First Pitch: What to Write About on a Baseball Site When There is No Baseball

How do we come up with daily content when there is no baseball to talk about?

It’s the question that exists every single offseason.

It’s the question that exists in September when the Pirates are out of it.

In fact, there have been some seasons since we’ve opened in 2009 where “there’s no baseball to discuss” was the theme of the entire regular season.

Now the world is faced with the coronavirus pandemic, and MLB has responded by suspending Spring Training and delaying the regular season by at least two weeks.

If we’re fortunate, actions like this will lower the curve of the virus outbreak, making it easier for hospitals to treat, which should shorten the impact and duration of this pandemic.

The reality is that everyone should plan for the worst, while hoping for the best.

Fortunately, we had a plan before the coronavirus broke out. It will just be pushed up earlier than expected.

When I started working on Pittsburgh Baseball Network, the entire idea was based around a single issue: What if there’s no baseball for a year?

This is something that has been in the back of my mind the last few years with the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement. It seems like the next round of negotiations is more likely to result in a work stoppage. The players have a valid argument to fight for more league revenues, especially the digital revenues that the owners have seen through MLB Advanced Media.

Plan for the worst and hope for the best. I never hope for a baseball work stoppage, as my income literally depends on the Pirates playing baseball.

PBN was born on the idea of diversifying away from MLB and the Pirates. If we had more topics to cover than the Pirates, we wouldn’t be impacted as much when they are losing and turning off all of their fans. If we had more topics to cover than MLB, we wouldn’t be impacted as much by an MLB work stoppage.

I’ve been taking my time with PBN, treating it as I would a brand new site. I didn’t intend Pirates Prospects to be my full time job for the next 11 years when I started it in 2009. This time I’m intending for PBN to be my full time job for the next decade, and hopefully more.

I’ve been focused on building a good long-term site, and getting it launched before a potential MLB work stoppage.

Now we’re at a point where MLB has a work stoppage, much earlier than I would have expected, and due to factors that the league can’t control. We’re also at a point where there is going to be no baseball at any level. Even if I was ready to launch PBN right now, it wouldn’t help to have additional sites covering college and prep baseball.

Fortunately, there are ideas I had for PBN that can be implemented in the short-term. I’m not going to go through all of them, but to give you a few ideas, based on the sites and topics:

No Quarter

This will be our Pirates blog. It’s where we’re going to post all of the latest news and updates about the team, plus columns and analysis. We’ll still have some things to discuss based on the long-term view of the Pirates and their individual players. And we’ll be following all updates to MLB.

Pittsburgh Baseball History

John Dreker has been posting daily Pirates history articles on this site for most of the last decade. We planned on expanding this to a full site. The daily history would be expanded to all Pittsburgh baseball, there will be a featured baseball card of the day, and there will be more in-depth articles on individual topics.

We can easily expand this before the PBN launch, providing some interesting daily baseball reading.

Pirates Prospects

To be honest, what I’m most excited about is what this site can become. With No Quarter picking up the news and analysis responsibilities, Pirates Prospects can focus exclusively on player analysis.

The truth is, you don’t need baseball being played to do prospect analysis. At its core, all prospect analysis boils down to the same simple concept:

  1. Where is the player right now?
  2. What is his future upside?
  3. What does he need to improve upon to get from right now to his upside?

If I watch a pitcher live on July 22nd, I’m going to do an analysis of where his career is at to that point, his upside, and I’d break down the individual things he needs to work on going forward.

If I want to do an article on that same pitcher on January 22nd, I’m going to do an analysis of where his career is at to that point, his upside, and I’d break down the individual things he needs to work on going forward.

We’re always providing a snapshot in time of individual prospects or the entire system. The best time to do this is when baseball is on a break. So the shutdown by MLB doesn’t really prevent us from our primary method of coverage, regardless of how long the coronavirus pandemic lasts.

In the mean time, I might try out a few new features along the way.

Priorities

Obviously the last concern on anyone’s mind right now should be “where do we get to read about the players in the Pirates’ minor league system?”

If you’re sick, stay away from people. If you’re healthy, take precautions: Keep a safe distance, wash your hands often, and try not to touch your face. If you are having trouble breathing, go to a doctor.

Many people are going to find themselves with either a lot of free time to kill, and a lot of stress to avoid. Everyone needs some form of escape from life, especially in these moments.

We realize that we’re an outlet for an escape for Pirates fans. That’s why we post articles daily year-round, and why I try to keep real-world stuff off of this site.

I realize that this is going to be a very tough financial time for everyone. We’re going to continue pushing subscriptions and books, because that’s our business. However, we’re going to provide free articles and content more often for Pirates fans who can’t justify any additional expenses right now.

We’re going to continue providing you with a chance for an escape. We’ll have more in the coming days and weeks.

Stay safe and healthy!

SONG OF THE DAY

DAILY QUIZ


RANDOM STUFF OF THE DAY

My wife and I watched the movie Contagion literally two days before the coronavirus started.

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but lately we’ve been streaming The Walking Dead.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, starting with the most recent one first:

Jason Rogers, corner infielder for the 2016 Pirates. Rogers debuted in the majors in 2014, spending his first two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he hit .286 in 94 games, with 27 of those games as a starter. The Pirates acquired him over the 2015-16 off-season for Keon Broxton and minor league pitcher Trey Supak. Rogers played sparingly for the Pirates, playing 23 games, with three as a starter. He batted .080 in 25 at-bats, though he was able to post a .303 OBP. Rogers was released during the middle of the 2017 season without playing a big league game that year. He is still an active player, though he hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2016.

Gary Kolb, utility fielder for the 1968-69 Pirates. From 1960 until 1965, Kolb played 190 games in the majors, split between three different teams. He spent all of 1966 in the minors with the Mets before they traded him to the Pirates in December in a four-player deal with two players going each way. Gary spent all of 1967 at Triple-A Columbus, where he hit .293 in 117 games. In 1968 he made the team out of Spring Training and he would become the jack-of-all-trades for the Pirates. He started just 22 games in 1968, but played another 52 off the bench and took the field at six different positions. Kolb even caught ten games that year, seven more than he caught his first five seasons in the majors combined. His versatility is what kept him on the team as he hit just .218 with six RBIs in 119 at-bats. In 1969 he was very seldom used, going long period of time without playing. He played 29 games the entire year, getting only 39 plate appearances. He drove in three runs on the season, two in his last at-bat, which would turn out to be his last Major League at-bat as well. He played another four seasons in the minors for the Pirates before retiring. Despite the fact he wasn’t a pitcher, and never pitched a game in the majors, he made 41 appearances in the minors, spread out over seven different seasons. His cousin Danny Kolb pitched for the Pirates in 2007.

Al Luplow, outfielder for the 1967 Pirates. He was in his seventh season in the majors when the Pirates purchased his contract from the New York Mets on June 21,1967. In 41 games with the Mets he was hitting .205 with three homers. His best season in the majors was in 1962 as a rookie when he hit .277 with 14 homers for the Cleveland Indians. For the Pirates, Luplow played 55 games, mostly off the bench. He batted .184 in 103 at-bats with one homer and eight RBIs. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1968 but he was a late cut from the team and never played pro ball again, deciding to retire instead of accepting his minor league assignment. His great-nephew Jordan Luplow played outfield for the Pirates during the 2017-18 seasons. In fact, Jordan’s MLB debut was in right field and came exactly 50 years to the day that Al replaced an injured Roberto Clemente in right field.

Eddie Pellagrini, infielder for the 1953-54 Pirates. He had six seasons of Major League experience, prior to being picked up by the Pirates off waivers early in the 1953 seasons. He played for the Reds in 1952, hitting .170 in 46 games with one homer. Pellagrini was a .222 hitter before coming to Pittsburgh, where he would hit a career high .253 in 1953. He started 34 games, mostly at second base and played another 44 off the bench. The following season he had a similar role, except most of his playing time came at third base. Pellagrini hit .216 in 1954 with 16 RBI’s in 73 games. The Pirates released him immediately after the season ended and the 36-year-old called it quits, taking up a coaching job three years later at Boston College, where he stayed for 32 seasons.

Chappie McFarland, pitcher for the 1906 Pirates. He began his big league career at age 27 in 1902 with the Cardinals and had a 33-57 record over three full and two partial seasons. His ERA during that time was just 3.33 yet he finished in the top ten among NL pitchers in losses all three full seasons. The Pirates acquired him on June 3, 1906 for young rookie starter Ed Karger, who posted a 1.93 ERA in his first 28 innings of work in the majors. McFarland made five starts for the Pirates, picking up just one win, which was a 3-0 shutout in his first start, ten days after trade. The Pirates put him on waivers in late July, where he was picked up by the Brooklyn Superbas. He lost his only start with his new team, giving up eight runs on ten hits and five walks. That would be his last game in the majors. In 1907 he had a 22-4 record in the minors, but by the end of the 1909 season he was out of baseball for good. His older brother Monte pitched two years in the majors.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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