The fine folks over at Baseball-Reference have, or “had” now I guess, a feature called the Play Index. You could use it to do all sorts of fun and interesting queries; complicated too. (Who had the most walks, barring intentional ones, as a rookie in a road playoff game?) It was a good feature, and at $36 a year, a reasonably priced one if a body was more than just a casual fan. If you wanted to browse the whole site without any ads, why, that was another $20 a year. This price was and is excessive. Even without an ad-blocker, I didn’t find $20 worth of annoyance from the ads on an annualized basis.
Well, that era is over and now they’re rolling out Stat Head. It’s going to be like the Play Index, but more so? The list of features seems awfully similar for the moment to the one for the Play Index, but maybe I overlooked something. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) They are throwing in the ad-free browsing if you sign up for Stathead (why won’t they put a hyphen in that?), but on the other hand they’re taking away the yearly plan and almost tripling the price. They’ll give you the first hit…I mean “month”, free, but after that you pony up at the increased rate.
Okay, so up to this point, maybe you can tell from my tone that I’m a bit annoyed. And I am, but on the other hand, I understand what they’re doing. It seems pretty clear from the way large organizations are going on the web, that the days of running on ad revenue alone are on the way out and subscription models are going to come roaring back. Fair enough. And, though I don’t know how I’d verify this, they claim their only real competitors in Elias and STATS LLC would charge you upwards of $10k. I assume that’s true because if it wasn’t, surely someone would call them out on BS of that magnitude. So, sure, I understand what they’re up to and why and I can’t, intellectually, fault them for going this route.
But, boy oh boy, tripling the price is a hard pill to swallow.
I’d love to throw another $100 bucks a year at something without worrying about it, but this kind of thing adds up. And, while I do use their features and enjoy them, I’m not sure I use and enjoy them to the tune of quite that sum. So we’ll have to see if I sign up. They’re offering a free month to start, of course, and that second post mentions something about an unannounced plan to also continue to provide free content until games resume? I’m just not sure about, well, any of it. Maybe it’ll all turn out all right and this will be a great thing. It might not though. It might be the death-knell for this kind of stats availability to the masses. Oh, sure, as Forman says, Retrosheet data will still be available to everyone, but the limiter on time, effort, and knowledge to sift through it in an accurate and complete way will be nearly as big a bar to use as the cost of signing up for the services of, well, Elias and STATS LLC, and maybe, just maybe, soon Baseball-Reference too.