I’ve always loved baseball and baseball statistics and though my love for computers didn’t come about until my mid-teens, the two have always collided. It started with computer baseball games, in search of the ultimate game that would produce realistic statistics, keep track of them and be trusted to keep them accurate over time. I searched high and low for such a game and never actually found it so I set out to make my own. Using basic programming language, I tried to build my own simulation but my programming was minor league and after hundreds of hours of effort, I eventually saw the futility in my task.
In the mid 1990s, something revoluationary was happening in the world. The Internet was becoming a force to be reckoned with and though still an immature medium, I immediately fell in love with the ease of access for an unlimited amount of information. It was at that point that I retired from simulation games and began a new hobby/career in HTML programming. I taught myself HTML by studying the code of other sites using the VIEW SOURCE of my browser. And I knew right then, once I had built my first web page on my own PC that I wanted to take my love of Baseball and Computers to the next level.
In 1999, I bought the domain Baseball-Wired.Com and taught myself how to program using ASP. I was already enrolled in Management Information Systems at a University and I was learning about databases, programming and the web in general and so I was on my way. But the questions remained, what to do with the domain.
On almost every baseball-related search that I did in 1999, I found John Skilton’s web site near the top of the results. Why not try to do the same thing? And I now had my first topic of content for Baseball-Wired. Baseball Links.
A better idea…
Baseball-Wired had evolved into Sports-Wired.Com not long after my links site started and basically drew little interest from the Internet world. Sports-Wired.Com was going to be the ultimate sports site with links for all sports. The idea being that I would get all my pages into the search engines and attract thousands of visitors who were looking for links for their favourite sport. I spent hours on end finding links to include but the amount of work compared to the amount of reward was very lopsided.
And that’s when I had a better idea. Baseball Statistics
I would publish the statistics for every single active major leaguer, team statistics and standings. The upkeep was minimal and the real brunt of the work was getting started.
A few months later and the traffic on the site was the same. The search engine results were stuck on 4th and 5th pages. Why would anyone come to my site when the information was available with much more detail on ESPN, Yahoo and even Baseball-Reference, with its super-fast loading pages.
I loved baseball statistics and programming but I was engaged now and I couldn’t be spending all this time programming anymore working on a site that was not only unprofitable, but was taking up a lot of my free time. Though I enjoyed what I was doing, I knew something was missing from the site that would make it worth visiting. And I was in a very strange place when it hit me.
The Baseball Cube
The funny thing about running a company, or having a passion is that you think about it a lot throughout the day. And when you least expect it, you have an idea that sticks to your brain and the moment itself becomes a snapshot that is somehow magnetized and stuck to the fridge in your brain. You never forget that moment. I was in a restaurant on vacation in Toronto with my future wife when the idea of Baseball-Wired.Com came to light. I was at work surfing the web when the idea of a baseball statistics web site was conceived and I was sitting in, of all things, a pre-marriage course required of us to get married at our desired relgious institution. The rabbi was talking and I was thinking. A light laughter washed over the class and directly over my head as my brand new idea came to me like the parting of the red sea. Of course. This is how I can make my site worth visiting. Minor League Statistics.
From that moment on, The Baseball Cube, the new name that I had given to the site, had become my new passion. I worked long hours researching statistics and player profiles. My wife thought she lost me on several occasions as I stayed up to the wee hours with flames coming out of the keyboard while the cats watching over me on my desk with a keen eye.
The Internet had very little to offer in terms of Minor League Statistics. At least from the perspective of history and especially concerning major leaguers. The Internet had several web sites devoted to prospects and almost all of the forums had people talking about minor leaguers, wondering about their history, where they came from, their numbers, their path and most of all how this translated into their future. The void was obvious and I worked frantically to make sure that I would be the first. And surely this would put my site on the map in the Baseball Community. It had to. There was no choice since this type of site did not yet exist.
The Baseball Cube was born under the Sports-Wired.Com umbrella in 2002. The site had career minor league statistics for all active major leaguers and those who were active since 1999. The site also had historical major league statistics for all players since 2002 and career historical minor league numbers for about 10% of active minor leaguers, which, in the next 8 months, would become 100% and it was then that my site would take off. Traffic multiplied itself by 10 and there were now opportunities for revenue which made all the work worthwhile.
I had a love/hate relationship with the site up until late 2004. I loved the content, the concept and the relative success revenue-wise. But I hate the design, the usability and the amount of ads that I had on the site. That was the reason for the complete change in design philosophy to what you see right now. With a consistent, fast and easy to use site, I felt that I was finally ready to focus 100% on data and integrating all of the baseball data that I could get my hands on, into the site.
The site had lost a lot of the momentum gained in 2004 and I think that a lot of it had to do with the amount of advertising, the nature of the ads on the site and the fact that the site was one of the slowest on the Internet and possibly the slowest baseball web site out there. (97% of sites were faster according to Alexa.
The focus today is accuracy, completeness and collaboration. I have many ideas on how to improve the breadth of content on the site and to try to move backwards with respects to minor league seasons captured. I am also working on verifying the accuracy of the data on the site. Not so much the individual statistics as much as insuring that players and teams are not duplicated. I am also always open to taking correspondance on corrections of data on the site.
The final important component of The Baseball Cube project is collaboration. TBC’s traffic can help out some smaller sites in terms of exposure. I will be looking to beef up the content on TBC via “borrowing” content from other sites. For example, my stadiums section is very weak and I am looking for a stadium reviewer to collaborate whereby I can use his content in exchange for credit and several inbound links to his site. There will be other collaboration projects on the horizon as well. If you have an idea, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
The future of The Baseball Cube is equal to the vision that resides in my mind. The vision entails complete minor league statistics for as many minor league seasons as possible. It involves the most detailed player profiles anywhere on the Internet and it involves the addition of transactions, player notes, season snapshots, minor league forums and so many other features. As long as my passion for baseball and programming continues, The Baseball Cube will be alive and the day that this stops being fun and starts feeling like a job is the day that I thank you all for visiting the site and closing up shop. But I really don’t see that ever happening let alone anytime soon.
Gary Cohen Creator of The Baseball Cube