Where We’re At

It’s a good time of the year to say thank you. Thank you for supporting us, reading our articles, giving us feedback, perusing our stats, linking to us, buying our Annual, etc. This gig would be no fun without you, that’s for sure. It seems as though we’re providing something some of you folks appreciate. That was the goal.

In 2006, our traffic grew 50% over 2005 and the quality of our articles continued to be outstanding (if I do say so myself). So many of you linked to THT’s articles that striketwo usually lists THT as the first- or second-most “influential” blog, along with Internet luminaries (and friends) Baseball Musings and Deadspin.

In fact, you managed to raise our profile to the point that we’re now listed in the Wikipedia sabermetrics entry as one of three “Sabermetric Groups” (along with Baseball Prospectus and SABR itself—pretty heady company).

My “Ten Things” column received some attention, including a mention by Sports Illustrated. And we were slyly referenced in that sabermetric episode of NUMB3RS in which a baseball geek develops a formula that conclusively proves which players are taking steroids. The geek’s website was called The Boxscore Times (Hey CBS, our lawyers will be calling you!), and I’m pretty sure the baseball geek was modeled after David Gassko. Just a feeling.

Anyway, thanks again. Believe it or not, in a few months, The Hardball Times will officially begin its fourth year. This being the end of the calendar year and all, we thought you might like an update regarding what’s been happening at THT in our third year of operation, and what we have planned for next year.

You’re supposed to be impressed that we actually have plans.

The big thing on our minds right now is the Annual. Last year’s Annual was published by ACTA Publications and picked up by Amazon and several bookstores, and we sold about five times as many copies as our first Annual. We’re pretty happy with the way this year’s Annual turned out, and sales are off to an even better start than last year. So, our first plan is to continue to publish the Annual. Our second plan is to add a second book, something for the beginning of Spring Training. We’ll have a more detailed announcement when we figure out what the heck we’re doing.

Bryan Donovan doesn’t write articles, but he has performed amazing feats of programming with our statistics. In fact, our stats pages are visited as often as our articles are. Plus, we’ve developed a strong relationship with David Appelman and his Fangraphs site, which only adds to the depth and variety of statistics available to readers of both sites. We plan to add more statistics next year, including some fielding stats courtesy of John Dewan, as well as batted-ball statistics similar to those published in this year’s Annual.

The biggest change of the year, however, is that our co-founder and spiritual leader, Aaron Gleeman, is no longer involved with the site. Aaron has parlayed his baseball-writing-from-bed habit into a full-time gig at NBCSports.com, covering football, baseball and who knows, maybe curling too. Aaron had the vision and set the tone for THT early on, and although he didn’t contribute many articles the past year he was still editing the site. Alas, Aaron will have to give up any involvement with THT at all, due to the demands on his time from people who actually pay him.

We would wish Aaron luck in his new endeavors, but we know that would be redundant to how he’s actually going to do. The key thing for you to know is that THT will not only continue without Aaron, we will continue to grow.

Losing writers isn’t new for us. Several of our writers have gone on to bigger things. Both Dan Fox and Maury Brown were hired by Baseball Prospectus this year, for instance. We like to think of such things as compliments to the site. In fact, (Steve Treder and I are the only writers who have contributed steadily since our inception. Which means that we’re the worst writers on the site ever.

Our current crop of writers is probably the strongest we’ve ever had. This year, we added skilled writers such as Chris Constancio, Sal Baxamusa, Geoff Young and the ubiquitous Jeff Sackmann, and we’re always on the lookout for more writing talent. There’s a pattern here: every one of our new writers had established a level of excellent writing elsewhere (case in point is Geoff Young’s Ducksnorts blog, where he’s been posting for five years) and then come to The Hardball Times to contribute and raise his profile a bit.

It’s nice that we’ve become known as one of the leading sabermetric research sites, but that’s not really our goal. All we want to do is provide interesting, insightful baseball commentary that a reasonably intelligent, curious baseball fan would appreciate. Our motto, Baseball. Insight. Daily. says it all. We’re not a research site; we’re a simple baseball commentary site. And, if we provide a place where good writers can contribute, learn more, and raise their public profile, that’s even better.

Like every success story, there are people behind the scenes. For us, those people are our editors, Carolina Bolado and Bryan Tsao. Every night, they log into the site and clean up the messy articles the rest of us write before publishing them. Carolina probably edited two-thirds of last year’s articles herself.

I’m happy to say, no, thrilled to say, that Bryan Tsao has stepped into Aaron’s role as chief editor of the site very nicely. Bryan has spearheaded our newest THT feature, the THT Mailbag, and he has lots of other great ideas. In fact, with Bryan’s new role and so many fine new writers, the energy at THT is higher than it’s been in a while. I’m certain you’ll notice the difference, if you haven’t already.

The Hardball Times is primarily a voluntary effort. We do make money from ads on the site and book sales, but our costs (buying stats, web operations, publishing) run into five figures and eat most of that revenue up. If there’s money left over, we split it up with our editors and writers, but it’s not much. I’m not telling you this to ask you to buy the Annual (I assume you already have); I’m just pointing out that THT is a labor of love. If you like what you see, it’s due to the immense pride that we all take in what we do.

If you would like to work in an environment like that, we are looking for more behind-the-scenes help. In particular, we need one or two new editors to help with the workload of creating and posting articles. We’re also looking for help with our graphics designs and layout (know Photoshop?).

And Bryan Donovan could definitely use some help with the stats and site programming. If you have a strong knowledge of PHP, SQL query writing and MySQL, as well as some comfort with UNIX, HTML and CSS, drop us a line.

For more information on joining the THT team, check out this post by Bryan.

There is a lot of energy at THT, a lot of plans cooking and a lot of opportunity to contribute. Hopefully, we will continue to engage you and keep you coming back. If there is something you’d like to see added to the site, drop Bryan or me an e-mail. We promise we’ll get back to you… eventually.

Happy Holidays, and Happy Baseball.

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