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Baseball in the digital age

by Matt Smith

The latest ‘baseball is coming’ moment of my offseason arrived this Sunday morning as I sat reading the new Baseball Prospectus annual over breakfast.

At first glance, the 2014 edition is a return to form for BP. I’ve been buying their annual season starter since 2005 and the 2013 edition was the first time that I was left disappointed. The team essays that had previously been used to delve into all manner of subjects – from statistical research articles to the more quirky trivia around a team – were turned into generic summaries, whilst the player comments had lost their zip and, in some cases, their amusing spite.

I wasn’t the only reader to feel this way and thankfully BP have listened and made positive changes for 2014, in particular by handing over every team essay to a different person to bring their own viewpoint and writing style to the mix. I’ll put together a full review in the next few weeks, but the short version is that you shouldn’t let any understandable disappointment of last year’s effort put you off buying it this year.

If you go to Amazon.co.uk you’ll find that the book is not due to be published until 26 February. However, search for ‘Baseball Prospectus’ and then click on the ‘Kindle Books’ tab and you can see that the e-book version is available to download already. It’s currently listed £12.47 for the e-book compared with £15.24 for the paperback.

I do miss the initial pleasure of taking the 600-page tome out of its packaging and thumbing through it for the first time, but the convenience of the e-book version is undeniable (no long wait at the local Post Office depot to pick it up, not being weighed down on the work to walk when you want to read it at lunch time etc) and that includes being able to click a button and have it on your device within a minute.

Patience is a virtue, but after three long months without baseball games to watch I think I can be forgiven for not wanting to wait another month before being able to delve into the book.

It’s another example of how the digital age of the last 15 years or so has transformed the way baseball fans outside of North America can follow the sport. It wasn’t long ago that you had to go through specialist retailers and pay over the odds for imports if you wanted to get hold of books or magazines. Now we can access them almost as readily as fans in the States.

We should also learn more about the 2014 MLB.TV subscriptions in the very near future. Last year the details were announced on 5 February, so there’s a good chance we’ll find out what features will be available, and at what cost, in the coming week or so. I’ll review the offerings here as soon as they are released.

The next time you shake your head at the thought of some of the rubbish the internet and other digital devices have led too – from selfies to Twitter abuse –, it’s worth remembering that the 2014 baseball season is on its way and, thanks to to the internet, we’ll be able to enjoy it in full from Britain.

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jonathan February 4, 2014 - 9:05 am


I have just bought a hard copy of the Prospectus from the Book Depository. It arrived in 2 days and cost £11. I love the state of the franchise type chapters but would prefer it if there were more predictions about how they think teams will perform in 2014. It is rather backward looking for my liking.

Matt Smith February 4, 2014 - 1:13 pm

Hi Jonathan. That’s good to hear. Book Depository is the place I often go to for baseball books as they always seems to have them earlier (and often cheaper) than Amazon. I have a feeling they were taken over by Amazon a few years ago and I thought the advantage might go away, but looks like they’re still a good option.

Fair point about it being backward looking to a large extent. I guess the main ‘prediction’ element for BP is the player projections, which they try to get out early for the fantasy drafts. With that being the case, it’s probably harder to go so much into predictions more generally for teams as the writing deadline leaves them at the mercy of FA acquisitions, trades etc changing things substantially by the team the book is out. E.g. the D-Backs team essay does a great job of analysing their recent peformance with reference to Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson’s contracts being up at the end of this season. The D-Backs announced they had extended the contracts of both yesterday.

Luke Foley February 4, 2014 - 9:31 am

Cheers Matt, nice tip. Really enjoyed reading this a few years ago when I picked a copy up at an airport, but have been dissuaded from ordering it due to delivery cost and weight! Will have to look into this option.

Matt Smith February 4, 2014 - 1:20 pm

Hi Luke. As per Jonathan’s comment, The Book Despository might be a good bet to get the book at a lower price. Much as I really miss having the physical book, the portability of the e-version now makes it a better option for me even if you can get the paperback version slightly cheaper. It’s a shame they don’t do a deal where you can buy the paperback version and get the digital either with it or at a discounted price. I know others have raised this and seems like it’s not something the publisher (rather than BP) is keen to do at the moment.

jonathan neil February 4, 2014 - 4:59 pm

The MLB tv options are now up for 2014. The premium version is $129 for the year with over 400 connected devices. When do you recommend purchasing? I want to get it before the season starts but do discount codes etc usually become available? Thanks

Matt Smith February 4, 2014 - 8:38 pm

Hi Jonathan. It tends to be any discounts kick in once the season is underway, so the ‘discount’ is actually just reducing the price so that you’re paying to watch 4 months of the regular season rather than 6, for example. If you want to enjoy it from the start then I’d recommend signing up because the value comes from how much you use the subscription. The more games you watch, the better value it is (which is another good reason to watch lots of baseball!)

I’ve just published a post about the 2014 subscriptions:

jonathan neil February 4, 2014 - 8:59 pm

Thanks. Much appreciated. Didn’t want to take the plunge now if a discount code becomes available in a couple of weeks (that’s what normally happens with nba tv)

mike February 8, 2014 - 1:09 pm

would be my first time buying the prospectus and i was looking at the kindle version,but do you lose anything from the hard copy such as pictures etc.

thanks mike

Matt Smith February 8, 2014 - 1:19 pm

Hi Mike. There aren’t any pictures so there’s no problem in that regard. The only compromise is that the stats get split over three tables rather than one, which can be a bit fiddly at first where the column headings aren’t on the same page as all the data.

mike February 8, 2014 - 1:45 pm

hi Matt
thanks for the info will try the free sample you get on kindle,but looks like it may be the best method,thanks.


mike February 9, 2014 - 11:20 am

hi matt
It may also be worth a mention that whsmiths now stock sports illustrated a week after the us release or you can get a digital copy via the nook book app on the
1st day of issue.Also nook and a company called zinio do digital versions of baseball
america and baseball digest for added reading through the season,which may be of interest to some.


Matt Smith February 9, 2014 - 12:52 pm

Thanks for the info, Mike

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