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.