If this is too much inside baseball, I apologize, but I am too devastated and outraged to write anything else at the moment. Major League Baseball, which can’t kill steroids, has killed the Red Book and the Green Book.
Baseball officials would say the books died of atrophy. No one was using them any more. But I used them, often on a daily basis. They sit on a shelf an arm’s length away from my desk. I can get them that quickly when I need information from them . . .
. . . What are the Red Book and Green Book? They are league reference guides for club executives and the news media, Red for the American League, Green for the National. They have more information than we need to know, but they have what we need when we need it.
Each book has five pages on every team, each team’s won-lost record and place in the standings for every year of its existence, each team’s managers for every year of its existence, all sorts of hitting and pitching statistical lists, year-by-year list of 20-game winners, club leaders each year in hitting and pitching categories, teams’ top marks since their beginning, individual league champions, award winners, comprehensive statistics from the previous season, the previous year’s player transactions, relevant rules and that season’s schedule.
The release announcing this development is shrewdly written. It doesn’t say the books won’t exist any more – that would be negative – but it says the books will be available exclusively online for the first time, as if that’s a good thing.
It would be easy to make fun of Chass as an out-of-touch old coot — and I may do that when he holds forth on another subject — but it wouldn’t be fair to do that here.
No, there is nothing in any book that outclasses Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet, and any number of other online resources, and I will always, always, always, go to those resources first because I’m an online guy in an online age. But that doesn’t mean that the books Chass refers to — or any other book, really — don’t have their value. This is not some nostalgic point on my part. I don’t fetishize the look, feel, smell, and culture of books like so many people seem to (see, every critical article about the Kindle). I simply believe that my brain works differently when I’m browsing books than when I’m using online resources, and because of that, book browsing almost always complements what I’m doing online.
My primary experience with this is in the legal world. The online legal research services LEXIS and Westlaw are great, I use them all the time, and I’m not sure what I’d do if they weren’t around. That said, rare is the case when I don’t spend at least a little time in a legal book. Why? Because while LEXIS can grab a case quickly and efficiently when I need something that says “x, y, z” is the law, any case of any complexity is going to present issues and be amenable to arguments that fall outside of that which is said in an on-point case. The books, by virtue of their organization, allow you to browse related subjects more easily and that in turn helps you make connections and analogies you might not otherwise have thought of. If I had to give up one or the other I’d give up the books in a heartbeat, but I always feel like I’m missing a little something if I don’t make it to the library, even if only for a few brief minutes. For what it’s worth, LEXIS and Westlaw have tacitly acknowledged this inasmuch as they are continually refining their products in order to better replicate the book-browsing experience. They’ve gotten pretty good at it too, but it’s still not the same.
I suppose this is less relevant when it comes to baseball research tools. I mean really, it’s not often that you’re truly flailing with baseball like you can with the law. But there is a certain value in flipping through pages that will never truly go away, and in light of that, I have a bit of sympathy for Chass in this instance.
(link via BTF)