require negotiating broadcast rights with Minor League Baseball, which probably wouldn’t be a big deal but you never know.

Leading off with Larsen’s perfect game will have some nostalgic interest for people like me who love baseball history. But I suspect they’ll quickly lose the younger generation who turn the channel at the sight of anything in black-and-white.

It’s also a little weird choosing January 1 as a kickoff date, since New Year’s Day is traditionally wall-to-wall college football. How many people will abandon the Rose Bowl telecast to watch a 52-year old baseball game? Which will repeat several times after the inaugural broadcast.

I’m looking forward to the channel for no other reason than having some baseball white noise in the house, but given how much time they had to plan for this I’d think they could have come up with some better programming. Right now it has the feeling of a product done on the cheap.

The Future Begins for Kendry Morales

Kendry Morales
Kendry Morales homers in his first professional at-bat on May 21, 2005.

 

Now that the Angels have declared Kendry Morales the heir apparent at first base, I thought you might like to see how it all began.

I was at Rancho Cucamonga the afternoon that the Angels introduced Kendry to the media. I videotaped the press conference and his performance during the game. He homered on the second pitch he saw.

Click Here to watch the press conference.

Click Here to watch his first homer and other game highlights.

You need Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection (cable modem, DSL) to watch.

Trivia Time — Who was the first base coach when Kendry homered? He would have been the first person to congratulate Kendry as he rounded the bases.

Yankees Sign Mark Teixeira; Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn Out of the Picture

It figures … MLB.com reports that the Yankees have reached agreement with Mark Teixeira.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels will never have anything to do with Manny Ramirez either. Sounds like they’ve learned their lesson a bit too late when it comes to dealing with Scott Boras.

And the Orange County Register reports that Tony Reagins says Adam Dunn won’t be an Angel.

Sounds like we’ve swerved back to a youth movement.

Reversal of Fortune

Setting aside for now the debate in my December 21 post about the wisdom of the Mark Teixeira trade, I want to look ahead to the consequences of the Angels’ failure to retain Teixeira via free agency.

The Angels have several directions they can go. One would be to simply bank the savings and go with the farm system in 2009. They can turn over first base to Kendry Morales, find a way to get Brandon Wood into the lineup on a full-time basis, expect more production from Howie Kendrick and Juan Rivera, and hope for the best.

That’s the scenario with the most risk, but might make sense in the long run. Neither Morales or Wood are rookies — they have too many at-bats to qualify — but they’ve never been given the opportunity to play full-time. Tampa Bay showed this year you can field a championship ball club with some young players in the lineup.

If Brandon plays shortstop or third base, that clouds the future for Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins. Izturis, Aybar and Kendrick have suffered frequent injuries in recent years, so infield depth remains important. Figgins used to be the free-floating-agent-of-chaos, playing almost any position on the field, so manager Mike Scioscia can certainly move him around.

The Angels are unlikely to face any significant challenge within their division in 2009, so they can afford to go through some growing pains with Wood and Morales. It might be worth it if, come post-season, they’ve both passed the test and demonstrated they’re legit big leaguers.

But owner Arte Moreno may feel he needs to satisfy his customer base with a “name” player — the main reason for the Teixeira trade — so they’ll likely look at other free agent options and/or pursue a trade.

The so-called “big bats” out there on the free agent market include Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell.

Many on the fan boards have been clamoring for Manny because he’s a “name” but the Angels rightly have been reluctant. Whether or not he’s a clubhouse cancer isn’t the issue. The issue is he turns 37 in May, hasn’t been in the best of health the last two years, and wants a nice fat contract. Oh, and let’s not forget his agent is Scott Boras. Even on his best days, Manny is terrible in left field and really should be a DH — except the Angels anticipate easing Vlad Guerrero into the DH role.

It’s not my money, but I’d have no problem signing Manny to a two-year contract for $30 million. Manny won’t sign for that. And as we saw with Teixeira, if the Angels wait on Scott Boras then they’re going to miss other opportunities.

Dunn and Burrell are second-tier players in comparison to Teixeira/Ramirez. One nice thing is that both have first base experience, Burrell in particular, mostly in the minors. But the “big bat” market isn’t going to settle down until Teixeira signs and defines “big bat” value this winter. He’ll be the top of the scale, and the price for Dunn/Burrell will adjust accordingly.

Either might take playing time away from Rivera or Morales, although Scioscia can juggle the lineup by rotating them through the DH slot. Rivera can also play right field and Morales has a little exposure to the outfield corners, although he’s best suited for first base (and don’t have any delusions that he’ll be much better than Ramirez in the outfield).

If the Angels go the trade route, it will probably mean losing some of their top prospects. Let’s not forget they still need a fifth starting pitcher. Trading for a starter and a bat will pretty much deplete the upper tier of young talent in the system.

Rumors — and let’s be clear, rumors are not facts, they’re just somebody’s speculation or wet dream — have suggested the Angels remain interested in Paul Konerko, inquired about Adrian Gonzalez as part of a Jake Peavy package, and might want Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto. I can’t see Cincinnati giving up a talented and affordable young first baseman in a small market, but you never know.

Losing Teixeira forced the Angels into considering these less palatable scenarios, but that was the risk they took last July.

Some have pointed out that the Angels will reap draft picks galore for having lost Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez and Jon Garland to free agency.

I’m all for draft picks — this is, after all, FutureAngels.com — but let’s not think that five or six draft picks in the first two rounds are going to make any difference in the foreseeable future.

A 2003 study by Baseball America of the 1990-97 drafts attempted to measure the success of draft picks, both by round and by education level. The picks were subjectively ranked as flops (never made it to the majors), coffee (made at least one appearance), fringe, regular, good and star.

For first round draft picks, the results were:

 

First Round Players Flops Coffee Fringe Regular Good Star Regular or Better
College 149 26.8% 25.5% 20.8% 16.1% 6.7% 4.0% 26.8%
High School 145 42.1% 15.2% 15.2% 12.4% 10.3% 4.8% 27.6%
Junior College 6 66.7% 16.7% 16.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Total 301 34.9% 20.3% 18.3% 14.0% 8.3% 4.3% 26.6%

 

This validates what I’ve posted before, that about one-third (34.9%) of first-round draft picks don’t even make it to the major leagues (flops). And only about one-fourth (26.6%) will have a substantive major league career (regular or better).

As you might suspect, the numbers are worse in latter rounds. In Round #2, 52.9% are flops and only 9.4% are regulars or better. In Round #3, 68.2% are flops and only 6.2% are regulars and better.

Under former Scouting Director Donny Rowland and current Scouting Director Eddie Bane and their staffs, the Angels have done a great job of using latter-round picks to find prospects such as Jordan Walden, Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Will Smith and Ryan Chaffee. Their track record with first-round picks is pretty good too — Joe Saunders in 2002, Brandon Wood in 2003, Jered Weaver in 2004 — but even so it still takes a good three to five years at least to get a handle on whether a draft pick will make good on his promise. By then, circumstances at the major league level may have changed entirely.

Trading Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek for Teixeira created a nexus. If they lost Teixeira, it created alternate timelines for the Angels, none of which seem particularly palatable at this point in time. A year from now, the Angels might be world champions, Kendry Morales is the A.L. MVP, Brandon Wood has hit 40 homers and Nick Adenhart is firmly entrenched in the Angels’ rotation. Who knows. But the impression I have right now is that the Angels will be left scrambling to make up for a short-term decision with long-term consequences.

UPDATE December 23, 2008 11:30 AM PSTMike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have closed the door to both of Boras’ clients, Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez. “We’re going to give our kids an opportunity to play,” GM Tony Reagins said.

Six Feet Deep

Mark Teixeira Casey Kotchman
The July 29 trade of Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek for Mark Teixeira gave “instant gratification” fans what they’d long demanded — flushing the future for a feel-good quick fix.

 

When the Angels traded Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek on July 29 to the Atlanta Braves for Mark Teixeira, I posed the question, “Would you trade fifteen years for three months?”

That’s pretty much what they’ve done, as free agent Teixeira seems close to deciding where he’ll cash in his Boras Bucks.

I never pay attention to rumors, but if you want to believe them the consensus has Teixeira going to the Boston Red Sox. The Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and maybe the Yankees are in the hunt along with the Angels.

Even if by some miracle Teixeira signs with Anaheim, it was still a foolish trade.

Here’s what I wrote on July 29:

The switch-hitting Teixeira has been one of the more prolific power hitters in the major leagues during his career. He hit 43 homers in 2005 and 33 in 2006 for Texas. After hitting another 13 for Texas in 2007, he was swapped to the Braves on July 31 for a boatload of prospects.

Teixeira didn’t do the Braves much good, which should be a warning to those who think flushing the farm system for a “name” somehow guarantees a world championship. (Believe me, those people are out there. Read the fan boards.) Not his fault, but individuals don’t win championships. Teams do.

So trading Casey Kotchman, one of the best young hitters in the game, along with bullpen prospect Stephen Marek for Teixeira strikes me as giving in to all those instant gratification people who scream “Win NOW!!!” without thinking about what happens next year and beyond.

Teixeira, 28, is a free agent at season’s end. His agent is Scott Boras. Teixeira didn’t sign an extension with the Braves, his hometown team, so why should we think he’ll sign an extension with the Angels?

If the Angels had been patient, in another few months they could have signed him on the open market. If successful, they could have then traded Kotchman for whatever they could get.

Does Teixeira guarantee a world championship? Of course not. He never won one with the Rangers, and he didn’t win one with the Braves. Again, not his fault, but one player does not make a champion.

Even if the Angels do manage to sign Teixeira to an extension, all they did was acquire him for two months and the post-season. Was it worth Kotchman and Marek? Did swapping Kotchman for Teixeira somehow significantly increase the statistical probability of winning the World Series? Of course not.

The post-season is pretty much a crap shoot. Some among fandom and the press have insisted the Angels could not win the World Series without a second “big bat” to complement Vlad Guerrero, our own version of Boston’s David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Yet the Angels won their seventh in a row tonight against Boston, which is slumping in the A.L. East, and all seven were achieved without that “big bat.” In fact, Boston might not even reach the post-season.

We all know what happened. Boston got their act together, reached the playoffs as a wild card, and eliminated the Angels, who had the best winning percentage in baseball and Teixeira’s “big bat.”

Whoopee.

The Angels dug their own grave, and are about to be buried in it.

Had they kept Kotchman, it’s anyone’s guess what might have happened. Casey left Atlanta in mid-August when his mother fell ill. He returned two weeks later. His AVG/OBP/SLG when he returned (.305/.394/.402) were much better than before he left (.180/.292/.246). We can only speculate how he would have performed had he stayed with the Angels, but had he left to tend to his mother the Angels would have had to rely on Kendry Morales at first base, who’s yet to have an extended audition at the major league level. Casey’s absence in late August wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because the Angels had a comfortable lead in a weak division, and he would have been back for the playoffs.

As I wrote in July, had they kept Casey, they could still chase Teixeira as a free agent and, if he signed, then trade Kotchman if so inclined. Now the Angels have no options. It’s Teixeira or Bust. If they don’t sign Mark, then they’ll have to go with Morales, or trade their young prospects to fill the hole.

Maybe Teixeira will re-sign with the Angels and all will be well. But they still won’t have the option of trading Kotchman, which would have brought them more talent, maybe the fifth starter they need.

And that’s what “instant gratification” cost them.

UPDATE December 21, 2008 6:30 PM PST — MLB.com reports that the Angels have announced this afternoon they’re pulling out of the Teixeira sweepstakes. Given that the Red Sox made the same announcement two days ago, it sounds like the suitors are drawing the line with Boras’ antics. As I wrote above, I predicted we’d wind up at this point back in July when the trade was made. That said, I’m glad the teams are taking a hard-line stance with Boras, especially in this economy.

UPDATE December 21, 2008 7:00 PM PSTBaltimore Sun sportswriter Peter S_chmuck reports that he called Angels media rep Tim Mead and was told that the withdrawal is “final.”

UPDATE December 22, 2008 6:30 AM PSTIn a column titled, “How Do Fans Like Teixeira Trade Now?” Orange County Register sports columnist Mark Whicker echoes my sentiment. “The Angels are at this place today, with a giant chalk circle guarding the first-base line, because they did what you wanted.”

UPDATE December 22, 2008 9:30 PM PSTMike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels will hold a press conference tomorrow and tell all about the failed Teixeira negotiations … MLB.com reports that the Washington Nationals have increased their offer and might even go so far as to give Teixeira everything Boras demanded.

UPDATE December 23, 2008 8:30 AM PST — Normally I don’t care for Los Angeles Times sportswriter T.J. Simers’ snide gimmick — and it is a gimmick — but today’s column drops the gimmick in favor of some true sports journalism. Well worth the read. In summary, he suggests that Angels owner Arte Moreno let his ego get in the way. He made one offer and was miffed that Boras didn’t accept, so now he’s spinning to cover his backside with the fans, according to Simers.

Scraps from Statesville, Part 3

“Where else can you see three good fights and a ball game for 75 cents?” — Statesville Owls fan Herb Lovette.

Interviewing the alumni of the 1961 Statesville Owls, invariably they tell me about two incidents. One was soaking the all-dirt infield with gasoline before the All-Star Game to dry it out after a rainstorm. (It didn’t work.) The other was a brawl against their rivals, the Lexington Indians.

Thanks to the scrapbook sent me by Owls outfielder Jerry Fox, we can now bring back to life that incident.

His scrapbook had two articles both written by Jerry Josey of the Statesville Record & Landmark. One was a report of the game, the other his column called “From the Press Box.”

Click Here to read the article about the doubleheader.

Click Here to read Josey’s column.

You need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the articles.

It was May 31, 1961. Statesville was the class of the league, with the best winning percentage in the first half. Lexington was below .500, although by the end of August the Indians would qualify for the playoffs and eliminate the Owls.

League rules allowed only 18 players on the roster, so with a twinbill on the schedule manager George Wilson had to be judicious in the use of this roster. Just as now, minor league doubleheader games were seven innings each, not nine, although they went into extra innings in case of a tie.

In Game #1, Walter Darton was the starting pitcher. Darton was one of the Angels players on the roster. In that era, Statesville could also sign its own players.

The score was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 7th. Owls outfielder Carl Mutert was called out on strikes by home plate umpire Harry Reeder to send the game into extra innings. Mutert threw his bat in protest and was ejected. Manager George Wilson rushed in from the third base box to argue and was tossed too. Local veteran player Gail Thomas took over as manager, and sent Dana Worster to right field to replace Mutert.

Josey wrote that “Statesville partisans were up in arms.”

In the top of the 8th, Lexington infielder Bill Barr was ruled safe at first on a close play by infield umpire Alex Zouncourides. The fans were so irate, Zouncourides called time and instructed police officers to order the fans in the first base bleachers to sit down.

Darton’s first pitch to the next batter, Bob Gaiser, was up and in. Gaiser charged the mound with his bat and both benches emptied. “Several solid punches were thrown in the melee before umpires and police officers succeeded in separating the combatants,” Josey wrote.

Just as order was restored, “a fan from the third base bleacher section moved onto the field and cut loose a right at Zouncourides,” Josey wrote. “Officers quickly took Harwell in tow and warded off further incident.” The umpires later went to police headquarters and signed a complaint, leading to assault charges against Harwell.

In the pileup, Darton somehow fell back on the mound and jammed his elbow. He couldn’t continue, so Thomas brought in Worster from right field to pitch. But given the small Statesville roster, Darton couldn’t leave the game, and went to right field.

Statesville went on to score in the bottom of the 8th to win Game #1, 4-3.

Lexington won Game #2, 8-4.

Owls’ manager Wilson, a North Carolinian, apparently felt it necessary to apologize to the fans for his language after the ejection. (Somehow I can’t imagine Billy Martin or Earl Weaver doing that …) Josey wrote:

Wilson, after the game, asked that an apology by relayed to “the fans for the language I used there at the bench” when he was tossed from the game in the opener. “I’m sorry and I just lost my head,” the Owls’ skipper said.

Then Wilson had his say on umpiring. “The umpires in this league are ridiculous. (Game #2 starter George) Conrad threw one boy six strikes and he walked him. (Catcher Bill) Maupin said he would swear that the balls were within six inches all the time. If something isn’t done about the umpiring in this league, it’s going to fold.”.

The players I’ve interviewed have told me that Darton’s career ended after the injury, although I’ve found one box score where he pitched (poorly) in relief. At the time, Darton was 5-1 with a 2.12 ERA. In 51 innings, he had 62 strikeouts and only 19 walks, having given up just 35 hits. They’ve all said Darton was a very talented pitcher.

I may have located Darton. I sent him a letter in the mail a couple days ago. If I hear from him, I’ll let you know.

Scraps from Statesville, Part 2

1961 Statesville Owls
Angels farm and scouting director Roland Hemond watches the 1961 Statesville Owls practice just before Opening Day. Photo courtesy Statesville Record & Landmark.

 

As previously mentioned, I received in the mail last week a scrap book kept in 1961 by Jerry Fox, an outfielder for the Statesville Owls. Statesville was the Angels’ Class D affiliate in the Western Carolina League, one of only two minor league teams the Angels had their first year.

Roland Hemond, now an executive with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was hired in January 1961 as the Angels’ first farm and scouting director. He had three months to put together both a minor league system and a scouting department.

The Angels wound up in Statesville, North Carolina. The ballpark, Senior High Stadium (it was located at the high school), was primitive by today’s standards. The infield was all dirt, and the stands were built of wood.

I’ve located many of the surviving 1961 Owls, and have leads on a couple more.

Anyway, I’m going to digitize as much as I can of Jerry’s scrap book, and will try to put the best stuff online for you to read.

Click Here to read an April 21 article in the Statesville Record & Landmark about Roland’s visit to Statesville just before the season began. The photo at the top of this column is taken from the article.

To reassemble the article, I scanned its pieces from the scrap book, brought them into Photoshop, then converted them to an Acrobat .PDF file. Seems to have worked out well enough.

You’ll need the free Acrobat Reader to look at these .PDF files. You probably have it installed on your computer already, but if you don’t Click Here to download Acrobat Reader for free.

The next article I’m going to reassemble is about a major brawl that occurred late in the season during a doubleheader against rival Lexington.

The Orem Owlz, the Angels’ affiliate today in the Rookie-A Pioneer League, unofficially “adopted” the Statesville Owls as their ancestor. They sell Statesville Owls merchandise in the stadium gift shop and online at www.oremowlz.com.

It occurred to me that yet another aspect both teams share is that both their managers were also Angels scouts.

Most of you know that Orem manager Tom Kotchman scouts in Florida when not managing during the summer. The Statesville newspaper articles not that Owls manager George Wilson, a local recommended by owner Fleete McCurdy, was also paid by the Angels to scout the league. At season’s end, the Angels signed about six players out of the league, although none of them made it to the majors. (Ed Thomas made it to Triple-A.)

More to come. Enjoy.

Scraps from Statesville, Part 1

1961 Statesville Owls
Click the photo to see at full size.

The 1961 Statesville Owls, by name:
Bottom Row: Vito Porta, Dick Simpson, Manager George Wilson, Jack Hiatt, George Bryson, Peter Curtis, John Isaac
Middle Row: Batboy Wayne Galliher, Dana Wooster, Jerry Fox, Dave Best, Glade Cookus, Wayne Young, Gail Thomas, Paul Mosley
Top Row: Alan Flitcraft, Bob Johnson, Carl Mutert, Robert Lucas, Dick Wantz, George Conrad

 

The 1961 Statesville Owls were one of only two minor league teams the Angels had in their inaugural season. Last week I received a scrap book from Jerry Fox, one of the Owls’ independent players, with all sorts of memories from that year.

Jerry included a sheet naming each one of the players in the above photo. Jerry is in the middle row, third from the left.

Three of these players went to the major leagues with the Angels — Dick Simpson, Jack Hiatt and Dick Wantz. Gail AKA Ed Thomas made it as far as Triple-A with the Angels and attended major league spring training in 1964.

The above photo copy came in e-mail a few weeks ago from Paul Mosley. Jerry’s copy is in the scrap book. He had his teammates sign the back, along with their home towns. Here’s what it looks like; to see it full-size, click on the image:

 

Click on the image to see it at its full size.

 

I’ll post more scans from Jerry’s scrap book as time permits.

Much Ado About Something

Angels online fandom is ablaze about comments published by Orange County Register sports columnist Jeff Miller. In summary, Miller suggested that the reason Angels fans aren’t sobbing over the departure of Francisco Rodriguez is that these fans might be racists.

Click Here to read the article.

You can read all the fan comments at the bottom of the article to get a sense of the near-unanimous reaction.

Jeff Miller is a longtime sportswriter for the Register. He’s better than this. The column is very much out of character for him.

Which suggests there was a reason for this inflammatory column.

I’ve mentioned before that I dabble in local politics. I’ve developed many ongoing relationships with reporters at all the local papers.

A few months ago, I was told by a Register scribe that management had implemented a new performance measurement for columnists. Because newspapers are struggling with the transition from print to online journalism, it had been decided that the number of comments posted online to a writer’s article would be a performance measurement.

As you might imagine, the Register writers rebelled against this. Posted comments have nothing to do with the quality of the article’s content.

I bet I could generate plenty of replies to this article if I wrote a screed demanding that all puppies be drowned. That doesn’t mean the article was particularly intelligent or well-researched.

It’s the same logic used by certain fan sites who claim they’re “popular” because of all the posts by clueless foulmouths with nothing better to do than have an online temper tantrum.

The performance measurement also suggests that Register management somehow tied the number of posted comments to advertising rates. Newspapers sell subscriptions, but make much of their money by selling ads. Advertising revenue has dropped catastrophically in recent years due to the Internet, so figuring out a way to capture ad revenue online is difficult. It appears that Register management may have decided to use the comment count.

“We’ll charge more to advertise on Jeff Miller’s page because he gets a lot of comments!” the logic may have been. “That means a lot of people read him!”

I mentioned yesterday that the FutureAngels.com Blog is the #4 highest-read fan blog on MLB.com. I was stunned because I don’t see a lot of comments posted. I don’t particularly care, because I’m not writing just to generate comments. I write because I have something to say — which is the reason why most writers write. But it clearly showed that the number of comments doesn’t translate into number of hits or unique visitors per day.

(A “hit” means someone came to the page. A “unique visitor” means a person visited in a day. If you come to this site ten times today, you generated ten hits but you’re only one unique visitor.)

And most readers are probably ignoring ads anyway. You probably visit sites that have plenty of ads. Many fan sites are littered with them. You ignore the ads and read only the content that interests you, right? These advertisers pay in several ways. One is “impressions,” meaning they simply pay a flat fee (which is usually close to nothing) for placing their ad on a page. Another method is a “click-through,” meaning someone actually clicked on the ad and went to read more about the product. These pay more because they actually generated a potential customer, but again they pay very little because few people ever actually click on an ad.

This is one reason why the FutureAngels.com web site doesn’t have ads. I tried it a long time ago. I wound up with a lot of ads but no click-throughs. (Clicks-through?!) I finally decided I didn’t want to litter the site with ads, and chose to go the NPR route — make a donation if you like what you see, and help to keep it alive.

But the Register is a commerical enterprise, which is a different business model.

Most newspapers put their content online for free. So why pay for a subscription? I stopped subscribing to the Register long ago. But I still read their articles online.

The Baseball America model, which I think is the most logical one, is that if you subscribe to the magazine then you get both the printed edition and access to online articles. If you don’t subscribe, some articles are free but many are not.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Little Rock newspaper that covers our Arkansas Travelers, shows you the first couple paragraphs but you need to have an online subscription to read the entire article.

If the Register went to one of these models, it might be annoying for those of us who are used to reading online for free, but it might also take the pressure off their writers to write inflammatory columns just to generate posted comments. Writers could return to writing intelligent discourse instead of trying to start flame wars.

So hopefully this adds some perspective for Jeff’s column. I don’t agree with the content. But I suspect the motive behind the article was a little rebellion against the performance measurement.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.