If you’re reading this, you’re likely a baseball fan. However, being a baseball fan can be a lot of work. There are so many games. There are so many players. How can anyone with a semblance of a life hope to follow it all?
What follows is my attempt to give you a template for how to be a well informed baseball fan this season. With all the information available, how can someone hope to digest so much?
The template I’m offering is for a person in a situation much like my own. I have a 9-5 job. I have a wife and three kids. There are a lot of demands on my time and sometimes baseball is hard to fit into my schedule. However, if you’re in a different life situation, my hope is that you could still discover a few tips and tricks for being a better fan this year.
What follows is how one man chooses to feed his inconvenient obsession.
For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming there are three basic areas where a baseball fan would like to devote time:
1. Catching up on the latest news
2. Coming to a better understanding of the game
3. Actually watching baseball*
*There’s a fourth category that I will touch on later. That fourth category is “spending a crazy amount of time on Baseball Reference.” Baseball Reference is a wonderful tool (don’t forget to use the coupon code BP if you subscribe). If you have any statistical question, Baseball Reference can likely answer it for you. Use it, love it, but we’re trying to be efficient, so don’t get lost in it.
6AM – The Waking Hour
Okay… this is early. I know it’s early. But you have to decide how bad you want this. If I’m able to wake up a little before 6:00, I have roughly an hour and a half to myself before it’s time to take the kids to school. Typically I can be showered, clothed, and with a cup of coffee in my hand by 6:30. I have roughly one hour to use in the morning. How can I best use that time as a baseball fan?
You’re actually in luck because more than likely, Baseball Prospectus has published a lot of its new content for the day. If you have a BP subscription you know how great the content is. Each day you wake up to a number of articles including statistical studies, fantasy news, transaction analysis, and notes from the previous night’s games. You’re probably not going to be able to read everything (you don’t want your kid to have 10 “late arrivals” again this year), but you can easily pick and choose a few things that look interesting to you. If you’re regularly reading the content at Baseball Prospectus you’re going to have a better understanding of the game, and you’ll also keep up on quite a bit of current news. One of my favorite things about the BP content is that it’s not needlessly long.
However, not everyone can afford a subscription to BP. Lucky for you, there are a ton of great sources for baseball content on the web. You’ll waste a ton of time if you’re trying to visit individual websites (let alone remember the sites you want to visit). What you need is a service (a content curator if you will) that pulls all of your favorite baseball content into one place. I use Feedly for this task, but there are a number of other programs that will do the same thing.
What sources might you be interested in collecting like this? Here are some of my favorites.
First, I want to read sites that are going to make me a smarter baseball fan. If you want to have a better understanding of the game, consider subscribing to: Fangraphs, Beyond the Box Score, Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, and Just a Bit Outside.
Second, I want to subscribe to sources that are going to keep me up to date on what’s happening in baseball. You’ll want to subscribe to at least one site that offers a lot of general baseball news. Two of my favorites in this regard are Hardball Talk and Big League Stew. With one of these two sites you won’t miss a piece of news or game recap. MLB Trade Rumors will also give you all of the transactional news (and, well, rumors) you could ever want.
Third, you’ll probably want to find some content for your favorite team. SB Nation, for example, is a network of team specific sites, run by fans, that are well worth following.
Fourth, if you’re really into fantasy baseball you might want to find some fantasy specific content. However, several of the sites I listed above offer that type of content along with what they normally publish.
Now…that’s a lot of content. Typically when I wake up in the morning I have 30-50 baseball related articles that Feedly has collected for me (not including the BP content). What I’m going to tell you next is very important. You will kill yourself trying to read everything. You won’t be able to get to all of it, and you’ll likely forget a lot of what you read anyway. So what should we do with those 30-50 articles each morning?
Typically, several of those articles will be a piece of current news that’s been covered by a handful of those sites. Read one article if you’re interested and immediately trash the rest. There’s a lot to do today. You must be efficient here.
If you find something that interests you, spend your morning reading it. This is supposed to be enjoyable, and you’re about to enter the grind of another work day. If you only read one thing and missed out on thirty other articles, that’s okay. You probably learned something, and you’re already a more knowledgable baseball fan before you sit down at your office.
However, sometimes I’ll run across something in the morning that I want to read but I don’t have time. Either the piece is long or it’s going to require a lot of concentration on my part. This is where another tool might be handy. I use Pocket to save all of the things that I run across that I want to read later (Feedly integrates Pocket really nicely). If Fangraphs produces a long piece that I want to get to I’ll simply save it to Pocket (it’s as easy as clicking one button), and when I have a little more time, all of my saved content will be waiting for me. I don’t have to worry anymore about trying to remember where that article was two days ago that looked interesting.
Fangraphs, BP, and MLB Trade Rumors (I’m sure there are others) also offer weekly recaps of the most important things to read from their sites each week.
Once you’ve read what you can and saved what you wanted for later trash everything else. You’re not going to go back to it…trust me.
But alas it’s time to take the kids to school. This is where your next big decision comes in to play.
8AM – Who’s riding to work with you?
I just dropped my kids off at school, and now it’s time to head to work. How can I best use the time that I have in the car? This is where the podcast is your friend. There are an incredible number of baseball related audio programs that you could spend your commute listening to. I’ll offer some options below, but this is an intensely personal decision for a person to make. When you choose a baseball podcast you’re entering into a relationship. Who do you want to spend the morning with? Who is going to put you in a good mood on the way to the office? If you listen regularly, the hosts of your favorite show will become like a well known friend. Do they make you laugh? Do you enjoy time in their company (this is getting creepy)? Do you agree with the way that they eat a burrito? These are all questions you’re going to have to ask yourself when selecting a podcast.
The obvious choice for many writers/readers of this blog is Effectively Wild (don’t forget to join the Facebook group). This blog wouldn’t be here without Effectively Wild, and almost every weekday morning, I spend time listening to Ben and Sam. You’ll stay up on some current news this way, but more important than that, you’ll understand the game in a deeper (sometimes weirder) way. Haven’t you always wanted to know if a lineup made up entirely of third basemen could beat a team entirely made up of right fielders? Oh…you have? Then this is the podcast for you.
Depending on your specific interests there are a number of routes you could take here. Here’s a sampling of some of the podcasts I currently subscribe to:
Banished to the Pen – the podcast of this very blog. Sometimes we talk baseball. Sometimes we talk pro-wrestling. Sometimes we talk Snowpiercer.
Baseball America – Minor League and College Information
CBS Sports Fantasy Baseball Podcast – this seems pretty self explanatory.
ESPN: Baseball Tonight – if you want a podcast that is going to keep you up to date on the biggest current events and games from the previous night.
ESPN: Fantasy Focus – again… it is what it sounds like.
FanGraphs Baseball – they run several weekly audio shows with knowledgeable/analytically minded hosts. Carson Cistulli has become a favorite of mine.
RotoGraphs The Sleeper and the Bust – another fantasy baseball podcast but with more of an analytics bent. They also will spend time on more specific fantasy setups (AL/NL only, keeper, etc.).
Flags Fly Forever – BP’s fantasy baseball podcast
The JABO Podcast – the podcast of Just a Bit Outside. Typically hosted by C.J. Nitkowski and Rob Neyer
The Jonah Keri Podcast – the baseball podcast of Grantland baseball writer Jonah Keri.
MLB Trade Rumors Podcast – offers a quick summary of transaction news. Also includes interviews and analysis.
The Shift – the podcast of Beyond the Boxscore.
There Is No Off Season – a BP fantasy podcast focusing on keeper/dynasty setups.
Some of these podcasts run weekly. Others produce multiple shows a week. You’re not going to be able to listen to all of it, but when I have some free time I’ll find a show that interests me and listen to it. The podcast is also a great way to keep up on baseball while doing ordinary things (shower, mowing the lawn, cleaning, etc.). Every couple of days go through and delete the shows you didn’t get to. Don’t worry…you’re not going to go back and listen.
Again, what do you want to focus on? What are you interested in? There’s no shortage of baseball podcasts that can highlight a person’s particular interest. Who do you want to spend two and a half to five hours with every week.
9-5 – The Grind
Some people can pursue baseball content at their job while others don’t have that luxury. My guess is that for most people they’re not going to have a ton of undistracted time to read about baseball during their workday. Lucky for you…there’s Twitter!
Whatever you care about in the world of baseball, someone is on Twitter covering it. You can find someone who will update you on breaking news. You can find a team specific beat writer who will keep you up to date on what’s happening with your team. You can follow your favorite baseball writer to see what they’re working on throughout the day. You can enter into the debate over what constitutes a sandwich… (it seems to be a popular question amongst the Twitter baseball crowd).
More than likely you’ll have a few moments during your day where you can open up Twitter and give a quick look. What I offer below is the Twitter handles for some well known analysts, as well as at least one person who covers each team. There’s no shortage of great people who cover baseball on Twitter and I know I left off some great names. Feel free to leave your other suggestions in the comments section.
General Baseball News: Keith Law (@keithlaw), Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal), Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri), Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra), MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors). There are almost an infinite number of people I could put here. If you follow these individuals you’ll at least see any big news that breaks and you’ll probably be introduced to other people worth following on Twitter.
Red Sox: Peter Abraham (@PeteAbe)
Reds: C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent), John Fay (@johnfayman)
Pirates: Rob Biertempfel (@biertempfelTrib)
Mets: Kristie Ackert (@Ackert_NYDN)
Cardinals: Derrick Goold (@dgoold), Jennifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB)
Nationals: James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP), Dan Kolko (@masnKolko)
Phillies: Matt Gelb (@MattGelb), Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki)
Marlins: Clark Spencer (@clarkspencer)
Indians: Joe Reedy (@joereedy)
Tigers: James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl)
Dodgers: Pedro Moura (@pedromoura)
Twins: Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino)
Athletics: Susan Slusser (@susanslusser)
Yankees: Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch)
Orioles: Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli)
Cubs: Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales)
Bluejays: Barry Davis (@SNBarryDavis)
Padres: Corey Brock (@FollowThePadres)
Mariners: Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB)
Angels: Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez)
Astros: Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich)
Braves: Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman)
Royals: Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar)
Brewers: Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy)
Diamondbacks: Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB)
Rays: Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays)
Rockies: Thomas Harding (@harding_at_mlb)
Rangers: Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST)
White Sox: Dan Hayes (@CSNHayes)
Giants: Henry Schulman (@hankschulman)
Again, you might not get to check much baseball news during the day. However, if you follow the right people, a quick glance at Twitter will ensure you haven’t missed anything.
Another way to solve this problem is to download an app that offers push notifications for news (e.g. the MLB App). If there are any big breaking items, you’ll immediately be notified.
12PM – The Lunch Hour
How could you best use your lunch hour? You could spend your time building relationships with people in your office, or you could do what you really want to be doing. You could watch baseball.
This is where a subscription to MLB TV comes in to play. A subscription to MLB TV can be pricey (20% off for BP subscribers), but it is so worth it as you’ll soon see. A subscription to MLB TV lets you watch any and every baseball game this season (those frustrating blackout rules notwithstanding).
However, MLB TV doesn’t just come in handy for watching live games. Once a game is completed you can go back and watch a condensed version of that game. Was there a game on last night that you missed or couldn’t stay up late for? You can now watch that entire game in 15-20 minutes. Basically a condensed game takes all of the dead time out of the broadcast, and as we’ve been reminded ad nauseum this off-season… there’s a lot.
Also, an MLB TV subscription gives you complete access to the MLB At-Bat App. You can listen to any home or away radio broadcast of any MLB game. Don’t feel like watching highlights from last night? Fire up the app and listen to an afternoon game as you eat your tuna sandwich in your car. There’s also real-time pitch-by-pitch graphics, box scores, and other essentials. If you don’t want to pay for MLB TV, you can get the app on its own for $20.
5-8 – Back at Home
Lets be honest…you’ve read, listened to, and watched a lot of baseball today. Go sit down with your family for dinner. Tuck the kids into bed. Drink a glass of wine with your spouse.
But wait a minute. Your favorite team’s game starts at 7PM. Aren’t you going to miss it!?
First of all… there’s 162 games for each team this year. You can miss one. It’s okay.
However, this is also an important time to remember that your DVR is your friend. Record the first hour of your team’s game and start watching later. The beauty of this? You can skip all of the commercials/down time. It’s amazing how quick you can watch a game this way, and aren’t you trying to be a more efficient fan?
9-? – Bedtime
There’s any number of ways that you could use this time.
Open up Pocket and pull up an article you wanted to read this morning but didn’t have time.
Fire up MLB TV and find a game to watch.*
*MLB TV isn’t perfect, but it’s wonderful. I haven’t even scratched the surface of all of its features. Just go subscribe.
Now with so many games available, how can you choose one? Well, if you took our advice and subscribed to Fangraphs, then this morning you got their daily NERD scores (example). These scores rate each upcoming game for the day based on several factors (primarily starting pitcher and team). There were a number of days last year that I looked up the top rated game for the night and turned it on. This helped expose me to a number of teams I might not have watched on my own.
If you don’t want to be so scientific when choosing a game to watch, just pick something you like. Is Kershaw pitching tonight? You’re going to want to watch that. Another feature of MLB TV (desktop specific) is that you can watch four games at a time, or enter specific players into a tracker and you will be alerted when that players is coming to the plate. This is a handy way to track a fantasy team. If you’re not sure of which players to follow, you could start by checking out Michael Baumann’s 2015 All-MLB TV Team.
Well… your day is coming to an end. You’ve had a big day. You were a good spouse. You were a good parent. You worked hard, and you thought a lot about baseball. What else is there?
Well… I’m not a Dodgers fan, but one of the most pleasurable parts of last season was opening the MLB At Bat App a few nights a week and falling asleep to the soothing tones of Vin Scully. There are few things that will be more relaxing for a baseball fan, but know that this season will be his last, so don’t take it for granted.
And don’t forget to set your alarm though. We’re starting again tomorrow bright and early at 6AM.
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