Too Much Bacon

I’m going to be totally honest. I don’t have anything to say about the Mets right now. They haven’t done anything this off-season, so seven weeks into the winter, nothing has changed from seven weeks ago. I don’t have anything to say about the nothing that’s happened over those seven weeks, and I think this is a reasonable position.

That said, there’s another reason I don’t have anything to say right now: I think there’s too much being said about the nothing going on with the Mets already. I don’t want to contribute to the noise just for the sake of contributing to the noise.

See, here’s the deal: I’m starting to find Twitter and the blogosphere more useless than useful when it comes to baseball rumors. I think we’re coming to a tipping point, if we haven’t reached it already, in baseball coverage. There’s such a competition for pageviews and clicks that – and I don’t want to say people are making stuff up, because I don’t think that’s entirely true – there’s such a competition for pageviews and clicks that just about everything and anything is being reported and stretched out into a something-resembling-a-story, and then picked up and passed along by blogs, this one included at times. And it’s getting absurd. It’s not hard to imagine that every “story” now begins with an intrepid reporter asking a High-Ranking Person With Knowledge of a Team’s Thinking if they would consider doing X, to which High-Ranking Person With Knowledge of Team’s Thinking replies, “Sure, it’s possible. It’s also possible I’m Banksy on the weekends.”

Then we see a story a few hours later: “Mets considering Player X; Is John Rico actually Banksy?” The next morning, thirty blog posts appear, analyzing the possibility of the possibility of Player X joining the Mets. And someone writes a 3,000 word post on how John Rico and Banksy haven’t ever been photographed together.

I don’t know if that’s actually how it works . . . but I’m having trouble coming up with scenarios where that’s not how it actually works. Offhanded comments are being stretched out into stories. The fact is, that’s the way the internet is now, and the goal isn’t to make the best stuff possible; the goal is to get the most people through the gates. And you get more people through the gates by writing headlines that say “Mets considering Player X” and an article full of qualifying statements, instead of writing that nothing is happening or just writing nothing at all. Even if everyone recognizes instantly how insane a particular story is, more people will click on an insane story than will click on nothing. And if clicks are gold, then that’s the way it’s going to work.

Maybe I’m alone on this — or maybe I’m just channeling my inner Andy Rooney — but I find this very tiresome. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Hot Stove, at least in theory. I like crazy trade rumors. I love it when the mystery team enters the bidding. I love tracking the stories when a player on the trading block. But now it’s just gotten to the point where . . . look, bacon is great. And bacon bits are great. But there’s a reason you don’t put bacon bits on bacon. It’s just too much. It’s too much bacon. I think that’s what the Hot Stove has become: People throwing bacon bits on bacon, while someone is frying up more bacon. There’s so much bacon on our Hot Stove that I don’t enjoy bacon anymore.

I could end this here, I guess. But I feel compelled as a pseudo-columnist to not simply present this as a problem and then leave it at that. “Hey, that’s a ton of bacon. Let’s go do something else.” I feel that I should at least present a solution, even if it’s a poorly thought-out one. So the question is: Is there a better way for fans, reporters, and bloggers to pass along information during the hot stove season? (So we no longer see pieces with headlines that read “Prince Fielder considering playing in Italy?” after Prince Fielder jokingly, clearly jokingly and in passing, mentions that he might play for Italy.)

I think there is an answer to this question. Let’s detour through the land of make believe: Imagine there’s a bookstore where all the books are, for whatever reason, free. A free bookstore — and any aspiring author can get their book on the shelves, regardless of the quality of the book, also for free. But if someone reads the authors book, they get a dollar. So now the first week you go in, maybe there are 100 books on the shelves. Some are good, some are bad, but it’s not hard to find something you might like to read — a quality book – because there are only 100 books to choose from. You could conceivable sort through everything in 20 minutes and find the good stuff.

Then the second week you go in, and suddenly there are a 1000 books on the shelves – now it’s a little bit harder to sift through all the books, but you can still find a couple of things you like, if you have the time. It’s harder, because there are so many books, but it’s not impossible.

The third week you go in and now there are 10,000 books on the shelves. All the books are still free, but it’s almost impossible to find what you’re looking for, because there are so many books and they’re in no discernible order. Single authors flood the shelves with hundreds of books, regardless of quality, because the more books they have, the better the chances are that someone picks one up and nets them a dollar. It’s frustrating, and it’s almost impossible as a reader to sift through the pages upon pages on nonsense because there are so many pages of nonsense.

But then you see over at the counter another section of books. These books aren’t free – they cost $10, let’s say. But they’re better. They’ve been selected by the staff. They’re good books – or, at least they’re books good enough that people are willing to pay money to read them. And it saves you the time of having to find good books yourself.

Maybe you’re not willing to pay the $10 for a quality book yet, when you can still find one, with some effort, for free on the shelf. But when there are 100,000 books to choose from? Or a million books to choose from? At some point, it’s going to be worth the 10 bucks.

I think this was pretty transparent. The internet, and baseball coverage in general, is somewhere in between the bookstore in week two (when there are 1000 books) and the bookstore in week three (when there are 10,000 books). Just about everything is still free, but it’s getting harder and harder to sift through the nonsense and find the good stuff because of the sheer quantity. At some point, it’s going to be worth the $10 to pay someone to sift through the nonsense for you.

There you go. That’s my solution: Pay for stuff. If we pay for stuff on the internet, it’ll be better. And I think we’re going to have to, because eventually there’s going to be so much nonsense, so many voices talking all at once – if we’re not at that point already — that people will be willing to pay someone to sift through it for them. Eventually we’re all going to pay $25-30 bucks a month to subscribe to the five or six websites we really like, to ensure that they’re not flooded with crap. It’ll happen naturally, and slowly, but it’ll happen.

I don’t think we’re at that point yet, though I personally might be. But I think we’re close.

Until then, though, I’ll be keeping my distance from the Hot Stove. No more Prince Fielder in a Chef Boyardee hat, no more Marlins media storms, no more Reyes rumors, no more Team X possibly considering the possibility of considering Player Y. I’ve had enough bacon for a while.

15 Comments

Filed under Columns, Words

15 responses to “Too Much Bacon

  1. yea, i realized today that Metsblog has become nothing but grand central click station for Mets related nonsensical links. I think I’m done for the winter… now if only the Rangers could play everyday, with no Knicks, no ‘good’ football in NY and no hot stove stuff its not much of a sports winter. Less bacon, more new hobbies?

    • Patrick Flood

      I’m attempting different outlets for my basketball needs to get me through winter. I’ve watched three St. John’s games so far — fun team — and I’m going to Bridgeport tonight to see a lockout game between NBA stars and scrubs. This is my attempt. I don’t know if it’s working. Maybe a new hobby, as you suggest.

  2. Fair point, but your solution doesn’t work. Those ‘books behind the counter’ will not be put there because they’re the best books, they’ll be put there because the author offered the book store 1% of the profits to say it’s the best book.

    Or less so the author, but the company that pays the author to write. The companies right now are the newspapers/ESPN. The authors behind the counter are the beat writer types. But as we’re learning, just because Adam Rubin analyzes something one way, doesn’t make it a better cut of bacon.

    I prefer a quantity approach. If someone tweets/links/writes something, and I don’t immediately recognize the topic, or the author, as something I’ve enjoyed in the past, I skip it. If i see other people start to refer to the same piece, particularly people I trust to like the same sort of stuff I do, then I click it and read it.

    • Yeah I’ve been trying to think this over. While I agree with Patrick that it seems the everyone-clamoring-for-pageviews model can’t sustain itself, I’m not sure what it is we’d pay for, and I don’t know if the stuff I’d be willing to pay for is necessarily the same stuff people at large would ever be willing to pay for. Are you paying to have the rumors be better substantiated? Or are you paying for the content to be better sourced/crafted/considered?

      I think the screwed-up part might be that people want the nonsense and don’t really care if it’s not attached to anything. I happily shelled out 99 cents for Emma Span’s Kindle Singles piece on Jose Reyes earlier this year, and found it well worth my investment. But I don’t think that’s the type of thing that’s appealing to the people pouring over the Fielder-to-Parma rumors.

    • Patrick Flood

      Ceetar, I see what you’re saying — I’m on the run the rest of the day, but I would to come up with a response than this.

  3. Well if nothing else you’ve succeeded in making me crave bacon and realize that I won’t be able to afford to read in the future.

    But seriously I’m inclined to agree with Ceetar if I’m understanding him correctly, especially his last paragraph, so I won’t repeat him here I’ll just say “what he said.”

    • srt

      Have to agree as well.

      I don’t know that having to pay a fee is going to ensure quality. Besides, if I had to pay for most of it I personally wouldn’t bother. Half the enjoyment for me is getting to read a variety of opinions, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I had to pay.

      For me – and maybe for some others – it’s called discipline. Just pick the handful of sources you deem creditable and stick to that. No one is putting a gun to any of our heads to read every tidbit on the Hot Stove rumors we might be interested in.

      • Patrick Flood

        Well, no, the fee doesn’t ensure quality. The idea is . . . let’s say you could subscribe to a website that had five or 10 of your favorite Mets bloggers in one place. All good bloggers, producing good stuff. And it costs three bucks a month. Would you be willing to pay that? Three bucks a month for my 10 favorite. I think I’d do that.

      • Patrick Flood

        Actually, let me put it this way: It sounds like a lot of people disagree with me. They’re not willing to pay for stuff.

        My question is, is there a point where you would be willing to pay? Because there isn’t progressively less content on the web — there’s progressively more. And it’s going to keep growing, and IMO, that doesn’t lead to better quality. It just leads to more stuff.

        So is there a point where there’s so much stuff in general that you’d be willing to pay for just the good stuff? Or is just the internet is free, and that’s something that just won’t change.

  4. good article. I’ve been sick of the Hot Stove for a couple years now, with “experts” reporting a “story” and then the next day saying that the team “changed” its mind, when its clear that either the story was prob never true.
    But your idea with paying for websites has already started happening. Some papers like Newsday and the Wall Street Journal have put their content behind a firewall, and the NYTimes has started some firewalling also. People can’t give away content for free for ever

  5. mmmmm….Bacon…bacon bits on BACON! What a ingenious idea! I didn’t know you could even do that! I know what I’ve having for dinner!

    seriously, I can’t see myself paying for any information on the web, even if it’s “supposed” to be better quality.

    Newsday made you pay to read and I knew that they are mostly garbage so why bother.

    ESPN (and I think others) try to get you to subscribe to their “insiders club” BS…why? with the Internet and the 15 different ESPN stations I get at home…is paying a subscriber fee going to teach me anything I don’t know? Even if they break a story first (which isn’t very likely) everyone else will have it seconds after anyways.

    Are your average Blogers gonna charge? No, your large media outlets are gonna try, but your large outlets don’t give you any better information. I find much better analysis and insight from blogers than I do from the Adam Rubin’s in the world. Besides, most beat writers and columnists are nothing more than blogers with better press passes anyways.

    I know what each Met’s site has to offer…some are cynical and some optimistic, some are analytical some are bar fights over the internet. I know who’s good and who’d bad. I check a Sports Spyder website (like sportspyder.com) and get what the story trend is and then judge what’s garbage or not.

  6. There are plenty of great sites out there. You shouldn’t have to pay for David Lennon’s or Buster Olney’s analysis. There are plenty of quality sports blogs that I can go, to without paying money, and get great analysis. These outlets who make the reader pay are just trying to prove with their subscriptions that they’re better than everyone else, which they absolutely are not.

    Whenever I start up my computer and go online, I start out checking Twitter, my blog, this blog, Ted Berg’s blog, MetsBlog, MetsMerized,Optimistic Mets Fan, and a few other blogs. Maybe this is just because I’m so pro-blogging, but I don’t need to check all of these newspapers’ sites, who by the way, are all saying the same stuff, to get quality writing. There is just no point in people paying to hear analysis they can hear for free at so many other places.

    Yes, there may be some garbage websites who claim to know every “source,” but you just have to know who to trust.

  7. I think pay is a possibility of working in the future, but the simple solution for now is to be more picky about where we click.

    I was just inspired to go customize my sportsspyder feed, but unfortunately I was not given the option to block out Mack Ade (for example). That’s one way I’d be a happier consumer of Mets news and commentary.

  8. Update: I clicked on customize independent sources, and the list of blogs came up. I’m going to get busy and uncheck all the writers that make me want to scream.

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