LOOKING BACK: BaseballHQ, 1996-2000

As part of our week-long "Turning 20; Thanks to YOU" celebration, we asked one writer per day to take a look back at a 5-year era in BaseballHQ.com's history. The instructions for the writers: Click through available BaseballHQ.com articles on the online archive site The Wayback Machine, and share some of your impressions, memories, player tid-bits, signs of the time—whatever strikes you as interesting or notable about BHQ's time during the particular 5-year era. We'll explore these together this Monday through Thursday.

First up: Doug Dennis examines 1996-2000. 

 

It really wasn't that long ago. Everything was in print, you kept your league's stats using the Tuesday and Wednesday USA TODAY sports sections and faxed them out to your league mates. Except for the one crank who didn't have access to a fax machine so you had to drive it by his house once a week.

But then, things started to be on the world wide web (whatever that was) and we could actually get stats faster than once per week, and we had to pay a whole lot more attention to what was going on.  BaseballHQ.com (dot com!) debuted in 1996 (20 years ago), three years before I came on board.  Many of the names that were fantasy baseball titans then are largely forgotten now. Nate Silver worked(!) for BaseballHQ. Keith Law worked(!) for Baseball Prospectus. Steve Mann and Bill Kulik and Roger Anderson. Remember those guys? Alex Patton, still a big deal. John Benson—not so much.

So let's take a peek at what BaseballHQ.com looked like back then. For one thing, the logo and page presentation was just a wee bit different.  This April 1997 page is the earliest archive. It has a superb column (written by Ron Shandler, of course) about looking behind the traditional stats to better correlations with base performance indicators. Back then, the webpage was updated every Friday (and only on Fridays).

You want to see who produced the top projections? Here is a comparison regarding some of the players in 1997. I am more interested in the names of the prognosticators than the players, but it is fun to see them disagree about what Kevin Elster is going to do. Kevin Elster! I had young kids when that guy was playing. And don't even ask about Jaime Bluma. (You remember him, right?)

BHQ databases were state of the art. Some things have changed, but some things have not. Excel has made manipulation and filtering a lot easier.  Look at the strikeout rates and command ratios.  Not a whole lot of 100+ BPVs like there are today.  And Albert Belle—what a stud he was.

BaseballHQ.com had a bit of a redesign in 1998.  It had plenty of good information. Here is an interesting article on 1997-98 offseason moves by former scout David Rawnsley. Rawnsley was always a big draw at the early years of Arizona Fall League Symposium (later re-named First Pitch Arizona). Among other things, he notes that replacement level players could be had for $170,000/year.  He mentions an early Marlins purge where they acquired, among others, Oscar Henriquez.

One of my favorite pieces from this February 1998 snapshot is the AL cheat sheet. Look at the players and what they were expected to cost. Alex Rodriguez was listed at $35. A bargain. The Arizona Fall League page is fun, too (Brad Fullmer alert!).

Rick Wilton had a list of cheap buys for 1999 after the 1998 season.  Magglio Ordonez and Geoff Jenkins caught my eye then and still do now.  Useful concepts could be found in the Toolbox even back then. Unfortunately, the archive doesn't have a click-through to the Expos' Law of Team and Money Management.

BaseballHQ.com underwent another facelift before 1999. Check out the meet the experts page! (I have no idea why I am not on it—probably because I was a rookie!)  Here is the Arizona Fall League Symposium page. Things have, ahem, changed. Remind me at this year's Symposium to tell you what agent Bill Moore told us about his client, Eric Cyr.

And here is the USAStats page to the 1999 Tout Wars teams. The internet is much more user friendly now than it was then.  (Graphics are better too.)  Subscribers cared a lot about how these expert league teams did back then because there wasn't readily available comparisons anywhere else.  And look at this Buyers Guide on burnout—some dude named Brent Hershey dropping knowledge.  Plus, a big favorite: Jayson Werth(!) is on this 1999 list of catching prospects.  Imagine if he could have stayed behind the plate.

2000 BaseballHQ.com kept the annual webface improvements rolling. Here is a Shandler article about the 2000 offensive upward movement and theories about it. Fun to look back at the foreshadowing in this one. With hindsight, in particular, we think we know what we think we know.  But we really will never fully know.  I will leave you with that column for these early BaseballHQ.com (dot com!) days, but feel free to roam around on these pages--there is a lot of fun stuff to uncover and reminisce about.

 

Now, it's your turn: The entire set of BaseballHQ.com archives on The Wayback Machine can be found here. Not all of BHQ's history has been archived, and some years are more robust than others, but there is plenty of material to explore. Today, seek out your own favorite or notable pages from 1996-2000, and share those links with us all in the comments below. And you can "work ahead" if you like, but save more recent interesting links for subsequent articles this week. Most of all, have fun!


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.