OK, so this post should have appeared yesterday, but sometimes the Fates intervene ... So we'll call this our Opening Day.
Today, ESPN and SweetSpot are thrilled to announce the expansion of the SweetSpot Network that began with seven independent baseball blogs last fall and now includes 19. You're going to see these team-oriented blogs in different places, most prominently (but not exclusively) on the right side of this page and in a drop-down in the SweetSpot area on the baseball page.
The Opening Day Roster
The SweetSpot Network will eventually grow to cover all 30 MLB teams and then some. At this moment, the 19 members are:
Astros: Austin Swafford’s Astros 290 Blog is his most recent venture into blogging, having already run a Texas Rangers blog and a college football blog. He's currently a student at the University of Texas, where he has been a written about sports at the Daily Texan. As a child, Swafford cheered Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell through the rough years.
Cardinals: Matt Philip (a.k.a. Pip) has been blogging since 2004 at Fungoes, which focuses on Cardinals news from a sabermetric point of view. In his spare time, Pip works as a datacaster for MLB.com at Busch Stadium. He believes that Keith Hernandez was the all-time greatest-fielding first baseman, and that the second-greatest was his mustache.
Braves: Peter Hjort is a native of Atlanta and a life-long Braves fan. He opened Capitol Avenue Club in April of 2009 with the goal of examining nearly everything the Braves' front office deals with and more, including -- but not limited to -- baseball economics, sabermetrics, prospects, common sense and bad tastes.
Cubs: Joe Aiello has been writing about the Cubs at View From The Bleachers since October 2003, when his heart was ripped from his chest by Steve Bartman. Born and raised in Chicago, he now lives in North Carolina, but regularly travels to Washington to see the Cubs. Aiello brings a full organizational view of the team to help fans understand why the front office does what it does.
Dodgers: A native of Los Angeles, Jon Weisman has been writing about the Dodgers at Dodger Thoughts since 2002 and thinking deeply about them since the 1970s. He is the author of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (2009). Weisman began covering sports professionally in 1985, complemented by adventures in writing for and about the screen that have culminated in his current position as a features editor at Variety. Any downtime he can muster will be happily spent with his wife and three young children.
Giants: Chris Quick has been blogging about the Giants since 2006 at the stats-centric Bay City Ball. He believes in two absolute truths: 1. Will Clark had the sweetest swing of any player, ever; and 2. The Dodgers are evil. Currently living on the East Coast, he blames the Giants for many bleary-eyed mornings peppered with heartbreak. He'd like to thank his father for introducing him to the beauty and frustration of baseball. So, "Thanks, Dad."
Indians: Steve Buffum grew up a Cleveland fan in Akron, Ohio and writes the B-List Indians Blog. Steve has also written pieces for TheClevelandFan.com, The Orange and Brown Report (theOBR.com), and the weekly alternative paper Cleveland Scene. In his spare time, he writes fiction and loses his hair.
Mets:A Mets fan since birth, Joe Janish began Mets Today in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- at St. Peter's College he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result, the blog often includes mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers.
Nationals: Harper Gordek is a Yankees fan living in North Carolina so it's only natural that he writes about the Nationals at Nationals Baseball. Harper started blogging about the franchise during the last summer of the Expos to prove a point, but found that he actually enjoyed it and has been unable to stop.
Orioles: Dave McNeill started writing about the Baltimore Orioles before the 2008 season; Weaver's Tantrum was named to honor the legendary Oriole manager ... but also because anger was the emotion McNeill felt most frequently when writing about the Orioles. Today, Dave is looking forward to the current crop of the franchise's young players.
Padres: Geoff Young has covered the Padres at Ducksnorts since September 1997 and written three books about them. Like many people in San Diego, he is originally from somewhere else; unlike most of them, he actually cheers for the home team.
Phillies: Crashburn Alley's Bill Baer lives just outside of Philadelphia. He started the Phillies-themed blog in August 2007 in the hopes of bringing a fresh, statistically-oriented perspective to Phillies baseball analysis.
Rangers: Joey Matschulat has written about the Rangers at Baseball Time in Arlington since February 2007, and contributed to the last two installments of John Burnson's "Graphical Player" book series.
Royals: Royals Authority is a collaboration between Craig Brown, Clark Fosler and Nick Scott, three life-long Royals fans based in the Midwest. Online since 2005, they cover all aspects of the Process that is the Kansas City Royals -- from the front office and the 25-man roster down to the minor leagues and the draft.
Red Sox: Evan Brunell is a lifelong Red Sox fan who was born and raised in Massachusetts. Brunell started Fire Brand of the American League on the last day of 2003 and is currently author emeritus. He is currently a production assistant for the New England Sports Network. His greatest moment involving the Red Sox is being in Fenway Park for "The Steal."
Tigers: Mike McClary launched The Daily Fungo in March 2006, the outset of a remarkable Tigers season. The native Detroiter writes about the current-day Tigers through the lens of history, personal experiences and gut instinct. The Daily Fungo features game recaps, profiles of past Tigers players as well as podcast interviews of those who cover the team every day.
White Sox: Jim Margalus has written about the White Sox at Sox Machine since December 2005, and publishes the "White Sox Outsider" series of annual reference books. He's a third-generation South Sider who works as an online producer for a newspaper in upstate New York.
Yankees: Jason Rosenberg started It's About The Money in December 2007, not long after Alex Rodriguez opted out of his $252 million contact. The blog represents his efforts to present the most unbiased view of the Yankees possible. Jason was raised a Yankees fan and currently resides in Westchester County, N.Y.
What Are We Doing? Essentially, we're looking to be a bit smarter. As much as we'd like to, we can't quite keep up with all 30 teams and 800-some players who are highly relevant at any one moment in the season. I'll give you an example. Recently, when writing about the Rangers' interest (or not) in Mike Lowell, and I mentioned -- because I saw it on a depth chart somewhere -- that Chris Davis' backup (in mid-March) was Wes Bankston. That wasn't right, though. As anyone who really followed the Rangers knew -- and as Joey Matschulat kindly told me -- the best candidate for Davis's backup was an ex-Angels farmhand named Matt Brown. Granted, all that became moot when the Rangers picked up Ryan Garko. The point is that there's a huge amount of knowledge floating around out there, and we'd like to tap some of it.
Ideally, we'll work with the network's bloggers and they'll work with each other. Early examples: SweetSpotters will be contributing the comments accompanying the teams in our weekly Power Rankings, and various bloggers will be coordinating their coverage when their respective teams are playing each other.
What else? We're just beginning to consider some of the endless possibilities, but we're drawing on the ideas and the fantastic success of Henry Abbott's TrueHoop Network.
What's Next? Nobody can say for sure. My best guess, though? We'll be introducing a few more blogs this month, and by end of this season we'll have every team covered. You'll notice some openings, though ... and yes, that is a hint, if you're passionate about your favorite team, have some energy and some talent, and want to be the first kid on your block to work with ESPN.
My thanks to all the bloggers who have bent over backwards to add all the necessary coding, etc. Thanks also to everyone behind the scenes in Bristol and New York who have tended to the editorial and technical details that are so far out of my comfort zone.
We're already good, I think. And we're only going to get better.