It's said that genius is the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts in your mind at the same time. If I've done that, it's likely simple confusion or lack of caffeine. I have however increasingly found myself at an interesting crossroads. Since Arnold Rothstein, gambling has been the third rail of baseball. Add in the complexity of the money line bets and it takes a serious bettor to play baseball much. Of course, the occasional sucker throws money down on games, making sure that Vegas continues to pay the neon bill and keeping Bobby Baldwin's pockets well lined with green.
I get, on average, about 250 emails a day in response to my columns or with questions that deal with injuries. I don't ask who people are or even whether they're BP subscribers, but I know that a number of them are gamblers. Injuries can give people an edge, especially if my analysis is different than the mainstream or if they get the information before it hits the streets. I deal with it by not asking questions. Instead of this being an "ostrich defense", I'm leveling the playing field. Anyone gets access.
There's really only three kinds of people that spend this much time on baseball journalists, front office personnel, and gamblers. The amount of time and its monetary value time really is money force this type of behavior. Some serious fantasy players probably venture into the 'gambler' category despite the normal lack of payoff. As I've said before, we all are looking for something and for those, winning is more important than cash.
I fell into the journalist path, not by any normal career, but by tripping into an underserved niche. However, as I've developed both credibility and readership, I haven't been given any more access. Very early in the UTK process, I started calling people. I had an "in" at the start and continued developing sources and racking up long distance bills. (Seriously, without long distance included cell minutes, there'd be no UTK.) Without sounding more egotistical than I am, I've got four years in on this column, control this space, and have earned some respect.
However, when it comes to baseball teams and more specifically, team media relations personnel, there's little difference between Baseball Prospectus and Bobby Joe's Bravez Blog. There's the notable exception given to MLB.com, but other than that, web sites and writers are either ignored, rejected, or given gift access. As far as I know, there is no web site that's been given season credentials for any team.
This isn't that I think I deserve access by some right. No, it's a privilege, one that writers not only have to earn, but have to keep earning. Then there's idiots in the clubhouse, working for papers that don't have the circulation that BP, Toaster, or Sportsblogs have. They have ink backing them rather than pixels, yet former BBWAA president Drew Olson once said "we all write for the web now," realizing that the Internets have often overtaken the paper as the way people access their local news and sports.
I've made some overtures of starting something like the BBWAA for the web, but those efforts have failed due to both lack of interest and my odd status as lightning rod. Someone like Rich Lederer, a guy with ink in his veins that also understands the web, could do something if he ever decided he really wanted to, but Lederer - one of the breakout writers of the last year in any format - also epitomizes the problem. He's not a writer; he's someone with a day job who also writes. Moreover, he can do his job without access.
The outsider perspective is interesting and challenging. Does someone like Tyler Bleszinski and his SportsBlogs change things? It's possible. His blog has been more "insider" than any other that I've seen. Add in the funding and credibility that his organization is building and his "30 beat writer army" might have the right mix to force change. Maybe. He also has the right mix to get MLB to make their walls against the web stronger.
So the question becomes will this change? Will I be forced to beg for press passes for the next ten years or does baseball want to force me out of the business? The recent launch of MLBlogs tells me that baseball likes the idea of blogs as promotion, but wants some level of control over them as well. What I don't think baseball realizes is that when they force people away from journalism and when there's no chance of a front office position, there's only one option left. We're all blogging in Risberg's shadow.