This is my first article for The JR Report and although I have a few others written and ready to go, I thought this one would be the best to put out first as it gives you a look into my style and the best way to follow baseball, in my opinion.
The summer is a time when the sports world slows to a near halt with the only true action being the MLB season. As the NHL and NBA playoffs came to an abrupt conclusion, sports fans quickly went from having a plethora of content to watch to being entirely reliant on the MLB.
For some, this is the time when they check out, head to the beach, and wait for the NFL season. But for others who are lifelong and diehard baseball fans, they can find plenty of enjoyment and entertainment throughout the dog days of summer.
Hopefully, this article will explain to anyone how to optimize their baseball experience this summer with a list of expert suggestions.
Stop watching ESPN
I can’t emphasize this point enough. I hope you’re like me and are sick of seeing Brian Windhorst’s fat face and stupid hair plastered on your TV screen all summer talking about Lebron’s hairline, whether or not he’ll wear a headband, or what US city is his wife’s favorite.
Or listening to Merril Hoge and Adam Schefter talk about which NFL player has decided to skip offseason workouts that are four months before the first preseason game and will probably end in some underwhelming contract settlement if anything.
If either of these ESPN descriptions has resonated with you it’s time to direct your attention to the MLB Network, which probably comes with most standard cable and offers the best baseball coverage.
The on-air personalities are fantastic, from Mark DeRosa in the morning to Kevin Millar, Sean Casey, and Eric Byrnes spanning across the afternoon and evening. The MLBN has insightful perspectives of former MLB players who bring much more common man humor and personality than Aaron Boone, Dan Shulman, or Alex Cora who couldn’t entertain pre-pubescent teen with a Playboy magazine.
Not only does MLBN bring talent that ESPN can’t match, but one can actually watch highlights and breakdowns of every team around the league on a daily basis.
An average ESPN baseball highlight consists of either an incredible performance or some gimmick like a Nationals President mascot race, but for a fan of a small market team, they never get the chance to see how their team did the night before.
The network is almost always broadcasting at least one game a day and is a great spot to find afternoon baseball or primetime games when all there is on TV is reruns.
This is by far the biggest piece of advice I can give and I hope you give it a shot and enjoy the experience.
If you’re a stats junkie like myself, FanGraphs is the spot for you.
With baseball moving more and more towards a sabermetrics and numbers never lie approach, FanGraphs is the place that can keep anyone up to speed with all the new developments and numbers that go into evaluating players and teams.
The valuation of players through the use of WAR is fascinating and the articles on FanGraphs explaining WAR really changed my perspective on modern day baseball.
I not only recommend keeping up to date with the most interesting FanGraphs articles, but also using the advanced stats to understand why some players or teams are doing better than others and to find out which players to pick up or trade for in your Fantasy Baseball leagues.
Follow your teams farm system
MLB success these days is so dependent on the successful drafting and development of prospects.
The days of “buying” championships seem to be on their way out and building through the farm is in.
For that reason, knowing who your top prospects are, how they’re performing, and understanding their track to the majors is a way to find a bright spot in the summer when your MLB team’s performance is lackluster.
Many fans know going into a particular season that their club has little to no chance to compete, and while that may be reason to not follow along with struggling, low-ceiling players in the MLB, following your farm system can give you optimism for seasons to come.
If you haven’t done so, read Moneyball
As I mentioned in my push for FanGraphs, baseball has been and is still moving towards more statistical based analysis than ever before. My first understanding of this came with the book Moneyball which gave interesting insight on how sabermetrics developed while giving a side by side view of how it brought the Oakland A’s to prominence in the early 2000s with very little cap room at the GM, Billy Beane’s disposal.
I’ll be honest with you guys I’m not a big book guy myself and am usually entirely against the “the book is so much better than the movie” rhetoric, but in this case it really is true. While Moneyball the movie was entertaining and a pleasure to watch, if you really want to gain any greater knowledge of the major shift in baseball operations, Moneyball is a must read.
As the Summer goes on, I intend to add more ideas to this list as they pop in to my head.
Feel free to contribute any feedback or other things you do and enjoy as a baseball fan in the comment section.