For the last few years, MLB.com and I had an uneasy relationship. I liked listening to radio broadcasts. I could find interesting stories from time to time. I got to listen to the raw feed of Greg Papa and Steve Stone calling a World Baseball Classic game between Canada and South Africa from Scottsdale. I didn't want to embrace MLB.TV and still haven't.
But one thing I did love was the Gameday application. I loved how it was a new way for fans to enjoy baseball games like they did back in the days before radio and television. Prior to radio, if you wanted to follow an out of town game, you would hope that some local newspaper (or similar business) contracted with the local telegraph company to get play-by-play updates of a game. Then, the action would be put up on a display for a gathered crowd to follow along.
In a sense, the Gameday application was just that way of following a baseball game brought into the 21st century using the internet. It was a little bit more advanced and you could see the approximate location of pitches, but it was still just figures moving around a diamond. You'd hold your breath when you would see something like "Pitch 4 - in play, run scoring play" depending upon which team you were rooting for. It was a great way to dip in and out of a game when you couldn't be in a place where you could have your computer's sound turned up and listening to the game or even watchign the game. Because you know some of us have work to do. And some of us even try to do it at times. And with Gameday, you could drop in and see what was going and without a lot of trouble, find out what happened.
But then toward the end of last year, MLB.com started tinkering with Gameday. They found that they had something that must have looked cool to programmers where they could put in data about a pitch's speed and break. And it was more than that, you would get the speed of the pitch as it left the pitcher's hand and then its speed when it reached the plate. You mean the pitches slow down? I thought every pitcher was able to throw a fastball that accelerated on the way to the plate!
And then there is the break of the pitch. According to the good folks at MLB.com, "Break is currently defined as the measurement of the distance between the location of the actual pitch thrown over the plate, and the calculated location of a ball thrown by the pitcher in the same way, with no spin."
I didn't pay much attention to the changes during the postseason as I was able to watch most of the games on television.
But with spring training over and the regular season gearing up, there will be games at all times of the day and it will be time to dip in to Gameday again. But the new "improved" Gameday is one of the most bloated applications to hit the web.
On my PowerBook G4 with 256 megs of RAM running Firefox 220.127.116.11 and OS 10.4.9, Gameday grinds my system to a halt within an inning or two. And the information that shows up is not all that useful.
First of all, the lineups aren't easily visible. You really can only see the visitors lineup. You have to scroll down to see the home team lineup. You can't resize the screen to help in anyway.
Most importantly, you really can't figure out what is happening in the game as it is being played. There is so much on the screen that you just get lost in a maze of lines showing how much a pitch broke. Whether or not the batter made contact seems unimportant. Runners on base? Who are they? What did the batter do before? Well, you used to be able to get a text description. Now you get pitch charts. Not that the charts tell you WHAT THE BATTER DID.
Everything about the "improved" Gameday is designed to appeal to someone who wants to do an indepth study of the game after the fact. This Baseball Analysts piece by Joe Sheehan (not the Baseball Prospectus guy) just raves about the new Gameday. But I don't want a chart of Kenny Rogers' success rate with certain pitches in certain zones. I just want to know what Kenny Rogers did in the game. Did batters reach base? Did they hit the ball hard? Did they strike out? Beats me?
The whole thing is a mess. And I'm almost 100% certain that MLB.com will keep it despite the complaints because they really don't care about their customer base as they have an officially certified captive audience.
MLB.com just loves to throw out anything new to see if we will swallow it up and get all mushy over them. Just like MLB.TV Mosaic, which gives someone the chance to watch six baseball games simultaneously over the internet. Why do I want to watch six games at once? Am I conspiring with a modern day Arnold Rothstein in a widescale game fixing plan and I need to keep track of that many games at once? Couldn't I just watch the ticker on ESPN? And don't forget about the video players that automatically launch when you visit an individual team's page. I think those have a purpose. I believe they were designed to annoy.
The old Gameday (or classic Gameday) just had a scoreboard on the top that was updated pretty quickly. And if you wanted to switch games, you just clicked on one and went to it. You can still sort of do with that with the new Gameday, but you have to wait much longer for the new Gameday to load its voluminous amount of useless data into your browser. Probably because you're dying to know what the speed of Gil Meche's last pitch was when it left his hand compared to when it crossed the plate.
Just as MLB gave its Extra Innings package to DirecTV, something that would make you get extra equipment for your home, MLB.com would just suggest that you get a computer with more RAM, I think 1024 megs of RAM might do it. Because you never know when you will be trying to follow your favorite team and think to yourself, "Dammit, that wouldn't have been a home run if that pitch had broken by 1.2" more! What a bum!"
I'm sure very eager and hard-working programmers put together the new Gameday application. But did I want it? Did I ask for it? Were people complaining that the old version was bad? Were ESPN.com or Yahoo! or Sportsline doing some programming that made me think MLB.com's Gameday was going the way of the dodo?
No, it was just a typical maneuver by MLB.com to tell you that it knows what you want and you will feel closer to the game knowing that some guy computer operator guessed that a pitcher threw a slider that broke 15" when all you really wanted was that same computer operator to tell you how where the batter hit it.
Enough of my ranting. I see something shiny in my apartment. I better go chase it!
You can raise your complaints here, where I'm sure a dutiful MLB.com employee looks at them and then laughs heartily as if he gives a damn.