Monday, October 20, 2014

What the Hell Happened to Baseball Reference?

I was a Baseball Reference advocate. No, more than that. I was a Baseball Reference ambassador. I loved their site. I loved the basic and complex statistics they offered. I loved the site's simplicity; it wasn't bogged down with videos or advertisements or video advertisements (I'm looking at you, Yahoo/ESPN/CBS/basically all other sports websites). It was my go-to site for looking up stats, coming up with trivia (I'm a huge nerd), doing research for blog posts and radio shows, everything. It was (and for now, still is) the site that I linked to when I wrote blog posts.

Recently, however, the site has torpedoed. It still offers the same statistics as before, as well as even more advanced metrics and bonus content like HOF predictors, ELO ratings, and more. But they've added three prominent ads to almost every non-home page: one big video ad in the middle, and two sometimes flash animation and sometimes regular banner ads on the sides.

They. Are. Awful.

When I was writing my recent post on Bret Saberhagen, I (as usual) wanted to link to any relevant pages in my article. That mostly includes direct player links, and they linked to the player's associated page on www.baseball-reference.com. Simple enough, right? Well, no. Any time I opened more than one tab from Baseball Reference, the concurrent advertisement streams sent my Firefox into a tizzy. I opened Internet Explorer to test if it was just my browser, but encountered the same bogged down results.

This is a computer on which I've simultaneously run Skyrim and Just Cause 2, in case you were wondering if it might be a hardware issue. I would think opening a couple browser windows wouldn't make my machine fart out its brains.

I sent an email reporting this experience to the webmasters of the site, without any response. And I guess I don't necessarily need any sort of response...except that a site can't exist if people don't go there. Or it can (as this blog has proven time and time again), but it becomes irrelevant and loses any value, intrinsic or financial. I don't know how much traffic I drive to Baseball Reference, but I know it's more than zero. And I'm open to making another contribution to their cause (Joe and Joe Sports at one point sponsored a couple of pages on basketball-reference.com). I'm always open to supporting people who make a great product.

But baseball-reference.com, in its current form, is not a great product. It's, inexplicably, a product that used to be great, but managed to manage its way out of greatness.

I've browsed the site, and I've found a subscription option for $20 that gives you an ad-free experience, which would be great if I didn't write a blog. I'm posting links here to pages that I'm encouraging people to click. I'm having conscience issues when I think about nudging my readers into that miserable browsing experience.

A little more recently, I posted an article comparing the Orioles and Royals player-by-player, and I still used links to baseball-reference.com. I'm reticent to give up on them. They've been such a tremendous resource for me for so long that I want to believe that it'll get better. But it's been really, really bad for a couple weeks now. I'm not sure what to do.

So, I invite you to help me out. I've already sent a message explaining my experience, but if you've noticed the same, or if you listened to me rant and tested it out to see what I'm talking about, I'd ask you to let the site know about it. Their feedback form is here.

My hope would be that we can help this site find a different way to monetize that isn't so destructive for people trying to use the site. I'd be happy to shell out some money to that end, but only if I'm referring people to the great Baseball Reference of old.

The new one isn't worth it.

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