* Not seeing Red

February 25, 2009

Or Green. As in the American and National Leagues’ ‘s Red and Green Book, respectively.

The annual publications were conceived as tools for executives and the media, full of all kinds of unusual information, such as the origin of team logos and color schemes, name pronunciations, and of course, all manner of stats. They supplemented each team’s media guide and broadcasters constantly referred to them to fill the dead space during games. A truly invaluable resource.

All the more surprising that it will no longer be printed.

Murray Chass writes about the decision in his column today.

“Major League Baseball, which can’t kill steroids, has killed the Red Book and the Green Book,” he rails.

Baseball officials would say the books died of atrophy. No one was using them any more. But I used them, often on a daily basis. They sit on a shelf an arm’s length away from my desk. I can get them that quickly when I need information from them.

But that’s the climate these days. Why go through all the trouble — and cost — of printing when it’s so much easier — and cheaper — to go paperless? According to a press release from MLB,

The 2009 National League Green Book and the 2009 American League Red Book will be posted exclusively online (emphasis added) at… the official media web site of Major League Baseball….

The 2009 editions of the Red and Green Books will mark the first time that these annual publications will be available online only. While printed copies of the Red and Green Books will no longer be distributed by Major League Baseball, the publications will be available in an easily downloadable format on MLBPressBox.com. (emphasis added)

Say it a few more times, why don’t you? If that’s the way you’re going to play, the least you can do is remove the registration lines before creating the PDF files.

While I may not be as “devastated” as Chass over the cessation of publication, I am still of a generation — if it even is an age thing — that enjoys the feel of paper, the turning of a page as much, if not more, than sitting in front of a screen. The ability to take a yellow highlighter or employ little stickers to make notes is part of the experience. And woe betide for electroniphiles, if the power ever goes out.

While acknowledging the current trends away from the physical page, Chass is nevertheless disappointed. “I don’t blame MLB for abolishing the books,” he says. “I wish they hadn’t, but if they find that no one uses them, it’s just another unfortunate development of today’s coverage of baseball.

I’m not sure if it’s a coverage issue as much as cost-of-production. Chass makes no apology for being “old-school,” and has taken a lot of heat in the blogosphere for it. He is adamant that his web presence is not a blog.

One of the nicest experiences I’ve had came while doing research for a project about the Montreal Expos. I spent the last week of the 2002 season in the press box at Olympic Stadium where a nice old gent — a real Damon Runyon character — took me under his wing. He must have been in his late 70s and was revered by press and players alike; I’m embarrassed to have forgotten his name.

My point is, there’s a lot to be learned from the veterans. Just because they can’t or don’t want to use the latest technology is no reason to disavow them.

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  • Tom Ragan

    I can’t believe mlb would do away with these invaluable guides. The pronounciation sections alone were great reference tools. Not to mention facts that writers and broadcasters could not find in regular team media guides. To save $100,000 in an industry dealing in multimillion dollar contracts. What a bunch of baloney! Has mlb lost its collective minds!
    The business doesn’t care about the fans or the media covering it. All I know is that it’s a lot easier to look something up in either the red or green book than it is to find it on the internet. Do we have knuckleheads running MLB!

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