Monday, March 03, 2008

Baseball Previews: The Bad and the Ugly

As I have explained before, I am an unabashed fan of pre-season baseball magazines. Not because the writing is great, or because they give any great insight. What they are is a sure sign of spring, and an opportunity to review the rosters of each team, which is a daunting task during the off-season.

Unfortunately, the sheer number of them available continues to dwindle. One year, sometime in 1998-2000, I recall having copies of a low-budget one (no color inside at all) with a name I cannot recall, Spring Training, Athlon, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Bill Mazeroski’s, Ultimate Sports, and Street and Smith’s. This year, at least in my market, I can only find four: Lindy’s (this one is a descendent of the aforementioned Ultimate Sports), Beckett, Athlon, and Sporting News (apparently the parent company of S&S has purchased TSN, and so they are now combined under one banner).

While I don’t think I ever read all of them cover to cover, they were nice to have. Of course, time marches on, and the internet has certainly cut into the market for these things. While I love the internet, I do think it’s a shame that print publications are being lost, but that’s just the market at work, and I love the market. The biggest casualty is the beloved Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, which has always been my favorite baseball encyclopedia for general, flip-through-the-pages amusement. Thankfully, we still have the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia as a career register print publication--all is not lost.

While modern technology may be doing its damage to the baseball preview market, I’m sad to report that they may just be doing it to themselves. So far I have read Lindy’s and Beckett. As usual, Lindy’s is filled with silly comments from “scouts”, and an odd fixation with closers, but minus a few errors I noticed, seems to be well-proofed and factually accurate.

The Beckett preview is another matter. Before I criticize it though, I should point out that proofreading and correct grammar/spelling is not exactly my strong suit (the jackass commentator on my OPS post did have a point). However, in fairness to me, I do not write for a living, nor do I charge you to read this blog, nor is it put out in print, where mistakes are permanent.

The Beckett preview is filled with mistakes and poor use of the language. For example, “blurprint” instead of blueprint (pg 22). “Tejada, who averaged 26 HR in each of his four seasons in Baltimore.” (pg 22). “but they are not actively shopping the soon-to-be 29-year-old, but if they got an offer they couldn’t refuse…” (pg 24). And that’s just from the first team preview in the magazine, the Orioles.

That may come across as nitpicking, and to some extent it is…but what is not nitpicking is pointing out the bizarre baseball comments, since it is a baseball magazine after all. For each team, “3 Keys to Win” are listed. What is left unexplained is what the teams are vying to win--the division, the World Series, 81 games? It would seem that the bar for winning is different for the Orioles than it is for the Red Sox. Anyway, these “keys” are often hilarious. For example, for Boston, “Curt Schilling needs to win a minimum of 12 games this year, to justify his salary, and his roster spot.” (pg 26). The obvious question is why 12 games? Why not 11 or 13? Deeper than that though, suppose Schilling wins zero games (which now seems to be a pretty decent bet). That may mean that he did not justify his salary, but is it really a key for the Red Sox to win? He won nine games last year and I seem to recall that Boston won. If Schilling fails to win 12 games, does that mean the Red Sox will not win the Series? A playoff berth? 75 games?

How about “Danks must prove to be a reliable No. 4 starter that accumulates a minimum of 18 quality starts this season.” (pg 30). “DH Travis Hafner needs to start hitting like ‘Travis Hafner’ again.” (pg 34)--that was a serious LOL moment for me. And on it goes. I’ve only drawn on the first four AL teams profiled for material here.

The best comment might be one about the Royals on pg 42: “The results may not take the Royals to the World Series this year, but a lot of things would have to go wrong for this team not to finish at .500.” Yet, they predict that Kansas City will finish fifth in the AL Central.

For pure “We really need a different editor/proofreader” fun, it’s tough to top the comment about the Brewers on pg 110: “they were watchting the playoffs from thier couch.” When I type that in Word, it automatically changes the position of the i and the e in “their”--I had to type it a second time to make the program understand that I wanted it. Maybe that’s all these guys need--a modern word processor.

If you think I’m telling you not to buy this magazine, though, think again. I’m not going to do anything to encourage the further demise of this once-proud genre of baseball commentary. Unfortunately, with this kind of writing, they’re going to need a lot more than my moral support.

1 comment:

  1. I've reviewed all the preview magazines this year, both for regular baseball and fantasy baseball, and the Beckett was clearly the worst of the bunch. It looks like there was only one writer and one editor for the publication - and both were the same person. It also had less text than any of the other publications since it spent so much space on rosters/stats.

    Some of the fantasy magazines that focus on players more than strategies might be interesting to non-fantasy players. There are also some 2007 season preview magazines for specific teams.

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