LOOKING BACK: BaseballHQ, 2006-2010

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.

Today: Jock Thompson remembers 2006-2010. 

 

It actually does seem like long ago, at least to me. Dave Adler and I were the two new writers that came on board at seasons-end of 2004. I remember this partly because Arte Moreno had just taken over the Orange County team from Disney, and my wife and I had just bought season tickets, convinced that more seasons just like 2002 were in the Angels' future. (But, also, Dave confirmed our start-year via e-mail. What friends are for.) In short, it's been long enough for the memory to fade a little; the Wayback Machine has provided at least something of a memory jog for me.​

​I was told later by someone at BaseballHQ.com (forget who, might have been Ray Murphy) that the writing sample I submitted didn't follow all the instructions—one of my ongoing characteristics, not a bug. But they appreciated my outside-the-box analysis of Rays minor leaguer Joey Gathright as the immediate beneficiary of a hypothetical Carl Crawford injury. Keep in mind—this was well before Carl's first-ever MLB DL stint; even in its writing samples back in the day, the BaseballHQ.com prescience was on display.

So at the outset of 2006, I was still one of the new guys, learning how to write Market Watch columns that made sense and marveling at the new tools and info to which I suddenly had access. Now, as well as then, Ron Shandler's pieces are eloquent reminders of things I kind of knew or teaching moments for things I probably didn't. SBO was still a little foreign to me. And now, does anyone else remember that Julio Lugo, Chris Young and Jerry Owens were the only three MLB players with 20 SBs and sub-.300 BAs in 2007? Nowadays, I need Baseball Reference for Jerry Owens. The end-note that Young's "SB output will probably tail off over time"?  More prescience.

This blurb on the the release of Sam Walker's Fantasyland—the first-person, oft-embellished, always entertaining account of a newbie sports-writer attempting to win Tout Wars—also takes me back. My wife Sandie and I met Sam at First Pitch Arizona (FPAZ) following his season-on-the-brink, during which he was still prowling for fantasy league anecdotes. And as a competing owners who were also husband-and-wife, we were prime fodder. For me, this book has gotten more amusing with time, partly because I know most of Sam's Tout Wars competitors much better than I did back then. Truth be told, I still haven't watched the Thompson cameo movie version yet.

Having been an avid Arizona Fall League (AFL) attendee even before FPAZ became a thing, this 2007 September AFL Preview from Deric McKamey grabbed at me. Scherzer, McCutchen, Longoria just scratch the surface of the names we've watched while they pass through Phoenix over the years.  Travis Snider, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt LaPorta warn that success is hardly guaranteed. Steve Pearce and Trevor Plouffe—"shortstop Trevor Plouffe!"—say that practicing excruciating patience can at times be ... well, excruciating. If you haven't attended FPAZ yet, you're missing out. Meeting and getting to know minor league analysts and people like Deric (now a scout for the Cardinals) and Rob Gordon are bonuses.

The AFL was the first place I saw Carlos Ruiz play in person—and I remembered being impressed with his energy, both behind and at the plate. He was a late bloomer, overlooked by everyone early on including us. Still, a lot of names on this pre-season 2006 list wound up having long catching careers, and some are even still playing. Neil Walker isn't one of them. Yeah, I'm a sucker for minor league lists and prognostications.

My own early attempt in late 2006 at post-hype or no-hype prospecting. Reggie Willits actually hit .293 with 27 SB the next season, before disappearing (who knew?). Ryan Theriot carved out a nice eight-year career, hitting .281 with four 20+ SB seasons. Aardsma and Frank Francisco went on to get closer gigs in subsequent seasons. The new kid was a natural—not Chris Blessing or Alec Dopp good, but still...

Speaking of naturals, my long-time roto competitor Stephen Nickrand has always been consistently ahead of me in most things other than age and not limited to fashion stylings. Preceding me to BHQ by a couple of years, check out one of his early Pitchers Buyers Guide efforts from 2006. The Francisco Liriano call that year was gold; Fausto Carmona—a name that Baseball Reference doesn't even cross-reference any longer—was a season away from his best work, and at least a few seasons away from the name change. In contrast, this Nickrand kid always had serious chops.

I no longer remember a time when I didn't read The Speculator. ​Ray Murphy's baby has always been ahead of the curve, as in this analysis of the fantasy roster implications of the then months-old MLB drug testing and suspension policy. The column is still Ray's tour de force after all these years, and I always enjoy subbing for him and Brent Hershey when I get the opportunity. But this piece on speculative dump trades reminds me that Ray has never not been in his stride.

Some BHQ offerings didn't change much between 2006 and 2010, like the experienced bullpen analysis offered up by Doug Dennis. But change is inevitable, and some things began to change a lot. Even in the midst of the ongoing on-line movement, writing my first Sports Weekly pieces in 2008 via our new relationship with USA Today ​was a kick. Its pre-internet origins in 1990's USAT Baseball Weekly periodical—a semi-secret roto weapon on which I relied, along with Baseball America and John Sickels' Minor League Scouting Notebooks—still gives me the feels.

More BHQ changes: My initial sightings and understanding of the importance of mock drafts. Something that would continue and develop with the early versions of Market Pulse, ​now a site staple in examining market inefficiencies to maximize drafts and in-season transaction decisions. All of which led to more detailed analyses of the process and even some post-mortem evaluation. All under an umbrella of common-sense reminders that it isn't all about just being good.

2006-2010 has been a fun trip. Here's hoping for many more years of BaseballHQ to look back upon.

 

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 2006-2010, 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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