Library of Congress

Happy Tenth Birthday, HBT!

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Ten years ago today was Opening Day of the 2009 season. It was also opening day for this website. It launched, with our first post coming that morning and posts coming every single day ever since, on April 5, 2009. HardballTalk is now ten years old. In Internet years that’s like 100. Can you believe it?

The old timers among you will remember that it wasn’t even called HardballTalk yet. It was Circling the Bases. I think Gleeman came up with that, but I can’t remember. I do remember that we changed it to HardballTalk in February 2010, though, in order to have some on-brand consistency with both ProFootballTalk, which moved to NBC a couple of months after we launched, and ProBasketballTalk which started in early 2010. As I wrote at the time, it was sort of like how Philip Morris changed its name to Altria and how ValueJet changed its name to AirTran, except in our case we were doing it to foster positive associations rather than fool you into thinking we were something else after disasters and tragedies.

Not that it was smooth as heck in the early going. It was largely invisible to readers, but things were something of a mess on the back end of this site for the first few months. When we started we used a blogging platform that I’m pretty sure was developed by Soviet scientists in the 1970s in order to better forecast wheat yields. It was pretty sweet: you’d write something, hit “post” and then — and I am not exaggerating — your computer would sort of lock up for 10-15 minutes and, if you didn’t touch it or navigate away, it might appear on the website. It was replaced by a platform that had a nasty habit of simply disappearing posts into the ether after you’d spent a good while writing them. “Oh, you mean you didn’t want to navigate to the NBC Sports home page, losing all the words you’ve written with no effort to save them when you hit ‘save?’ That’s odd, but whatever,” the CMS would say to me, at least in my mind. That was fixed for good soon, thankfully, and now the worst thing that ever happens to us are typos. Many, many typos, almost 100% of which are made by me, often in ways that benefit society more than if they had not been made at all. You’re welcome.

At this point I’d link to the first post we ever did on this site, but the Soviet CMS chewed them up when we changed over to the new platform. The oldest still-remaining post is one Gleeman wrote on May 29, 2009 about Chipper Jones wearing the golden sombrero after facing Randy Johnson. That week we had posts about John Smoltz gearing up for his Red Sox debut too and a lot of things about how David Ortiz was totally washed up and why wouldn’t he just retire already? That so many of those posts deal with then-active players who are now long-retired and who have since been inducted into the Hall of Fame is enough to make one feel pretty old. That so many of them contained such nearsighted and wrongheaded analysis makes one feel young, because such things when it comes to baseball never go out of style.

Since all the technical stuff has been sorted out there have been 71,425 posts written on this website. Some of them were really good. Some of them not so good. Many — probably most — were simply disposable. That’s by design, of course, as this medium is best-suited to fast-paced, time-sensitive information, which is what we’re primarily in the business of delivering to you. It’s also suited for fun. Did you know that the most-read thing we ever posted on this website was nothing more than an excuse to run an Instagram photo of Barry Bonds wearing a pair of Google Glass(es)? It’s true. More people clicked on that, by a factor of like ten, than anything else we’ve ever done. I think of that every time I start word 2,469 on whatever topic I’m sincerely and earnestly ranting about on a given day. The most commented-on post we’ve ever done was a bit more substantive, coming when we talked about whether or not Bud Selig should overturn Jim Joyce’s blown call that robbed Armando Galarraga of a perfect game.

Thinking back on these ten years reminds me of some old faces as well:

  • Aaron Gleeman, of course, who now runs Baseball Prospectus, hosts a wildly successful podcast, a radio show, writes books and generally rules the Minnesota Twins baseball online industrial complex;
  • Bob Harkins who, after some other stops is now an editor for MSN Sports;
  • Matt Casey, who is a wonderful producer at NBC, but who we let work out his Mets issues on the site for the first year or two of its existence;
  • The wonderful hosts of the old “HBT Daily” video segments I used to do: Tiffany Simons who, contrary to rumors at the time, does not live in my basement, Kay Adams, who is now a big time TV host at NFL Network, and Jenna Corrado who now lives in Italy because, apparently, Stamford, Connecticut is not glamorous enough for some people. By the way, I know you watched those videos for them and not me. They knew it too. We’re all fine with it; 
  • Matthew Pouliot, D.J. Short and Drew Silva, who did double-duty between HBT and Rotoworld for many years but now who just write for Rotoworld because of our society’s silly hangups about “labor laws” and “sweatshops” and their claims that they need “a life” and time to “sleep.” Kinda weak, but whatever. There was a Democrat in the White House then so our hands were tied and we let ’em off easy;
  • There are some posts with Mike Florio’s name on them in our archive. He never wrote for us, but when we transferred a ton of posts over from one CMS to the next someone coded many of mine as being written by him for some reason, but probably to let me know where I stand in the grand scheme of things. It’s fair, though, because Rick Cordella at NBC never launches this website if he wasn’t in talks to bring Florio and PFT over and if he had not desired to replicate his success in other sports. We owe this site’s existence in a very direct way to Mike, so he’s worth a nod as well.

Lots of other people are worth nods, too, most of whom you don’t know and couldn’t know. I make jokes all the time about how I have no editor and, as you can tell from the constant mistakes I make, that’s true in the traditional sense, but there are a ton of people who keep this site and the other NBC Sports sites going on a day-to-day basis. The technical folks, obviously, but also web and video producers and social media folks and all manner of people up in Stamford who let Bill, Ashley and I know when something is going on that we may have missed or suggest to us things we should be looking at that we might not have otherwise. There is also a management structure above me who have deprived me of the ability to do what every other red-blooded American does and complain about their bosses. I’m spoiled rotten, actually, and pinch myself every day to make sure I’m not dreaming about how much freedom and autonomy I have. I work in my pajamas, link to obscure sci-fi videos, talk about 80s TV shows and my cats and leftist politics and use song lyrics in lieu of actual analysis an unreasonable amount of the time and I have almost never been told “no” in a friggin’ decade. And they pay me. Dear lord.

Mostly, though, I want to thank all of you. Just as the Reds can’t win games if they can’t score runs, we can’t produce this website if no one reads it. Thank you, long time readers, for coming here so often and for so long. Thank you new readers for giving us a chance. Thank you for clicking and sharing our links and watching our videos and for commenting on our posts, even those of you whose comments are nothing more than complaining about us even if you spell “you’re” as “your” a frightening amount of the time. Thank you for letting me live my dream of writing about baseball for a living.

I’ve been living this dream for ten years now. We’ve been producing this site for a dang decade. I can’t believe it. Here’s to ten more. And then ten more after that. And so on and so forth ad infinitum.

Mad Dog Licks Boots

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Earlier this week Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reported that the MLBPA and the league are heading back to the table more than two years before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires following the 2021 season.

This had been hinted at for some time, as the union has shown clear displeasure at the current state of business, particularly with the free agent market. The league, one might assume, is happy with the current state of affairs, but it also has an interest in heading off potential strife or even the hint of a labor stoppage in the future. Moreover, there are priorities which have emerged on MLB’s part since the last CBA was signed that they’d love to advance — pace of play, etc. — so they have some incentive to talk as well. So, while it’s totally newsworthy that the sides are talking, it’s also quite understandable and not particularly controversial.

It’s also quite understandable that, given that this is a negotiation between parties in an adversarial position, there will be public comments from the principles which involve advocacy or even posturing on occasion. That’s part of the deal of any negotiation that holds public interest. So, when Tony Clark, for example, says something like “the system doesn’t work,” and “either we’re going to have a conversation now, or we’re going to have a louder conversation later,” which is what he told Kepner, it’s not really a controversial thing. Indeed, it’s expected.

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo thinks it’s pretty controversial, however. The MLB Network host and talk radio legend took to the airwaves yesterday blasting Clark for not being more deferential to Rob Manfred who “was nice enough to extend him an olive branch.”  Russo likewise asked, rhetorically, what “Rob” must’ve thought when reading Clark’s quotes “over his cup of coffee, and bran muffin, on Madison Avenue, after his workout and all those things . . . his morning coffee, milk and two sugars by the way — Sweet and Low.”

He’s the Mad Dog, but he certainly licks boots here:

 

It’s amusing enough that Russo believes that Clark, Manfred’s counterpart and adversary, is supposed to be deferential and thankful for the mighty Manfred. It’s even more amusing, however, that he takes the tack of arguing that MLB has no real interest in negotiating now and is somehow merely throwing the union a bone or offering an olive branch. In saying this Russo, whether he realizes it or not, is accusing Manfred of bad faith, optics-only talks with the union. I don’t feel like Manfred thinks he’s doing that. And I don’t think Clark would be talking to him if he felt he was being patronized to either. Indeed, the dance of the last several months around all of this was, in part, to ensure that that was not the case.

I don’t know what Manfred thought about Clark’s comments on Tuesday, but I do wonder how he feels about being accused by an MLB Network employee of playing games like this. It might be enough for him to spit out his bran muffin and coffee. Cream and two sugars and all.