When I started this site, it was just me. It was like that for the first year and a half, before bringing on our first contributors — a group that included John Dreker and Wilbur Miller. Over the years we’ve added more and more contributors, making this a group effort, rather than just me.

That’s what I want. I don’t want this site to be my voice, with a few other people contributing. I want it to be a group effort. I want it to be a team. And part of the team dynamic is that everyone plays a specific role, with some people being stronger in one area than another.

An important part of that transition from me being the central voice on the site to being just another member of the team is the self-evaluation of my own strengths and weaknesses. For example, John Dreker is probably the best person to cover the international side of things for the Pirates, not just here, but anywhere. That’s why I stepped aside long ago and let him take over that side of things.

I’ve been trying to find a way to step back from MLB coverage for some time, because honestly, I don’t think that’s my strongest suit. I feel that I’m in my wheelhouse when I’m discovering changes that prospects are making, and then writing really long chronicles of those changes over time in a 4,000 word article complete with photos and videos of every step of the way. You know, the type of extremely detailed analysis on pitcher mechanics or a batter’s stance that only hardcore and possibly insane people would crave.

But when people get to the majors, that aspect is gone. There are still changes, but the players are pretty much just going out there to play, and the development is over. So while I can cover the majors, I definitely don’t think I’m the right guy to provide that coverage for this site.

Alan Saunders joined the site during the 2016 season, and that helped reduce my role on the MLB side. But because our writers are independent contractors, and not full-time employees, I couldn’t ask Alan to do everything. I mean, I could do it if I didn’t have any consideration for others, and Alan is such a hard worker that he probably would do it, but it wouldn’t be right, and would technically be an illegal classification of his employment status. We needed another person to help out with the MLB coverage, in order to make it so that I could step back.

Earlier this week, I announced that we had brought on Matt Gajtka for that MLB coverage. This is perfect because Matt and Alan not only make a great team together for the MLB coverage, but they also can and have done a much better job than I can do at covering the big league club. And that gives me more time to focus on my strength, which is the prospect analysis. The overall result for you is that the site will be much better off at every level with the new changes.

If you aren’t a subscriber already, now is definitely the time to sign up.

With everything now in place, here is the anticipated schedule of daily coverage for the upcoming season, and how we will handle each area of coverage.

MLB Coverage

A beat writer typically writes 3-5 articles per day. They write a pre-game story. Then a post-game story. Maybe a transaction or other news. A small feature for the next morning. Then they work on a bigger feature for Sunday. All of that writing leads to two things: Several outlets writing the exact same things, and no time left for deeper analysis.

There’s always the temptation and sometimes the request for us to follow that approach and provide “real” Pirates coverage. There’s the feeling that you’re not really covering the MLB team if you don’t have 800 words recapping the previous game, or 500 words telling how a prospect feels to be called up to the majors for the first time.

We get drawn into that feeling from time to time, and it’s important to reassess our approach every so often. We want to avoid this type of coverage. We want to focus on deeper analysis, rather than being the fifth or sixth outlet writing the exact same day-to-day stuff. Yes, we’ll inevitably have some of the same news that other outlets have. But we’re not going to be focused on pre-game stories and game reports, which will leave more time for the rest of the coverage.

A typical beat writer is writing 3-5 articles per day. Alan Saunders and Matt Gajtka will be writing four features per week, focusing on quality articles, rather than quantity news. I feel this is the best approach with our resources, trying to give you something you can’t find elsewhere.

Prospect Coverage

The prospect coverage on the site won’t change much. We already report on the prospects in the system way more often than any other outlet. The focus going forward will be the same, with prospect features being the most common thing on the site, and the bread and butter of the site.

Going forward, things will be a little more structured, with articles from certain levels on specific dates. One change we’re making is that we’re going to stop the process of having live game reports in the Prospect Watch. John Dreker will continue to provide recaps of each game, but our writers at the game will be focused on their features, rather than a more detailed report. We will still have reports on the players and their performance, which will show up in the features and in other weekly articles.

Travel

The biggest expense for sports coverage is travel. That’s even more extreme with baseball, where there is non-stop travel for six months of the year, or more. We don’t travel to many road games, but I have covered some in previous years, and we’ve covered the team on the road late in the season when they’ve been competitive. I don’t think the latter will be a factor this year. I will also be scaling back my travel for the MLB team, limiting my only coverage this year to the Miami series, which is a quick drive for me, and low on the expense factor (and already booked well before everything was set in place).

As for prospect coverage, I’ve typically traveled to Indianapolis, Altoona, West Virginia, and the short-season clubs in Morgantown and Bristol. I’ll be cutting out trips to Indianapolis and Altoona this year, leaving that coverage to the local writers. The decision here is that we typically have years of coverage and background on those players, and there isn’t much more that I can add to the coverage that the local writers won’t be able to get.

That’s different in West Virginia, where we are still getting that important background, and where players are making progress throughout the season. In the past, I’ve traveled to West Virginia over two separate trips, covering five games each. This year I’ll either be cutting down the days for each trip, or cutting down to one trip. I’d prefer to go twice, since you can see a player in April, and see a totally different player from the same guy in August at that level.

As for the short-season leagues, that coverage is always TBD, based on the results of the draft. This past year I skipped Morgantown, instead having local writers provide the coverage, which was more than enough for the prospects at that level in a year when the Pirates went prep-heavy in the draft. There are also plenty of players on those teams who I cover in Extended Spring Training from April through mid-June and in instructs in September. So that two month stretch in Bristol or Morgantown isn’t as important for me to personally see.

The goal here is making sure we can manage the opportunity cost of coverage. There is always going to be a situation where we don’t see a return on our travel investment.

I can spend $1,000 for a week covering West Virginia, and can come away with 15 stories, but it’s not going to lead to 29 new subscribers to pay for the costs of the trip. It is going to lead to valuable information for the site, which pays off in the long run.

By comparison, I could spend $1,000 for a week covering Indianapolis, and I’m not really adding much value, since there is less to cover with prospects at that stage than there is in the lower levels.

I’d rather focus the spending on areas that provide the most value. And if given a choice between having a second person looking at the prospects in Indianapolis and Altoona (among other trips), or having someone like Matt on the site, I’d rather bring Matt on board and scale back the travel.

The Schedule

Here is the rough idea of what the coverage schedule will look like during the season:

Monday

Featured Article: 21 – A recap of the 21 best prospect performers in the system from the previous week, including game reports.

MLB: Feature from Alan

Minors: Indianapolis feature

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

Tuesday

Featured Article: Column from Tim

MLB: Feature from Matt

Minors: Altoona, Bradenton features

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

Wednesday

Featured Article: Column from Matt

MLB: Feature from Alan

Minors: Indianapolis, West Virginia features

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

Thursday

Featured Article: Column from Alan

MLB: Feature from Matt

Minors: Altoona, Bradenton features

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

Friday

Featured Article: Site Updates

MLB: Feature from Alan

Minors: Indianapolis, West Virginia features

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

Weekly Chat

Saturday

Featured Article: John Dreker’s draft updates (pre-draft)

MLB: Feature from Matt

Minors: Extended Spring Training/Lower Level feature

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

Sunday

Featured Article: International feature from John Dreker

MLB: Feature from Alan

Minors: Extended Spring Training/Lower Level feature

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

There’s going to be a lot of articles. We’ll have a new site design soon that will help manage it all, so daily articles don’t get lost in the mix. There will be something for everyone, and plenty for those who read everything on the site. Most of the MLB and prospect features will be shorter. The Morning Report duties will be divided up between myself and John Dreker. The one long-form article of the day will be the daily column/feature. So we’re not going to over-load you with six articles that are 2000+ words each.

I’m really looking forward to the coverage for the upcoming season. I’m never really satisfied with where the site is at, and always looking to improve things. But right now I’ll stop that quest momentarily to get excited about where the site is at right now, and what we can accomplish as far as coverage in the upcoming year.

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