Deadspin head honcho A.J. Daulerio posed the question yesterday: is ESPN looking to buy Baseball Prospectus, the smart subscriber-driven online publication for geeky sabermetricians? Founded by Gary Huckabay in 1996, Baseball Prospectus is best-known for giving Nate Silver and his PECOTA forecasting system a platform way before he predicted that whole Obama thing at Five Thirty Eight. According to Daulerio, there have been rumors whirling around the ESPN offices lately that, having been swept up by the latest Nate Silver adulation, they are going to purchase B.P.
I've been a B.P. subscriber for a few years; it's absolutely necessary for me as the nerdy half of the Walkoff Walk baseball blog to read up on all the new-fangled statistics and evaluation tools. I'm no expert on sabermetrics. Sometimes I get my VORP and my WARP mixed up and I occasionally think that WXRL is a new alt-country FM station. Still, B.P. is an independent collective of independent thinkers and brilliant minds talking about baseball. I don't have to agree with or understand everything written on that website for me to be a fan and a paying customer.
ESPN, on the other hand, is a much larger, ad-driven corporate entity. Their practice of sweeping up blogs has been largely hit-or-miss (well, mostly miss-and-miss harder). While their acquisition of Henry Abbott's TrueHoop blog last year didn't affect Abbott's credibility in the sportsblogosphere, their NFL blog Hashmarks wasn't well received and led to the creation of NFL Nation, six separate pseudo-blogs for each NFL division written by real live journalists. Calling those things blogs is like calling Walkoff Walk a dissertation on nuclear physics.
Baseball Prospectus is not a blog, but ESPN would treat it like one. Baseball Prospectus is not written by one person like TrueHoop and Baseball Prospectus does not offer quick and snarky takes on the latest news like Deadspin. Baseball Prospectus is a thoughtfully written and sabermetrically-driven collective. ESPN already has a few thoughtful baseball writers on staff, like Rob Neyer or Keith Law. ESPN would merely shuffle the B.P. writers off to the blog ghetto and continue to force Rick Reilly's bullshit on the front page. Also, usurping B.P. would only cloud the message and create a near-monopoly of sabermetrics on the web.
So here's my offer to the worldwide leader: buy this blog instead. I'd like to sell Walkoff Walk to ESPN in order to save Baseball Prospectus from burning in corporate hell. Norby, CTC and I will sell you this website at a fair price and write mildly amusing blogs for two years and even sign a non-compete agreement. You want Nate Silver's newfound fame and Will Carroll's injury expertise? You can't have it. You want Steven Goldman's thoughtful takes on baseball history? You can't have it. You want hastily-written semi-funny takes on baseball and the human condition? It's all yours.
Of course, this is just my selfish take on the matter. Who am I to stand in the way of some good folks making a couple nickels for their work? Good luck to those folks at B.P.