Comparing baseball previews: Sports Illustrated vs. ESPN The Magazine

April 8, 2014

Welcome back, boys and girls. It’s time for that annual exercise in which we compare the Big Two: Sports Illustrated vs. ESPN the Magazine to see how the baseball previews compare.

On the one hand, it can’t be too easy to keep coming up with new ideas for the issue. You profile the new hot import or the MVP/Cy Young winner or the minor league prospect. Then there are the individual team profiles. Not much you can do there. A few capsules for pitchers, catchers, infielders, outfielders, managers, maybe intangibles, plus the projected 25-man roster and maybe the schedule. Maybe there’s room for the basic (i.e., old-fashioned stats of HR/RBI/BA or W-L/K/ERA).

On the other hand, there’s so much new stuff coming out: new stats, video replay, the catchers situation, the post-PED era. That should give some fodder for the enterprising editors.

So, without further ado:
Cover SI has covers featuring Masahiro Tanaka, Mike Trout, Yadier Molina, and Robinson Cano. Tanaka, Molina, and Cano are subjects of profiles (no Trout?) The one and only Clayton Kershaw. Cover Story by Buster Olney.
Main Feature(s) * Tom Verudcci on “The Power Gap”
* Cliff Corcoran on “Long Story Short” (shortstops)
* Albert Chen on “Framing Pitches” (catchers)
* Eric Nusbaum on “Beisbol Prospectus” (players from Cuba)
* “Advance Report” – mish-mash on the old “things to look for” staple
* A profile on Theo Epstein and the future of the Cubs
* A multiple-exposure photo-essay on the different styles of seven Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers
* A profile of baseball lifer Mike Jirschele, finally in the majors as a Royals coach
Scouting Reports * Teams are ranked withing their leagues from 1-15, as opposed to how they’ll finish in their divisions, which would have made finding that info a tad unwieldy if not for a “how they’ll finish” table at the head.
* Project lineups and rotations.
* “Enemy Lines” – brief reports from rival scouts
* “Modest proposals” = “helpful hints”?
* “Chemistry 162” in which the editors try to discern which teams have positive, negative, or neutral chemistry based on demographic, isolation, and ego factors. Spot on discovery or gobbledygook? A bit difficult to grok, but them, I never was a hot numbers guy.
* No “traditional” reports
One more thing Essay by 41-year-old LaTroy Hawkins on what “minor tweaks” he suggest to improve the game. ¬†MLB Confidential: A survey of MLB players on a mere six topics within the game. Should be more.
 Conclusion Old school. Pretty standard but I thing the current SI demographic takes comfort in that. Bookshelf Grade: B. Taking the safe road, but doing it well. Young turk. ESPN always seems to be looking for new ways to express. I think their physical layout allows for more experimentation with visuals. Bookshelf Grade: C. Not enough of what fans look for in a preview.
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